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    Cards on the Table Chapter 59 Kendall was startled awake by a shrouded figure silhouetted in the murky darkness of the room. “Nate?” “Yeah… sor… sorry. I didn't mean to wake you. I was just... never mind,” a faltering voice whispered back. “What's going on? I thought you were sleeping on the other side of your uncle. Are you okay? Nightmare again?” A groan from Michael preceded Nate’s response. “No… not… no nightmare. I couldn’t sleep. Um… what time are we getting up? It’s… ah, it’s Christmas Day, remember?” “Nate, what are you doing? We know what day it is, now get back in bed or go to your own room,” Michael grumbled, his words thick with sleep. He raised his head and peered past Kendall. “It’s still dark for Pete’s sake, and we said daylight when you asked yesterday.” “I know. Sorry, but there is some light out now.” Kendall chuckled and then yawned. “That doesn’t count as daylight.” “Yeah, it does, but you have to get up and look out the window to see it.” Kendall held back from asking whether this had to do with their promise he could see Bodie later that morning, upon detecting the sad and childlike tone in Nate’s voice. He’d wondered how the boy would feel on his first Christmas without his parents and sisters, and now he knew. “Move over, Michael.” “Huh?” He had laid his head back down. “Move over, so Nate can fit in.” “What’s wrong?” Michael shifted and started to rise up again. “Nothing… nothing’s wrong,” Nate quickly answered. “I’ll just….” “Michael, move over and go back to sleep. “Nate, get in.” “I’m okay, Uncle Kendall. I’ll go to my room and wait. I won’t get up until Grams does.” “Nate… I told you. Get. In.” He pulled open the covers, and Nate, after a slight hesitation, slid in, still wrapped in his blanket. “Okay, talk.” “About what?” he said in a barely heard voice. “Anything. Your mom and dad. Lacey… Kelsey?” Kendall waited. “I hope Kelsey’s ears are all right. It would suck if she couldn’t enjoy Christmas, and sometimes her infections return right after she gets better. Last year she was so funny to watch, opening her presents and running around. Ah, I should stop talking… I don’t want to wake Uncle Mike again. He’s grumpy.” “Don’t worry about him. He’s sound asleep. Once he knows there’s no crisis, he can sleep through anything. You know it’s okay to be thinking of your family and missing them, right?” “I know. It’s weird, though, not to be waking up with them today. Lots of my friends… my ex-friends… they couldn’t stand being around their little brothers and sisters, but mine are pretty cool. Lacey’s only nine, well, ten soon, but we could talk sometimes. She’s really funny once she gets going.” “What would you talk about?” “Oh, just stuff. Movies, music, video games… she’s getting pretty good with one-shooter games, although Mom doesn’t know she plays them, and I don’t tell on her. She got bored with her kid games a long time ago. She’ll be better than me one day.” “That’s easy. I’m better than you.” Kendall felt the boy’s shoulders shake, and he smiled in the darkness. “No way. You suck big time.” “Yes, he does,” Michael muttered, before sighing and turning over. Kendall sighed too, a long one. “Ignore him.” He’d caught Michael’s meaning, but hoped Nate hadn’t. After a few seconds’ silence, Nate’s giggles dashed his hope. “Not in front of the child, Uncle Mike.” Nate’s admonition was met with a grunt. “I give up.” Kendall reached over and ruffled Nate’s hair. “So, did you eat breakfast first, or open your presents?” “Eat breakfast, except for one year. Kelsey was crying because she wanted the doll she saw in the living room, so Mom let us all have one present before we ate. Kelse was only a baby then. Dad always gets the fire started in the wood stove when he goes downstairs, and then we’re allowed to go straight by the living room and into the kitchen. My mom shields the doorway so we can’t peek. It’s fun. You haven’t seen Kelse for a while, but man can she talk… and talk… and talk.” He giggled again. “It shouldn’t be all that long before we see them again. The time is going to fly by.” “I know. And I’ll talk to them in a few hours. For sure they’re still sleeping.” Nate yawned and the last part trailed off. Kendall smiled when his breathing evened out. The boy was fast asleep. He eased himself sideways and wrapped an arm around Michael. A hand gripped his forearm, and that connection was all he needed to join the other two in slumber. “So, what was that about?” Michael’s breath tickled the back of Kendall’s neck. “I think you know.” “Yeah, I do. He misses them.” “It’s his first Christmas away. He didn’t really want to get up… he was just restless and needed to talk. It made him feel closer to them.” Nate had left their room a few minutes earlier, after a couple more hours of solid sleep. Colleen could be heard in the kitchen. “We should get moving.” “Yeah, we should. Merry Christmas, Deuce.” Kendall spun in Michael’s embrace. “Merry Christmas, Ace. Love you.” “Ditto. You realize next Christmas we’ll be dealing with diapers and bottles and stuff.” “Um hmmm. I’m looking forward to it.” “Me too. He’s going to get a lot of attention from our families. Maybe we can avoid the diaper part.” Kendall chuckled as he stared into deep dark blue. “Wake up, Sunshine. You’re dreaming.” Michael grinned, still looking sleepy. “My guess is I’ll have to move fast to beat you to it.” “More than likely,” Kendall admitted before he kissed his fiancé softly. “But I’ll try to leave at least some of the worst messes for you.” “One more.” “One more what?” “You know. Kiss me… longer this time.” “Well, seeing how it’s Christmas,” Kendall teased just before he did as asked. When he pulled a few inches back, Michael’s eyes were closed, and he watched a tongue swipe across his upper lip. Kendall closed the distance one more time, still marveling that he was able to do this anytime he wanted. This one became quickly passionate, and he pulled back with a sigh of satisfaction. Michael’s eyes slowly opened, a grin appearing at the same time. “It’s always Christmas for me, Babe. You give me gifts every single day.” “And you return them.” “We’re in a different place than a year ago, aren’t we?” “I’ll say. I wasn’t happy… not deep down. Not like this. I used to put so much effort into trying not to show it.” “I’m sorry, Deuce… I know… no more apologies.” Michael claimed another quick kiss. “Neither was I, but I didn’t even know what real happiness was supposed to feel like. Now I’m filled with it every minute of every day, thanks to you.” “Boy, you’re pretty sappy this morning… I like it.” “I’m sappy every morning, before I even open my eyes, and I love it. You know I listened to you and Nate.” “Yup. I do.” “You were awesome to have figured out what he needed. You’re going to be the best dad.” “We’re going to be the best dads. Speaking of which, we have two little girls named Lily and Rose to go visit today. We should get up and get the day started.” “But, I have an erection.” “When don’t you? Tonight. I promise tonight I’ll take care of it… well, unless Nate shows up,” Kendall said as he peeled their comforter back and sat up. Michael sighed. “The joys of being a parent… hey, you have one too.” “Uh huh. Come on. Shower.” “I’m right with you. Is it tonight yet?” “Horndog.” “You know it… so, is it?” “Maybe we have time for a quickie.” “Yes! But we’ll still have tonight, right?” “Where are your sweaters, boys? I thought we had to wear these stupid things all day?” Big Mike asked with an obviously fake scowl. Kendall stood, jaw dropped as he surveyed two of the most ridiculously funny sweaters he had ever seen. Beside him, Michael laughed outright. Pop was wearing one that had Santa sitting on a toilet. Over the knitted picture were the words, ‘Damn Cookies and Milk.’ The rest of the sweater was covered in candy canes and snowflakes. Kendall switched his attention to Colleen, and this time it was him that that laughed the loudest. “Oh, Mom, you look adorable.” “I look stupid. I’m not going anywhere wearing this.” “I think we should walk around town and show these off… it’s a nice day out,” Big Mike asserted, looking semi-serious. “You are not going out in a sweater that has Santa sitting on a toilet. What would everyone think?” “Since when do you care what people think?” “Yeah, Mom,” Michael echoed. “I think you look cute, right, Babe?” “Yup, I like it… it suits you. Merry Christmas, Mom.” He winked at Pop. “Merry Christmas, beautiful boy. I saw that.” “Merry Christmas, Mom and Dad.” “Merry Christmas, bonnie boy. Give me a hug, the both of you.” They complied and surrounded Colleen in a four-armed embrace, smiling at each other over her head. Kendall struggled to curtail his laughter, but it was hard. Colleen’s sweater was an elf’s body, superbly done, with her head where the elf’s head would be. It was complete with curled-toe slippers and striped stockings, and was almost long enough to be a dress. The elf’s belt even had a big ‘C’ on it. He was tempted to suggest she wear an elf’s hat, but thought better of it… she really did look cute as could be… the colors were brightly in-your-face, but the Christmassy pattern on the arms looked reasonably sensible. “I know you boys are enjoying this, but I need to get back to making breakfast, so stop making fun of me up there and let go of me.” “We weren’t making fun, Mom.” “Oh, Michael, of course you were. I must admit on someone else it would make me laugh too.” She smiled as she pulled each head down to kiss their cheeks. “Well, you do kind of look like one of those bobble head thingies,” Michael teased. “That’s what I said,” Big Mike commented. “Hey,” he said with a quick glance at his wife, “the woman looks good in anything.” “Thank you, dear,” Coleen said while rolling her eyes. “I must remember to call Miranda Cavanaugh and thank her. But next year I think I’ll be picking my own ugly sweater.” “What about Miranda?” Nate asked as he entered the kitchen wearing his sweater. This time Colleen was the one who began giggling first. Nate’s sweater was the brightest green imaginable, and the pattern showed a little dog with his leg cocked on a snowman, and a big patch of yellow at its base. “Oh, my, nephew. That is quite the look,” Kendall said with a grin. There were numerous yellow bands on each arm that matched the puddle of pee. “What… I like it. It reminds me of that tee shirt of Brian from Family Guy. The one with the fire hydrant. How come you guys aren’t wearing yours?” “We forgot. Come on, Ace. I put them in the dresser last night. Let’s see what Miranda picked out for us. We’ll be right back.” Kendall grabbed Michael’s arm and herded him back towards their hall. “I’m picking the one I want.” “No, you’re not. Our names are on the wrapping, so you’ll wear whatever she chose for you. That’s the deal.” “Fine, but if Bodie had a hand in this, I’m going to get the worst one.” Laughter followed them all the way to the bedroom. Minutes later they stood for inspection, Michael with a scowl, and Kendall with a little smile. “Well, what do you think?” Big Mike started guffawing. “Oh God, Kendall. That’s priceless. I’ll trade you.” “No, you will not! Oh my goodness… you can’t wear that out in public,” Colleen said as she let loose her patented giggle. “Michael, yours isn’t so bad.” “Mother, I’m wearing a big-ass turkey, and I think Kendall’s is awesome. I’d wear it, but he wouldn’t trade.” “The turkey suits you,” Nate said, but his eyes were on Kendall’s sweater. Two snowmen were facing each other, and one of them had its carrot sticking out, but not from his face… it was below the waist. That snowman was smiling, but the other one was frowning, with a downturned mouth. “I like it. It’s better than that one,” Kendall said, pointing at Michael’s.” Michael grimaced. “Well, I think the turkey is beautiful, and it’s in good taste. The rest of the sweater is pretty ugly, though.” Colleen shook her head and put her hand over her mouth as her eyes returned to the snowmen. “Ah, Mom, it’s just a carrot. Turn around, Ace. Let them see the back.” He heard the loud sigh as Michael did as asked. “Go ahead, laugh.” Everyone did, at the exposed turkey backside. A large fan of feathers surrounded a plucked turkey butt perched on two large turkey feet. Nate ended up on the floor, he was laughing so hard. “Michael, why is there a fried egg on the bottom?” Colleen asked. Nate’s laughter turned to squealing. Michael spun back around, glaring at Nate, which only made him convulse more. “It’s not a fried egg… it’s a pile of turkey crap.” “Oh… Oh! Oh my. I see it now.” Colleen’s giggles, try as she might, were not to be stifled, and Kendall enjoyed her reaction. “Turn around again, bonnie boy. Let me see.” He grinned ruefully at Kendall, and gave them another view. “You should have traded me. Look at that idiot on the floor,” he muttered. “And miss this… no way. I love you, but I’m not stupid. I’ll wear my carrot with pride.” He put his arms around and pulled him close, kissing his whiskered cheek. “You’re holding me so they can laugh some more, aren’t you?” “Yup… I am. Merry Christmas, turkey.” “Very funny. I know this was Bodie’s doing. He’s going to pay for this.” Kendall rested his head on Michael’s shoulder, and mouthed ‘take a picture’ to a still snickering Nate. In a flash, his phone was out and the click of the camera was followed by a groan from Michael. “You can let me go now. I’m going to dunk that little traitor in some snow.” Kendall laughed as their nephew bolted from the room. “I’ve got to send this to my mom and Bodie… I need a minute, Uncle Kendall,” he shouted as he was heard pounding up the stairs. “You got it, Nate.” “Et tu, Babe?” “Yup… we’re letting the kid have his fun… he’s connecting with his mom right now.” Michael chuckled. “You’re my hero, you know that, right?” “Of course I know that… feeling’s mutual.” “Good. You can let me go now. I’ll let the little bugger live. At least till after breakfast.” Colleen was smiling from ear to ear, staring at the two of them, and Kendall saw a sheen to her eyes. “What?” Michael asked upon seeing her. “Oh, bonnie boy. For a long time this house has been too quiet. Now, it’s so full of life again, like it was before Megan moved away. We have our three boys here, and soon Mark, Megan, and the girls will be nearby. I couldn’t ask for a better Christmas. And next Christmas will be even better, because we’ll have a baby.” “We were just talking about that, Mom, after we woke up,” Kendall said. “You’re right, next Christmas will be even better, and my first one with my mom and dad in years. We’ve got lots to be thankful for, and lots to look forward to. Want another hug?” “Yes, I do.” Big Mike pushed off the counter and joined them. “Merry Christmas, boys.” “What’s going on?” Nate asked as he peeked around the corner of the doorway. “Come on, you little pissant. You’re safe for the time being.” “Aw, you know you love me, Uncle Mike.” “Yup… I do.” He wrapped an arm around the giggling, over-sized boy and pulled him into the group hug. “Now where have we seen that color before? Someone was trying to match your eyes, nephew,” Kendall commented on the cardigan Nate had just unwrapped from his boyfriend. “Is that…?” he reached over and felt the knit. “Jeez, lucky you. That’s cashmere.” “It is? Is that… expensive?” “Yes, dear. It is a rather expensive gift for a boy Bodie’s age to be giving.” Colleen looked a little uncertain, and Nate looked questioningly around the room. “Is it, like a hundred dollars?” “More like three,” Michael chimed in. “I don’t know… what do you think, Babe… is this appropriate?” Nate looked stricken. “What do you mean appropriate… why is it so expensive? Maybe he got it for fifty bucks. It’s beautiful,” he said as he held it up. Large black buttons set off the deep blue perfectly, and Kendall couldn’t help thinking it would look great on Michael. “Nate’s right,” Kendall said. “We don’t know what he paid, and judging by the Cavanaugh’s home and furnishings, he’s used to quality things. Nothing wrong with that.” “Okay,” Michael said with a grin directed towards Nate. “Try it on, Nathanial.” Nate stood up quickly from his place on the carpet, and started tugging off his pee pee sweater, as Michael called it. He stopped with the sweater up over his head and spoke through the knit. “I thought we weren’t allowed to take these off all day?” “I’m sure Miranda didn’t mean that literally. You can’t try on the blue one over that bulky thing,” Kendall said. At his encouragement, the ugly one dropped to the floor, and the four adults exchanged amused looks as Nate handled the gift reverently. He looked at the tag and his eyes widened before pulling the cardigan on. It fit him perfectly, with that slightly bulky look that Kendall really liked. A collar started halfway up spread out over the shoulders with a rolled look. “Hey, I want one of those,” Michael exclaimed. “Wow. The kid has good taste. What does the tag say?” “It says Ralph Lauren. Does it look good, Grams?” Michael whistled, and Kendall squeezed his leg, shaking his head to ward off any more fuss over the expense. “Oh, goodness, yes. It’s lovely, dear.” Nate beamed. “It’s got big pockets too. This will be great for school.” “It might be, but you wouldn’t want to leave that in a classroom,” Kendall cautioned. “Oh, no… I wouldn’t ever do that. What is cashmere anyway?” “It’s a very fine wool of a goat that comes from India. Highly prized stuff,” Big Mike informed him. “A goat? So I’m wearing goat… and Uncle Mike is wearing turkey?” “Do I have to come over there and straighten you out, young fella?” “No roughhousing near the tree,” Collen warned from her seat on the couch. Nate’s tongue made a quick appearance. “Yeah, Uncle Mike, no roughhousing….” “Put your tongue back in and shut it… and finish opening your damn gifts.” “Language, Michael.” “Sorry, Mom. “Can I keep this on?” Nate was fingering the soft blue yarn. “Until we leave, yeah. Now finish off. Open the big red envelope next,” Kendall insisted. “What’s this?” Nate asked when he pulled out the folded paper. “That’s a picture of the bedroom suite for your new room at the stone house. It’s going to be delivered the morning we move.” Nate unfolded it and squealed. “Double bed?” “Queen,” Michael answered. “You keep growing every day, so you need a big bed. You like it?” “Heck, ya. It looks awesome. Do both those dressers come with it? “Yup. And the end tables… it’s all solid maple. It suits the house without being too fancy. How about the color?” Kendall asked. “I love it… it’s dark, but not too dark… my single bed at home is red metal. Never had anything this nice before. I need to take a picture of this to send to Mom and Dad.” “Whoa, young fella. You do know this stays in your bedroom at the house, right?” “Yeah, of course I do. You said it will always be my room even when I’m back with my parents.” Michael nodded. “That’s right. Just making sure. Now you can go do your photo thing.” “Okay, oh wait. Your gifts.” Nate went to the back of the tree and pulled out two large presents. He handed one to his grandmother and grandfather, and one to Michael and Kendall. “Um, these are from Bodie and me. He did all the work.” When Kendall did the honors, and tore the gold paper off, he found himself staring into the faces of him and Michael. It was a painted rendition of his favorite photo in the whole world… the one of them with their arms around each other, heads touching, after Canada had won the Olympic hockey gold in Vancouver. He looked over at Michael to see he was entranced. The painting was superb… richly detailed, and the likenesses were perfect. Their joy on that day was unmistakable. It was better than the photo in that Bodie had given it the intimacy Kendall had always felt when he looked at it, like they were the only two people in the world. The boy had captured what he had only imagined was there. “Babe… this is incredible… that’s my favorite photo of the two of us.” He looked up at a still-standing Nate. “How did you get this?” “I saw it on Unc’s phone and asked him to send it to me. I thought it was a great picture of you guys, and…” A sniffle came from Colleen that got their attention. “Grams? Do you like it?” She leaned over and grabbed a tissue to dry her eyes. “It’s beautiful, Nate.” “God, that boyfriend of yours has talent,” Big Mike added, looking a little misty himself. “Let us see, Mom.” Kendall was stunned when she turned her painting around. The subject was Nate, and Bodie had captured the man/boy he was. There was an innocence and a vulnerability to go with the mischievous hint of a smile… in other words, it showed the complete Nathanial Grant. It was painted by someone who obviously cared for the subject… it practically radiated love. “Wow.” “It’s really good, right?” “Jesus, Nate,” Michael uttered. “Language, dear.” “Sorry, Mom. But, holy crap. Bodie’s a freaking Rembrandt. God, Nate, that couldn’t be more you if it was a photograph. It would take at least three photos to get all of that. Seriously.” Kendall nodded his agreement. “It’s not better than yours, though, is it?” “No, no… not better, but there’s a lot of feeling in the one you gave Grams and Gramps. It’s pretty special, nephew. We love ours, don’t we, Ace?” “Hell… heck ya. Sorry, Mom. I think it’s going to look great in our new house….” “Right over the fireplace,” Kendall said with a nod. “The perfect spot, and the perfect size. How in heck did he do these so fast, Nate?” “I don’t know… he says once he starts, it just flows out of him. He had mine pretty much done the next day. It was the same with the box he made me. He’s very talented,” Nate said proudly. “That’s an understatement. Were these your idea?” “Um, yeah. He said he wanted to paint me, and I said I would love to have a painting to give to Grams and Gramps for Christmas… I said you were such a softy, Grams, and you’d love it,” he said with a little giggle so like hers. “Bodie said he could do it in time, and that he could do one for you guys too if I wanted.” “So that’s why you asked for the photo off my phone?” “No, I just wanted it. He was going to do a different painting of me for you and Uncle Michael, but I showed him the picture and said I would love to have it as a painting for you guys one day… he said no problem… he could have it ready. I really didn’t think they would be this big or this good. Um, like I said, Bodie did all the work, but I paid for the canvas and the frames. He picked them out.” “I love the frame… it really sets off the painting. I didn’t see you put anything in the truck yesterday. How…?” “Mira boxed them up and took them to Gramps at his business.” “And I stashed them in Bodie’s room,” Big Mike said with a smug grin. “I had no idea what they were, though. Pretty special, my boy.” He walked over and took the other painting out of Michael’s hands, staring at it. Shaking his head, he looked up. “Any idiot could see you guys loved each other in this. God, you two were dense.” It was a different kind of December twenty-fifth. The last three Christmases there had been chilly temperatures and snowfall. Today, the heater wasn’t even needed in the truck because the bright sun was doing the job. And of course their ugly sweaters aided in keeping them warm. Kendall looked in the rear view mirror. “That was a great Christmas morning, eh, Nate?” “It was awesome. It would have been nice to have Mom and Dad and the girls here, but talking to them was a lot of fun. I told you Kelse could talk, didn’t I.” Michael started laughing as he twisted in the seat. “Yeah, you weren’t kidding.” “Hey, I told that to Uncle Kendall while you were sleeping.” “You only thought I was sleeping. I… hear… all,” Michael said with a smirk and a deep voice. “I’m a cop, remember. Anyway, I can’t wait to see the girls again. All that squealing was hilarious. Kelsey said she loved me ‘the whole world and back.’” Kendall chuckled as they turned south on Highway 48. “We know, Ace. We heard her, and you’ve said it three times now. I think you’re in full dad-mode.” “What… I can’t wait to see our nieces. Hearing their voices this morning made me miss them. I think I like them more than our dumb nephew.” “No, you don’t,” Nate said smugly from the backseat. They pulled into the Cavanaugh’s driveway to see Bodie standing with Dinah and Rufus on each side, waiting. The puppies could be seen in the run, little bodies wriggling with excitement at the appearance of visitors. Bodie’s sweater had Kendall gawking. Not just because of how ugly it was… and it was ugly, but because of the picture of a huge fruitcake, complete with a big red bow, on the front of it. FRUITCAKE was written over the top of the garish, bordering on putrid, knitted cake. “Is that some sort of statement?” Michael asked with a grin as he stared through the windshield. “I don’t”—Bodie raised his hand, waved, and turned his back to them—“there’s your answer, Ace. Wow. Good for him.” On the back of the sweater was written ‘AND PROUD OF IT.’ “I knew there was a reason I liked that boy. I’ll even forgive him for picking this damn turkey atrocity for me.” Kendall snorted. “What do you think?” he turned and asked the boy sitting behind them. A smile was present on his face, along with something else. Pride? “Isn’t he amazing? You guys don’t know what… unlock the doors, Uncle Kendall.” Michael laughed at the eagerness of his demand. “Are we going to see a slow-motion run when we let you out?” he asked with a snicker. “What are you talking about?” “Never mind… go wish the boy Merry Christmas… and no tongue.” “You’re gross,” Nate said, but he turned and gave his uncles a wink after he leapt out and started heading for his boyfriend. Kendall snorted. “Cocky little bugger.” “He’s a far cry from that kid who fell apart in the kitchen, isn’t he?” Kendall’s attention, like Michael’s, was on the young pair as they greeted, kissed, laughed, and embraced. He stepped out of his side of the truck and met Michael at the front of Beauty, taking his hand. “And for the record, I don’t think you’re gross.” “Thank God for that.” Michael’s gaze lingered a few seconds more before he turned to his fiancé. “For that reason alone, I love the blond kid. They give each other strength and pride in who they are. Wearing that sweater is icing on the cake.” Kendall groaned. “Oh, now that was perilously close to gross.” “Hey, I thought it was pretty good.” He pulled Kendall into their own embrace. “Let’s go visit Lily and Rose before they chew through that chain-link. Those two over there don’t need us old fogies around. Still want to go for that walk?” Kendall planted a kiss on Michael’s nose. “You bet. We haven’t really seen the whole neighborhood, except in driving by. I’m looking forward to it.” Hand in hand they approached the kennel, with the two boys following behind and the older dogs now up beside them, collecting their greetings. “Hey guys,” Bodie called out when they caught up. “Merry Christmas. Thanks for delivering my gift.” Nate beamed when Bodie help up his hand. “You’re welcome to the pain in the ass. He has no respect for his favorite uncle,” Michael said as he stuck fingers through the chain-link fence while one hand rested on Dinah’s head. “Hey, that’s not true. I respect Uncle Kendall.” Nate dodged behind his boyfriend when Michael made as if to reach for some snow. “See what I mean? It’s constant abuse.” “And see what I go through?” Kendall asked plaintively. “I have two children to deal with. The paintings are beautiful, Bodie. Both of them. Michael and I thank you… our whole family does.” “It was Nate’s idea, but thank you. I loved doing them.” Red stained cheeks got redder. Michael turned from the two excited girls. “Yeah, kid, they are something pretty special.” “Oh, my parents wanted me to invite you in for a coffee and some fruitcake.” It was an obvious attempt to change the subject. “I don’t know… I’ve kind of gone off fruitcake,” Michael said, shaking his head as he looked pointedly at Bodie’s sweater. “Yeah, it is ugly, isn’t it?” Bodie agreed. “Stop picking on the boy, Ace.” “What… I’m not….” “Anyway,” Kendall interrupted, “can you give your parents a raincheck for us? We don’t have much time, and we want to go for a walk and check out the area on foot. We don’t want to waste all this sunshine.” “Sure thing. I’ll tell them. Do you want the puppies out?” “Oh, yeah. We have to play with our girls on Christmas day, and we’ve kept them waiting long enough.” Kendall answered, letting his fingers be licked through the fence. “You’ve been very patient… yes you have,” he crooned to Rose and Lily. Thirty seconds later, the gate was open and two fat little bundles claimed their dads. Lily went straight to Michael and Rose went straight to Kendall. Both men ended up on the ground giggling at the onslaught of attention. Kendall laughed when Michael complained about being slipped the tongue. “Oh, God. She did it again. She appears to have your talent, Babe.” “And Rose seems to have yours,” he responded as he tried to dodge mouth-aimed doggie kisses. The rambunctious little whirlwind finally, after a few minutes, settled on his lap and looked around. As if it was an agreed-upon plan, the puppies swapped places and the same robust greetings were repeated. Their parents sat back, sedately watching. Nate and Bodie were next on their list, attacked as soon as they knelt down. Kendall took the opportunity to get up, swiping at the snow coating his jeans. “Come on, Ace. I hate cutting this short, but we’re on a schedule. Remember, Nathanial, your grandmother expects us back for dinner in a couple of hours.” “I know, I’ll be ready when you honk. I won’t forget.” “And you, mister,” Michael said while standing up beside Kendall. “I know you had a hand in picking out my sweater.” Bodie looked up with a grin. “Why would you think that?” “Because there’s a big bald turkey ass and a steaming pile of bird crap on my back, as if the front wasn’t bad enough.” “I’m innocent, I swear,” Bodie said unconvincingly as his boyfriend laid back in the snow giggling. “Really? Are you going to stick to that story… remember, I’m a cop, and Nate, you’re pushing it.” “Okay, well, my mom did ask my opinion, and I may have said that one. In my defense though, the other choice was two humping reindeers. My dad’s wearing that one.” Nate chimed in with more laughter. “So… you trying to tell you were doing me a favor?” “Um… no.” He glanced around at Nate and they both completely fell apart. Michael shook his head in mock disgust. “Babe….” “I know, Sunshine. Come on, my little turkey, and stop harassing the children. I happen to love your sweater. Let’s go park Beauty at the house. I want to check it out before we go for our walk. Ignore those two,” he said, winking at Bodie and hiding his grin. “Wait. We should put Lily and Rose back in so they don’t follow.” “They won’t,” Bodie said, sitting up and wiping away the laughter tears. “Sit,” he commanded, and they both sat. Dinah and Rufus complied as well. “Stay.” “That’ll work?” “Of course. See for yourself.” Kendall looked back when they got to the truck, and saw neither puppy had moved an inch, even though they were watching them intently. All four dogs were. “Wow,” Michael said from the other side. “Can you believe that? They’re still so young.” “Impressive. Our girls are smart.” “That’s for sure,” Michael said as they climbed in. “Listen to us… two proud dads bragging about our kids. I hate leaving them.” “I know what you mean, but we’ll soon have them home with us, and we’ll be able to see them every day.” “Yeah, that’s true. It won’t be long. Something tells me we’ll see their trainer every day too.” “That’s okay. Young love is a beautiful thing.” “You talking about them or us?” “Both.”
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    Chapter 18 --Declan— This morning he waited for Bailey under the bleachers in Bailey's favorite spot. He was nervous, debating whether he should tell Bailey about going to the dean and headmaster yesterday. He didn't want Bailey to be blindsided, but he also didn't want Bailey to be pissed at him either. Maybe the dean wouldn't tell Bailey who'd told. Even so, Declan would know, and he couldn't keep that from Bailey. He looked up as he heard footsteps. Bailey's face lit up when he saw Declan. Yeah, I caused that, Declan puffed up proudly before guilt swamped him again. But how's he going to feel when I tell him I told the dean about what happened with Chris—after he'd told me not to? "Hey." Declan's voice sounded rough, even to himself. "Hi." Bailey walked right up to him, dropping his bags to the ground. "You ready?" "Uh, yeah..." He was surprised when Bailey actually grabbed his arm to give him a tug. Since when did Bailey reach out to others? He rarely let anyone else touch him. But Bailey seemed to make an exception for him—and now Bailey had him by the arm. Declan grinned as he let Bailey lead him to the track, still holding onto him. "You got your iPod?" Bailey asked. "Uh, yeah, sure." Declan fumbled with the small clip-on device he used for running instead of his phone, then held it out to Bailey. "Did you want to pick the music this time? I've got all kinds." Bailey looked at the device, dwarfed in Declan's big hands, but just smiled and shook his head. "No, you decide," Bailey said—but then he used his fingers to fold Declan's back over the phone, softly gripping Declan's fisted hand before patting it. Declan would swear his skin was tingling from where Bailey's calloused fingers brushed over his skin. "Come on," Bailey said, bouncing on his feet before taking off. Declan raced to catch up. As he ran, he flipped through several playlists before deciding on one, allowing the heavy beat to play aloud. Maybe he could tell Bailey after their run, since trying to talk over the music would be futile. He refused to concede that he could just turn off the iPod. Okay, maybe that was being a little bit of a coward, putting it off even longer, but he couldn't bear to break that beautiful smile on Bailey's face right now. He quickly matched Bailey's pace, both of them falling into an easy rhythm. Declan found the mix of their combined footfalls hypnotic, relaxing in the soothing huff of their breaths and the occasional brush of Bailey's arm against his. Bailey's phone chimed, bringing Declan out of his zone. He nearly stumbled into Bailey, who laughed and shoved him as he dug in his pocket. Declan watched as Bailey checked his phone, a frown marring his face. Bailey's pace dropped as he quickly thumbed the phone off, shoving it away. "Everything okay?" "I gotta go," Bailey said evasively, turning toward the bleachers, obviously planning on grabbing his bags. Declan followed him. Something had upset Bailey; his whole body tense, closed off. "Are you sure—" "It's fine. I—I just gotta go to a meeting. I'll talk to you later," Bailey snapped before taking off at a full run. "Bailey!" Declan called desperately to Bailey's fleeing back. "Wait! I need to tell you—" "Later!" Bailey's voice called back without stopping. Declan started to chase after him, but it was obvious Bailey wasn't going to stop. A meeting. Hell, had the dean already contacted Bailey about wanting to talk to him? Declan guessed it made sense that Zamora would want to talk to Bailey as soon as possible, but he'd thought they'd at least wait until after breakfast. Declan slowed and stopped, watching Bailey duck under the bleachers before taking off for the gym, presumably to shower. Declan hung his head, silently berating himself for not taking the opportunity to explain when he'd had it. Fuck, he might as well head in to shower before taking his phone with the video over to the headmaster. "Damn it," he cursed under his breath. "I'm sorry, Bailey." —Bailey— Bailey had been thoroughly enjoying his peaceful run with Declan before his phone reminded him of his standing Thursday morning meeting with the school counselor. What a way to spoil his mood and his morning. Why had he snapped at Declan? It wasn't the big goof's fault... Bailey could barely even look at Declan's concerned face, taking off immediately to retrieve his bags. If he allowed himself to linger, Declan would probably finagle out of him what the meeting was about. Bailey had no intention of Declan finding out just how messed up he was that he was forced to talk to a shrink every week to keep everyone else happy. After completing his morning ritual in the locker room, he grabbed his book bag and headed toward Grainger Hall, the ivy-covered brick structure which served as Heritage Academy's main administrative building. He was almost to the bottom of the stairs, ready to head up to Mrs. Tardin's office on the second floor, when he heard her call out to him from his left. "Bailey, good morning!" The counselor smiled brightly, little too chipper for this early Bailey thought. "Please, come with me." She waved him over, and he obediently followed. "What's going on? Are we meeting somewhere else today?" he asked. "Well, um, no. Actually, Dr. Lansing has requested to speak to you." She reached a room labeled 'Conference Room A', but Bailey had stopped in his tracks. "D-Dr. Lansing?" His voice cracked as his panic shot through the roof, thoughts flooding his brain: Oh, hell, what have I done? Am I failing something? Will he be putting me on academic probation? A warm hand landed on his shoulder, and he jerked back to see Mrs. Tardin offering him a soft smile. He cursed under his breath at his reaction. He knew she stood behind him, but still... she should know better. They had talked about it. Her eyes flashed with sorrow, probably remembering when she'd managed to unearth the reason he disliked being touched. "It's okay, Bailey. Nothing to worry about. Not really. It's more that we are concerned about you, sweetheart." Bailey frowned as she opened the door. "Oh, shit," slipped out of his mouth before he could stop it. He stared wide-eyed. This wasn't a meeting, it was a gathering. He saw the Headmaster, the Dean, as well as Mr. Reed and Coach Richards among a few others at the table. Before he had a chance to lapse into a full-blown panic attack, Dr. Lansing turned and smiled broadly at him, his hand out welcoming Bailey into the room. "Good morning, Mr. McIntyre. Please come in. Sit. Have some juice and something to eat." Bailey eyed the side table where some breakfast pastries and muffins along with beverages were set up. He wasn't sure he could eat right now; his stomach was suddenly in knots wondering what the hell was going on. "Maybe just some orange juice," he mumbled, not wanting to be impolite. Mrs. Tardin actually stepped forward to pour the juice as the headmaster guided him to a seat at the oblong conference table. He was still eyeing the others in the room warily when the counselor placed a glass of OJ and a blueberry muffin in front of him. "In case you decide you're hungry." She smiled warmly before she took her own seat. Dr. Lansing sat nearly across from him next to Mr. Zamora. Bailey watched him flip open a file folder and pick up a pen. "Mr. McIntyre. Bailey. I'm sure you're wondering what's going on," the Headmaster started. At Bailey's nod, he continued. "Last night, we learned of a disturbing incident that happened Friday night at the Square concerning your safety." Bailey sucked in a breath. His eyes darted to his coach, who seemed visibly upset. Sympathy radiated from the others around the table, and Mrs. Tardin reached over instinctively to pat his arm, but he edged away from her. "Would you like to tell us what happened Friday night?" the headmaster asked gently. His tone and manner were inviting and compassionate. Someone had told. Bailey was willing to bet it was Justin. But Justin didn't know exactly what happened; he had only guessed—guessed right, but nonetheless, it was still just speculation on his teammate's part. Maybe he could still— Bailey shrugged. "Nothing happened." Dr. Lansing frowned deeply, glancing at Mr. Zamora next to him who looked equally concerned. On the other hand, Coach Richards looked like he was ready to come out of his seat, he was vibrating with so much fury. Somehow, the man clamped his jaw and clenched his hands together. Mr. Reed didn't look much better. Other looks of surprise and concern ran around the table between the rest of the administrators as well. "Bailey, we can understand your desire to protect your fellow classmates, but you know we don't tolerate any type of bullying, violence, or intimidation on this campus," Mr. Zamora spoke up, apparently hoping to motivate Bailey into speaking up. Bailey cocked his head. He didn't fully trust that all of these people were looking out for him. He especially eyed Mr. Reed, the football coach. Certainly, he wouldn't be happy if Bailey confirmed Justin's suspicions. "I'm not saying anything happened, but whatever you've been told happened off campus. So what does it matter?" Lips thinned and brows furrowed at his continued reticence. It was obvious they had expected him to be more forthcoming. "Bailey," Coach Richards huffed out sharply, "it doesn't matter where it happened! You don't have to put up with it. It's not something anyone here will tolerate, ever." Bailey cut his eyes instinctively to Mr. Reed. The man straightened, a sudden understanding causing his eyes to widen. "Bailey, son," he started earnestly, "I am in total agreement with everyone else here. In fact, I am probably even more upset because it was one of my team members, specifically one who should be leading by example. I don't know what happened at your other schools before coming here, but I want you to know we don't brush things under the rug around here. Chris and Eric, and anyone else involved if there are any, have no place on my team or at this school. Period." Bailey opened his mouth, but nothing came out. Maybe things were handled differently here. He wasn't used to trusting in others. He'd only ever been able to rely on his parents—and one of them had been ripped away from him, while the other had retreated into herself, leaving him to face life on his own lately. "Look, Bailey, we know you've had a rough time these last couple months," Mrs. Tardin said from next to him. "But this isn't something that you should have to accept, no one should. We just want to know in your own words what happened. We will be talking with Chris and Eric, and others as well, to determine just how far this has gone." He lifted his chin. "But what if I just want to let it go? I really don't want to cause trouble, I—" "You are not causing trouble," Dr. Lansing cut him off. "Chris and Eric caused it." "Justin just believes they've been buggin' me," Bailey said Mr. Zamora and Dr. Lansing exchanged a slightly amused, knowing look, before Dr. Lansing leaned forward, placing his forearms on the table and clasping his fingers together. "Bailey, you seem to be under the impression that we don't already know what occurred. However, we were informed, in explicit detail, what happened behind Carewell Pharmacy. We are aware Chris Vasser and Eric Olander recorded at least two videos during the incident. What we are asking of you is for your side of the story. We know it happened; we'd just like you to confirm details from your point of view." Bailey's jaw hung open. How did they—? Who could have—? Bailey's eyes dropped closed as realization dawned on him. Declan. Declan was the only one who could have given them so many details, especially the fact that there had been two videos. Others might know about the confession video because Bailey was sure Chris had shown it to a few of his close friends at least, but only Declan knew about Eric accidentally recording Chris threatening and beating up Bailey. Eric hadn't meant to forward that video to Declan, which had brought Declan to his 'rescue', and pissed off Chris. Bailey rubbed his hands over his face. Declan. Damn it. He'd told. After Bailey had told him not to. Why the hell would Declan do that? To his team? To Bailey? "It wasn't Justin that came to you. It was Declan, wasn't it?" Bailey asked softly, still not believing Declan would have done such a thing. Why the hell would he? He'd destroy his team. Declan had known Bailey wasn't going to say anything, so why the hell would Declan speak up? And why didn't he say anything last night when he'd texted? Fuck! They'd been running this morning and he hadn't said anything! Hadn't warned him— Bailey gritted his teeth. The fucker could have at least given him a heads up, let him know that he'd told so Bailey wouldn't have been blindsided this morning. "Yes, Declan Foster came to me yesterday afternoon," Mr. Zamora confirmed. "Both Coach Reed and Coach Richards were already in my office at the time, voicing similar concerns about conflict among some of the teams, especially the football and gymnastics team after the incident in the weight room last week." "At first, we believed it might just be normal teenage posturing," Mr. Reed elaborated. "Every team likes to think they are the best. But something felt different these past few days within the team—hell, within the school—and Declan just confirmed it yesterday afternoon. I admit I didn't want to believe Chris had crossed that line." Bailey opened and closed his mouth a couple times before he managed to speak. "I-I thought it'd be better to keep quiet. It's not like I haven't—" Bailey abruptly cut himself off, clamping his mouth shut. Dr. Lansing nodded thoughtfully, apparently guessing at what Bailey hadn't voiced. "Which is exactly why your father sought out our school. Because we have a strict code of conduct here at Heritage, and as a student here, you have every right to expect to feel safe, respected, and valued." Bailey flinched violently at the mention of his father. His eyes blurred slightly, but he set his jaw, determined not to break apart here. His father had worked so hard to find a school that was not only up to his standards academically, but would also be accepting of his son, a place where Bailey could feel secure to be his own person. "Bailey," the headmaster continued, his voice dropping to a soft timbre, "Your father loved you very much. I know you miss him. But your father wouldn't want this for you..." Bailey stared down at his hands clenched on the table. If the man said he'd be dishonoring his father's memory by not speaking up, Bailey swore he'd walk right out of this office. "He'd want you to be safe," Dr. Lansing finished. "If he were here, I'm sure he would be storming into my office himself, demanding I do something to protect his son. Your classmate has done that by speaking up for you. We're just here to get your side of it, that's all." Bailey closed his eyes and felt a lone tear slip down his cheek. It wasn't fair of them to bring his father into this. They were right, of course. His father would hate that he'd let Chris get away with it. But Bailey had never been the one to rock the boat, when he could sit quietly in the back, simply manning one of the oars. His father, however, wasn't like that. He'd always been a take charge kind of guy. Bailey quickly swiped the dampness from his cheek before looking back up at the headmaster, nodding. "What do you want to know?" A tiny smile tipped the man's lips. "Why don't you start with the weight room incident, since that seems to have started the whole thing?" "Okay." Bailey nodded again, sitting back slightly and rubbing his sweaty hands on his dark pants. He couldn't risk scratching at the slice on his chest as he could bleed through his light blue polo. His fingers itched for his tiny blade, just a little prick to help... Instead, he found himself pinching his thigh under the table. It wasn't exactly the same, but the momentary pain brought him something to focus on besides his spiraling thoughts and emotions. He was sure this wasn't going to be as simple as just relating his side, and it would all be over. There would be some kind of backlash, there always was—and everyone would know Bailey had been the cause of it. "Well, our team was in the weight room, when the football team showed up and..." *** —Declan— Evan walked with Declan to Grainger Hall, even kept him company as he made his way to the dean's office. He was anxious to hand over the video. Evan had helped him copy it to a thumb drive last night so he didn't have to hand over his actual phone. At least, that's what he hoped. Mrs. Lewis was already at her desk, sipping on a cup of coffee smelling strongly of cinnamon. She looked up as they walked in. "Good morning, boys," she greeted. "What can I do for you today?" When Declan hesitated, Evan nudged him with his elbow. Declan fumbled with his phone. "I, uh, I have something important to show Mr. Zamora." "Oh, well, he's in a meeting right now. Would you like me to give it to him when he's done?" she offered. Declan clutched at his phone. "No. But can I ask... is the meeting about what I told him yesterday? Because this is really important to add to that. I, uh, have a video." Mrs. Lewis straightened, obviously sensing the gravity of what he was saying. Her eyes strayed to the phone clutched in his hand. "I see. Just a moment, let me see if he's willing to take a break." Declan glanced at Evan for support, who nodded encouragingly at him. Mrs. Lewis was clicking on her computer, and Declan guessed she was sending the dean a message through IM or something similar. Several agonizing moments later, her computer dinged, and she smiled up at him. "He'll be here in a moment." Declan released the breath he'd been holding. "Thank you." Evan patted him on the back, knowing how badly Declan had wanted to get this over with. The sooner Declan handed over the video, the sooner he could get the horrible thing off his phone. The click of dress shoes in the hall announced the arrival of Mr. Zamora. He wasn't alone, however. Dr. Lansing followed the Dean into the anteroom of Mr. Zamora's office. "Good morning, Mr. Foster," Dr. Lansing greeted. "And Mr. Ramacci," he added, nodding at Evan. "Mrs. Lewis says you have something urgent for us." "Uh, yes, sir." Declan shoved his hand into the pocket of his khaki slacks and pulled out the thumb drive. "I, uh, found—" he started quickly, rushing to get it all out, "well, really, Evan found a video on my phone last night. I didn't realize it was there, I swear. I must have accidently downloaded it instead—" "Woah, slow down, Mr. Foster." Mr. Zamora held up his hand to stop Declan's rambling. "What video are we talking about?" Declan took a breath. "The one I told you Eric sent me accidently." Both men straightened visibly. "You mean the one where Chris Vasser was assaulting Bailey McIntyre?" Declan nodded quickly. "Yes. I didn't realize I still had it on my phone until Evan was playing around with the gallery and he found it saved there. See..." He held out his phone, quickly thumbing through to play the video for the dean and headmaster. The furrow between both men's eyes deepened and their faces reflected both anger and worry as they watched the video. When it finished, Declan held up the thumb drive. "I have it copied on this for you," he said quickly, hoping they wouldn't take his phone. "So you can have a copy of it." Dr. Lansing took the thumb drive. "Thank you." Declan noticed the headmaster staring at the tight grip he had on his phone and suspected the man was about to demand he hand it over. However, Dr. Lansing and Mr. Zamora just exchanged looks. "I assume you made this copy for us so you wouldn't have to hand over your phone?" When Declan nodded, the dean added, "Well, this is good actually. We were contacting the IT department this morning to have them check the servers. If Eric or Chris used the school's wifi to send it, we thought we might be able to retrieve it that way. But, of course, this guarantees we have a copy. Thank you. However, do not delete from your phone in case we need access to it." Declan deflated slightly but nodded his assent. He could just pretend it wasn't there. "Yes, sir." "Good. Thank you for bringing this to us. This will be extremely helpful." "Uh, sir, can I... can I ask what's going to happen now?" Dr. Lansing frowned at him. "You know we can't discuss that with you, Mr. Foster." "Oh, yeah, well..." He shrugged. "I was just wondering about Bailey and everything." The headmaster's expression softened. "Mr. McIntyre was reluctant at first to divulge information, but the fact that you had already told us what happened helped tremendously." Declan gulped, nodding to himself. He'd suspected as much when Bailey took off suddenly during their run this morning. "Yes, he's with us now. We were just finishing up." "Oh, okay." Declan hesitated before asking his next question. "Is... is he okay? Is he... really mad at me... for telling and all?" Mr. Zamora stepped forward, placing a comforting hand on Declan's shoulder. The man almost had to look up to meet Declan's eyes. "I believe he's fine. He was nervous, of course... anxious... but he told us what happened. And your video just confirms it. Don't worry, Declan, it'll be all right." Dr. Lansing turned to Mrs. Lewis. "Contact the Resident Advisors for Chris Vasser and Eric Olander to escort the boys down. I emailed them last night informing them of the situation so they know to keep the boys separated. We'll be speaking to them next." Declan and Evan's eyes were wide as they listened to the Headmaster giving his orders before watching the Dean and Headmaster leave the office. Declan didn't believe for one second that this was over. Not by a long shot. He knew they'd be calling Chris and Eric into the office soon, but to be escorted? That was bound to cause a few whispers. And once word got out, the football team was going to be in chaos. But his bigger fear was that Bailey was going to hate him now. Evan must have sensed his distress because Declan felt his roommate's hand squeeze his shoulder. "You did the right thing, Dec. Bailey will understand that. Just give him a chance to cool down." "I hope you're right."
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    Chapter 24 “Just a sec,” Liam called out as he pulled a shirt over his head and headed for the entrance. Opening the door, he grinned when he saw Bryce standing there, looking like he’d taken great care in choosing his outfit this morning. The dark, slim-fit chinos and form fitting button-up shirt highlighted his toned physique, and his hair had that casually mussed look Liam knew was anything but casual… he had seen Bryce’s hair care collection, after all. “I feel underdressed,” he teased as he opened the door wider and invited his friend in. “Bite me,” Bryce retorted with a roll of his eyes. “You wish, sweet cheeks.” “Jesus. You weren’t kidding when you said that eye looked like shit.” “Thanks. Way to make a guy feel good about himself,” Liam responded with a chuckle. “You know you’re gorgeous, so stop fishing for compliments.” Bryce leaned in to examine the damage. “It’s a good thing you pressed charges against that asshat or I’d have to hunt him down and exact my own personal revenge.” “By bitch-slapping the guy?” Bryce gave an exaggerated gasp and pressed his hand against his chest, as if hurt. “Oh ye of little faith. I’m crushed. So, how was the epic ‘do-over’ date?” “Why don’t I wait until we get to the restaurant to tell you, and that way I won’t have to repeat myself for Nathan?” “What time are we expected to be there?” “In about an hour. That will give you enough time to tell me what’s been going on with you.” “What do you mean?” Bryce asked, clearly evading Liam’s gaze. “You can’t make some cryptic comment about not wanting to go out on a Friday night and not expect me to grill you.” Bryce huffed a breath and stalked towards the kitchen. “Fine,” he called over his shoulder, “but you’re making me coffee. The good stuff you buy for Marty too—not that instant crap you tried to poison me with last time.” Liam laughed and followed behind the smaller man. “Hey, it was all I had, and you’re scary when you’re decaffeinated.” After quickly preparing the coffee, and setting a cup in front of his friend, Liam joined the man at the small table and waited quietly. He knew Bryce well enough to know hounding the man would only make him withdraw. For someone as flamboyant as he was, Bryce was incredibly private where his personal life was concerned. Liam often wondered if the flamboyance was a defence mechanism to prevent his one night stands from getting too close. “So, the short version is I had a bad hook-up a couple of weeks ago, and need some time away from the scene for a while,” Bryce said, sounding flippant, but Liam could hear a thread of unease his voice. The tone, combined with Bryce’s apparent reluctance to talk put Liam on alert. “What happened?” Bryce stirred the dark liquid as he stared at the mug, seemingly oblivious to his surroundings. “Bry?” “I was at Flash. I hadn’t been there in months, and didn’t really want to go, but friends of mine made plans and bugged me until I relented and said I would meet them there.” “I remember you telling me you didn’t like that place,” Liam replied, moving his chair slightly closer to his friend, hoping his proximity would lend him some comfort. “I still don’t,” Bryce retorted with a bitter sounding laugh. “I showed up around eleven, and my group were up on the floor. I waved, but didn’t join them. It’d been a long drive and I had a bitch of a time getting a cab from my cousin Cole’s place. “I was tired and thirsty so I decided to hit the bar first. There was this pretty hot guy there, and I sidled up beside him. He bought my drink and we chatted for a bit. He seemed nice enough, and I didn’t care much. I was just looking for someone for a couple of hours… maybe even a quick blow-job in the bathrooms. I promised Cole I’d go with him to take the kids to the aquarium in the morning, so I wasn’t about to waste money getting a room.” Liam suppressed the urge to chastise his friend about why he would trust someone he’d only just met. He was never one for meaningless bar pick-ups, so Bryce’s stories were often out of his realm of experience. Alek was the first man he’d ever allowed to pick him with the intent of just one night, and even then, they’d known each other for months before ever getting together. “I know what you’re thinking,” Bryce said, interrupting Liam’s thoughts. “I’ve never had any problems before. I’m safe, I insist on protection, and I get tested regularly.” Liam patted his friend’s knee, and smiled guiltily. “Sorry,” he replied. “I know I shouldn’t judge what I don’t understand.” “It’s okay.” Bryce leaned into his shoulder. “Casual sex and club pick-ups aren’t for everyone, and I know I probably give my mom grey hairs if she thinks about it too much. Sometimes I wonder how we ever became friends. You’re too good for me.” “Hey,” Liam said softly, pulling Bryce’s smaller body into a tight hug. “Don’t say that. You’re a wonderful person and a great friend. Who you choose to sleep with doesn’t make you any better or worse than me. Hell, at least you didn’t fling yourself into the closet for a man like I did.” The comment had the desired effect as Bryce chuckled. “That’s true,” he retorted as he sat up again. “So you met a guy at the bar…,” Liam prodded when Bryce didn’t immediately continue his story. The other man cleared his throat and took a sip of his coffee before peering sideways at Liam. “His name was Greg, and he told me he was from out of town. Windsor or something. I thought he was perfect for a quickie… no messy morning afters or running into each other again if the sex sucked. We flirted for a while, until I had to pee, so I excused myself to use the bathroom. When I got back, he’d already ordered another round for the two of us.” “Bry… you didn’t drink it.” It was the cardinal rule of clubbing, you never, ever drink something you didn’t watch being made with your own eyes. The flush creeping up Bryce’s cheeks told Liam his friend had done just that. “I was an idiot,” Bryce replied, rubbing his face with the palms of his hands. “I think he slipped me Ecstasy or something, because I was happy as fuck and feeling no pain in no time. Hell, I think I even started to give him a lap dance at one point.” “What did he do to you?” Bryce bit his lower lip and cradled his cup in slightly shaking hands. “He convinced me to go to the alley with him… for a little fun. When we got there, he pushed me against the wall and we started to practically maul each other. Believe me, I was really on board with what was happening. “We were out and grinding like horny teenagers when I felt someone standing beside us. I tried to look, but Greg held my head still and told me not to worry about anything. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw this big guy watching us. I couldn’t see his hands, but judging by the movement, I think he was jacking himself or something. I was starting to get freaked out and pushed Greg away from me. I must have I caught him by surprise, because he stumbled back a step. “I told him I didn’t do exhibitionism and tried to storm off to the front of the building, but Greg pulled me back and slammed me against the wall. He told me to stop being such a drama queen, and that he and his buddy just wanted to have a little fun with me. I was really starting to panic by then. Both of these guys were a lot bigger than me, and could do some serious damage if they wanted to.” “Did they…?” Liam felt tears sting his eyes as his voice cracked. He couldn’t even finish his sentence, much less the awful thought that was forming. “No,” Bryce replied quietly. “A group of guys came stumbling down the alley and Greg had to let me go when I started to struggle, or he would have called attention to us. The second I was free, I bee-lined it for the nearest cab and got the hell out of there.” Bryce let out a noise that was a cross between a laugh and a sob. “My asshole friends didn’t even notice I’d left. They assumed I’d found someone for the night, and didn’t give me another thought.” Liam pulled his friend into his arms again. “I can’t imagine how scared you must have been.” Bryce leaned into his chest and tucked his head under Liam’s chin. “I’m always careful, Li. Always. You know I am. I slip up one god-damned time and look what happens. Why do I put myself into these types of situations? How many other times have I barely avoided this happening before?” “I do know how careful you are… hell, I’ve had you lecture me when we go out together. I can understand why you might be gun shy now, but are you really going to let this one experience stop you from ever going out again?” “No,” Bryce answered, looking Liam in the eye. “To be honest, the whole club scene has been getting stale for a while. This was just the final straw. I can’t do it anymore. I tried to go out the next week, and left after twenty minutes. I wasn’t having any fun, and I was suspicious of every guy who approached me.” “Did you report what happened?” “No,” Bryce replied, raising a hand when Liam started to interrupt. “I know you want to lecture me about this, but please don’t. I don’t even know Greg’s last name, and he never mentioned the name of his buddy.” “You could have given the police a description, though.” Bryce sighed and shook his head. “Not really. You know what those places are like. It was dark and the only real light was from the strobes. Greg had a beard. If he was smart, it would have been shaved off the second he had a chance… and I didn’t get a good look at the other guy. I don’t think he lied about being from out of town, so what would be the point?” “They might have been able to catch them, Bry. You didn’t deserve what happened to you.” “Have you ever had to report a sexual assault before?” Liam was surprised to hear his friend’s voice turn hard and bitter. He shook his head. “I have. I was eighteen, and snuck into a bar. This hot older guy started hitting on me, and bought me drinks. It felt like love at first sight. It wasn’t. We drove out to a local park, which I found out later was a hotspot for cruising, and he tried to convince me to have sex with him. When I refused, he forced me to give him head before he kicked me out of the car and took off, leaving me alone in the dark. I tried to report it, but the asshole cop who took my statement made it sound like I was some fucking prostitute who got stiffed by a trick. It was mortifying. I won’t put myself through that again.” “Not all cops are like that,” Liam protested, thinking of Officer Tate. “There are good ones out there.” “Yeah well, it’s too late now. Any evidence would have been long washed away, and those two assholes are probably long gone.” Liam felt his chest ache with concern for his friend. “I won’t lecture you, but if you ever do decide you want to report this, I’ll be happy to go with you. Sometimes having a person there for support helps.” “Thank you,” Bryce replied with a watery smile. “Now, when are we supposed to leave? I haven’t eaten a thing today, and I’m starved.” Standing, he looked at himself in the reflection from the microwave. “But first, I need to clean up. I can’t let Nathan see my looking all blotchy.” Liam watched him leave the room with a typical Bryce flourish, and took a moment to ponder the sadness his friend tried so hard to hide. “I hope him and Nathan find a way to get together,” he said quietly to himself. “They both deserve some happiness in their lives.”
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    Chapter 22 Liam stared at himself in the mirror, and tilted his head to the side. With a frustrated sigh he pulled off his shirt and threw it on the floor. “You changed your shirt again, didn’t you?” Bryce’s exasperated, but amused voice came over the speaker of the phone. “No,” Liam denied, reaching for another shirt. This one was a deep blue that Alek once told him matched his eyes. “Don’t lie to me, Liam MacPherson. I can hear the fabric rustling over the phone.” Liam chuckled and smoothed the shirt over his torso. Yes, this was the one. “I’m done now. I like this one.” Bryce snorted knowingly. “For now.” “No, no. This is the shirt I want. It’s one of Alek’s favourites.” “Good, Lord. Have we gone full teenage girl already? Am I gonna have to drive over there so we can do each other’s hair and gossip about whether or not Jason told Nathan that Alek told Corey that he wants to take you to the Prom?” “Fuck off,” Liam replied with a laugh. “I know I need to relax, but I’m nervous. This is important, you know?” “You’re still sure about this?” Bryce’s tone had become serious, and Liam could hear the concern in his friend’s voice. “Do you remember what it was like for you after your breakup?” “I know,” Liam replied, sitting heavily on the bed. “It was a rough time for me, and for the friends who supported me, but things are different now. Alek is different now.” “And that makes me happy… for you. I hope this works out the way you want, for your sake.” “You sound like Nathan. He came over yesterday to make sure I wasn’t making a mistake too.” “He did? So….” There was an odd hesitation before Bryce continued. “I guess he’s still holding out some hope, and disappointed you took Alek back?” Liam smiled at the tinge of jealousy he heard. It was nice to see his friend interested in someone, as more than a fun night or two. “Not at all,” he assured. “Nathan was just concerned about me as a friend. He was there after the accident and saw how Alek’s presence affected me. Seeing me so happy convinced him I knew what I was doing. He said he wants to meet up for lunch or coffee tomorrow so he can get the details.” “Oh. That’s good. It would be sad if he was disappointed.” Liam laughed quietly at Bryce’s attempt to sound nonchalant. “Hey, since tomorrow is Saturday, why don’t you drive over and join us?” “I don’t know….” “Come on. It’ll be fun, and this way I can tell both of you about the date at the same time, instead of repeating the story over and over again.” Bryce’s laugh was loud over the speaker. “Please. You know if this date goes well you’re going to be telling anyone who’ll listen all about it.” “Shut up,” Liam reprimanded, though his voice was filled with affection. “So will you come?” “Sure. Count me in. I wasn’t planning on going anywhere tonight, so I’ll get moving early tomorrow and be there before noon.” “You’re not going out?” That news shocked Liam. His friend was a wonderful man, but still really enjoyed the club scene, and would often drive into Toronto to enjoy a night on the town. The only time he ever missed an opportunity to go would be if he was sick. “Are you feeling okay? Will you be up for a drive in the morning?” “I’m fine,” Bryce replied sounding bemused. “I can stay in on a Friday night, you know.” “Yeah, but why would you?” There was a pause that made Liam stop fiddling with an errant curl of hair over his eye. “Bry?” “We can talk when I get there tomorrow, okay?” “Are you su….” “It’s nothing really bad, Li so stop the fretting. I can practically see you doing from here. I just don’t want to get into it over the phone. Besides… this evening is supposed to be about you and whether or not you should grab the flavoured lube or the plain stuff.” Liam laughed, and allowed Bryce’s obvious attempt to change the subject. They talked for a few more minutes, to firm up their plans, and then Liam ended the call. Still nervous, he distracted himself by texting Nathan to tell him about Bryce joining them. Nathan would be at work by now so he didn’t expect a reply. Slipping the cell into his pocket, he finally left the bedroom, and was immediately set upon by Tux, who purred and rubbed against his legs. “Of course,” Liam said with a shake of his head. “You would get affectionate when I’m wearing black.” The cat paid him no attention and wandered off to his favourite window sill. “Love you too, furball.” Rummaging through his kitchen junk drawer, he was trying to find the lint roller when the doorbell rang, startling him. Alek. In his haste he nearly hit his head on corner cupboard. “Be right there,” Liam called out, quickly grabbing the roller and giving his pant legs a swipe. “That’ll have to do.” Chastising himself for acting like an overanxious teenager, Liam took a steadying breath before opening the door. “Hey, you’re right on time,” he greeted, pleased that his voice sounded strong and confident. “Six sharp,” Alek replied with a sexy grin. “You ready to go?” “Just let me grab my keys, and then I’m set.” Liam grabbed his keys and stepped into the hall, shutting and locking the door behind him. As they walked side-by-side down the stairs, he felt a warm hand settle on his lower back. It was a possessive gesture, and Liam wondered if he should be as thrilled as he was by it. Deciding to try to stop over-analyzing everything and just enjoy the evening, he revelled in the touch and leaned slightly closer to Alek’s larger body. Alek climbed into the truck but didn’t start it. Curious, Liam turned to face him. “I want you to know how grateful I am for doing this.” Alek’s intense gaze met his. “I can’t even say this is a second chance because I wasted that a long time ago.” “Aleksei,” Liam said softly as he undid his seatbelt and leaned over to stroke the man’s cheek. “As much as I love you, I’m doing this for me. I don’t want to look back on my life with regrets, and if I walked away before seeing where this goes, I would always have doubts.” Alek’s smile was gentle as turned his head to kiss Liam’s palm. “That doesn’t mean I shouldn’t still be grateful.” Like a gravitational pull, Liam felt himself moving closer to Alek until their lips hovered just a hair’s breadth apart. “I can work with grateful,” he teased before closing the remaining space between them. The kiss was sweet and tender, but there was an underlying hunger Liam was sure they both felt. Their kiss yesterday had been wonderful, but this… this was home. By mutual, unspoken agreement they moved apart, flushed and smiling. “That was a great way to kick off a first date,” Alek said, grinning as he drove out the lot. “I guess my ‘no kissing on the first date’ rule is blown to hell now,” Liam lamented, feeling pleased with himself when Alek laughed. “Don’t worry. Your virtue is safe with me.” Liam snorted and rolled his eyes. “Just drive, smart ass. I’m starving.” “Your wish is my command.” The restaurant, although popular and always busy, had an intimate atmosphere. Thanks to strategically placed furnishings and décor, each table had a great deal of privacy. The conversation around them was muted, but loud enough that Liam felt like they could talk without being overheard. “I haven’t been here before,” Liam commented as he looked around them. “I’ve heard good things from Corey though. Jason brought him here for his birthday.” Alek looked a little embarrassed as he fiddled with the napkin. “I wanted to bring you here before, but….” Liam reached across the table and placed his hand over Alek’s. “We’re here now.” Alek visibly relaxed and turned his hand over so their palms touched. “I know it can’t compare to what you can get in Halifax, but the linguine with mussels is fantastic.” “I’ll have to take you to my favourite place on the harbour so we can compare,” Liam replied with a wink. It took him a second to realize what he’d said, and he felt a blush creep up his face. “Well, when… if we, umm….” Alek took pity on him and chuckled. “I know what you meant, Li. Relax. If I don’t screw this up again, then yes, I think we should go to Halifax. You can show me the sights and maybe introduce me to Marty’s parents. I’m sure Marty would love to see you too.” “Oh,” Liam said, excited. “I didn’t tell you. Marty is being transferred to the Ontario office. He’ll be moving to Toronto soon.” “That’s great news. I know how much you’ve missed him.” There was a touch of apprehension in Alek’s face as he squeezed Liam’s hand. “How do you think he’ll react to this? Us? He must hate me for what I did to you.” “He doesn’t hate you, Alek.” Alek raised his eyebrow, his skepticism clear. “Okay, he’s not your biggest fan, but he just wants me to be happy. If he thinks you can do that then he’ll be fine.” Alek response was delayed by the arrival of their waiter. The smartly dressed man gave them each a menu and took their drink orders before retreating again. After looking over the menu for several minutes, they made their selections, and then returned to their conversation. “When is Marty moving?” “He’s not sure. Last I heard it would be at least a couple of months. He has a few projects he has to finish up first.” “Even if Marty is here, I hope you’ll want to show me around Halifax someday.” “Of course. I would love to give you a tour, and introduce you to Eileen and Walter.” “You’ve said they were like second parents to you.” “They are,” Liam replied with a fond smile as he recalled his recent visit with them. “They’ve loved me like one of their own since Marty dragged me home in grade school.” They chatted about Liam’s trip to his home province and his insights about his father, stopping only briefly to give their orders to the waiter. Liam took a sip of his white wine and hummed in appreciation as he thought over Alek’s question about his relationship with his dad. “My dad was a good man,” Liam started, “but he was always taciturn. Getting a hug or a kind word from him was rare. They became even rarer after mom passed. I think a part of him died with her. That’s why I was so grateful for Marty and his family. They became my surrogate parents. I don’t think I could have survived Dad’s death without them to lean on.” “I remember you mentioning that to me before. I’m grateful you had them in your life. It’s hard to have parents who aren’t there for you.” “Like your dad?” Liam prodded. He knew was right when Alek visibly flinched. “Sorry, I don’t mean to bring up bad memories.” “No,” Alek replied with an attempted smile. “It’s a fair question, especially with our past history.” Alek took a long drink of water before continuing. “Neither of my parents are good with expressing their feelings, but Mom was always freer with physical displays of love for us. She would always give us a hug and kiss goodnight, and she was who we turned to if we needed comfort. Dad was… is cold. He’s always been that way, even towards my mother. He doesn’t show outward signs of affection… thinks it’s a sign of weakness.” Liam felt his heart aching as he thought of what Alek’s childhood must have been like. His childhood might not have been ideal, but he did have the Harrisons. “Oh, Alek. That’s awful.” “It wasn’t so bad,” Alek replied with a crooked grin. “Natascha, Elena, and I have always been close, and when Dad was away on business trips, Mom would come up with fun things for us to do. I remember one time she had us bring our bedding to the living room and we made a tent under the dining room table. She even let us roast marshmallows over candles. To this day, I don’t think Dad’s figured out where the sticky stain on the carpet came from.” Alek’s expression was wistful and a little sad as he relived an obviously happy memory, and Liam could feel tears forming in his eyes. “I’m sorry, Alek.” His voice cracked as he fought with his guilt. “If it wasn’t for me….” “Hey,” Alek interrupted. “What happened between me and my parents isn’t your fault, so don’t take that on yourself. I told you, I came out for me. I wasn’t happy living a lie and pretending to be someone I wasn’t. It took me a long time to find the courage, and I wish they had taken it better, but I don’t regret anything.” “But, you obviously miss your family.” “I do,” Alek agreed, “but I have my sisters, and I hope my mom, at least, will come around eventually.” “You’re doing better with all of this than I thought you would.” Alek reached across the table and lifted Liam’s chin so their eyes met. “It was a hard lesson for me, but I’ve realized other people’s reactions are out of my control. I can’t live my life for them. Besides, some things are more important. This—you and me, our first real date—are my priority now.”
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    “Over my dead body,” said Moira, the disgust plain on her face. “Mother, it’s my choice—“ “It’s not a choice,” she cried. “It’s an abomination.” “Mum—“ “No, Tom. Absolutely not. I will not allow it.” “Even if it’s what I want?” pleaded Tom. Although Marcus was pleased to see Tom keep his temper under control, he wanted to wade in. Instead, he stood in the background, unspeaking, lending solidarity but not interfering—as explicitly instructed. “What about what I want?”said Moira, her voice almost cracking. “What about what our relatives will say, let alone the neighbours and the ladies of the conservative club? It’s disgusting. You have my support on most things, Thomas Jonathan Bradford, but not this. As for you Marcus, I’m shocked and disappointed. Surely you of all people can see how wrong this is. Can’t you talk some sense into my son.” “Actually, Moira—“ “Marcus,” said Tom, gently but firmly. “We agreed. This is my decision to make. Let me deal with my mother.” “What have the girls said?” “I wanted to get your blessing first of all.” “Katie will disown you.” “Ooh, come on, Mrs B,” hissed Marcus. “That’s a bit strong.” “Marcus. Please stay out of this.” “I’m not backing down, Thomas. No son of mine—“ began Moira. “Oh, for goodness sake, woman,” interrupted John sternly, wheeling in from the living room. He had clearly been trying to read the newspaper sitting open in his lap and been disturbed by the constant bickering. “It’s his life. Let him do what makes him happy.” “What about my happiness, what about our respectability?” An uneasy calm fell between the four of them. Eventually Marcus took a huge sigh and decided to step into the fray, to break the stalemate. “Look, I know nobody’s asked my opinion. But on this occasion, I actually agree with Moira. Every step of the way.” Both John and Tom turned on Marcus then. Tom was the first to speak. “You…what? What do you mean?” “Powder blue with white trim is simply not your colour, Tom. I’ve never seen such an awful looking tux in my life. And are the white patent leather shoes for real? Even with the navy cummerbund and bowtie, which, I admit, add a teaspoonful of class, it’s the epitome of Tack-A-Rama. Like a ninety-seventies game show host, or someone who’s stepped off the set of the original Ocean’s Eleven movie.” “Thank you, Marcus,” said Moira, folding her arms. “I’m glad one of you has some sense of decency.” “I loved that movie,” muttered John. “Hang on,” said Tom. “You said it was fabulous? In the charity shop?” Marcus came over then, put his arm around Tom’s waist, and lightly kissed him on the cheek. Even after four years, with Marcus doing his damnedest to suggest fashion choices for Tom, the man still showed up in some absolute doozies. “It was fabulous in the charity shop. But that’s where it should have stayed. There’s a good reason it was there in the first place. Anyway, mum’s right. You should wear your black tux to the party. With the simple white wing tip and black bowtie.” “Boring.” “You still have no idea, do you? Quite how incredibly hot—I mean, handsome—you look in that combination. Maybe that’s a good thing.” “What? And I don’t look incredibly hot and handsome in this? Come on, Dad? What do you think?” “Okay, son. Marcus has a point. It is a bit gay.’ “John!” “Dad!” Moira and Tom spoke in horrified unison, while Marcus collapsed into fits of laughter. Eventually everyone followed suit, bringing Katie into the room to find out what all the fuss was about. At twelve now, she had grown all too quickly. “What are you all—? Oh my god, dad. What are you wearing?” Behind her, Charlotte burst into loud, uncontrollable fits of giggles, starting the whole room off again—until the front doorbell rang. “Heavens,” said Moira, checking her watch. “Is that the time already? For goodness sake, go up and change, Tom. I’ll let the guests in.” Marcus had been pleasantly surprised at how quickly the Bradfords had come around to their son’s feelings for Marcus. Moira had been a tough sell at first, but having had Marcus in their lives for so long made things that much easier. Three months after the announcement, Moira had quietly spoken to Marcus, as she turned up to his apartment to collect the girls. “I’m not going to say that I understand. But my granddaughters adore you and my son has been the happiest he’s ever been since his wife died. So. That’s all I’m going to say on the matter.” Case closed. Both girls had been overjoyed—but for the first couple of months, even though Marcus had spent most nights in Tom’s bed, they had been careful. Sunday mornings especially, they’d been regularly invaded by the girls jumping up and down on their mattress and scaring Marcus awake. But that was a small price to pay. When Marcus went to pick Charlotte up from school one day, and overheard her referring to him as ‘…my other dad. He’s famous, you know?’, he felt such a sense of pride—he texted Tom straightaway as they sat waiting for the traffic lights to change. Marcus suspected that Tom felt the brunt more than he. At one point Tom had almost given up on going down the pub with his football chums, until Marcus had persuaded him that he had every right to be there. Perry, whose wife Julia and kids had been close to Tom’s family, had been the hardest cold-shoulder to take. When Tom announced the news, he became distant, purposely avoiding talking to Tom. Whenever they did, usually just a few words, they’d talk about the kids or about football—nothing too emotive. Ironically, Don, the British nationalist and the one with the readily available homophobic jibe in the group, had been overjoyed. Marcus Fryne, it transpired, was his hero, nothing short of a national treasure reviving good old English grub—cue middle finger to the rest of Europe—and his main concern was whether Tom could get him and his wife and six kids a discount if they went to one of his restaurants. Marcus, as always, delivered. And then one Friday night, Marcus had needed to borrow Tom’s car, so had dropped him off at the pub early evening. Later, a heavily pregnant Tina, had trailed Marcus back to the pub in her car, so that he could return the car and car keys to Tom. Of course, that meant going into the pub. He’d warned Tom in advance by text that he would be coming—but didn’t mention that he’d be coming prepared. Hearing the men before he saw them, shouting at the top of their voices, he made his way into the depths of the bar. When he saw Tom standing off to one side, while six others grouped together in a cluster watching the game on the overhead flatscreen, he felt an instant pang of sorrow. Had he done this to Tom? Had he made the man a pariah among friends? Before he had a chance to speak, three pretty young girls appeared from nowhere and threw themselves at him. “Oh my God, it is. It’s Marcus Fryne,” squealed one, grabbing his arm. “Can we have a selfie with you? Please? We loved you on the Food Show. You’re the best looking chef on the box, do you know that.” While the three girls squeezed in for the photo, Marcus noticed Tom’s group of mates had turned their way. Conversations had stopped. A couple of the men eyed him with a mix of cold suspicion and confusion, the way straight men do when they are confronted with a kind of sexual beast that threatens their masculinity. Only Don grinned. After finishing up with the girls, Marcus broke away and joined the pack. Showtime. “Evening chaps. Tom, I’ve got your car keys,” he said, before looking up at the screen. “No, tell me you’re not really watching this shit? You do realise Millwall are a thing of the past, don’t you? A relic of a bygone era that have had their heyday? What’s the score. Oh look, there’s a big surprise. They’re losing four-one.” Happily, the comment managed to extract a mild chuckle from the crowd. Only Don supported Millwall and, from what Tom had told him, the rest of his friends felt the same way as Marcus. “Fuck off, Fryne” said Don, light heartedly, all the time grinning. Marcus had met him and the family at his Shepherd’s Bush outlet. Don would never be a firm friend, but at least he had a sense of humour. “They said that about Man City and Wimbledon.” “Yeah, and look where they are now.” This time a laugh burst from all of the men. But Marcus hadn’t finished yet. Most of the others supported Arsenal. “And you lot can fucking laugh. The way you’ve treated your manager. Wenger has given your donkey of a team a whole new lease of life, won countless titles and because you’re—what?—fifth in the league this season, it’s time to kick him out. Talk about Jesus and Judas. Shame on you. Shame on the lot of you.” “This is the twentieth century, mate. You need to get with the program. That’s the name of the game these days,” piped up one of the guys. “If you don’t deliver, then someone else will step in and do the job for you.” “Yeah, if you pay them enough,” piped up someone. “He’s French, though. Fucking French!” said Don. “At least Graham was Scottish.” “Shut up, Don.” “It’s a fucking travesty, is what it is. Marcus is absolutely right. They’ve stabbed him in the back. He’s turned that club around from nothing. Even Graham couldn’t have done that. Show some respect.” After that a heated debate began, something the media had been stirring up ever since the last game of the season. Marcus smiled. Five down, one to go. “Tom,” he said, handing over the keys and turning towards the men. “Who is Perry? Can you point him out for me?” At that, the man in question turned and scrunched his eyebrows up and scowled at Marcus. If the expression was meant to intimidate, then the man would have to take a few lessons from Tina. Or maybe even begin with Katie. Talking of which. “Hi Perry,” said Marcus, holding out his hand and not moving nor flinching until the man had returned the gesture. “Is your daughter Elsa? Plays with our Katie?” “Yeah,” said Perry. Now a slight confusion filled his face. “Same after-school maths lesson. But they go to different schools.” “So Katie tells me. She also said Elsa was helping her class with a food stall at their school fete next Saturday and asked Katie if she’d ask me if I could help out in any way.” “Yeah, well, Elsa shouldn’t have done that,” said Perry, folding his arms. “Yes, well, you know what it’s like with kids. You do what you can for them,” said Marcus, before hefting the two carrier bags into view. “So anyway, my sou-chef Jerry created this new packaged cake slice, which is a cross between a Dundee cake and a brownie. We thought we’d sold all of them in our restaurants—a charity event—at two-pound-fifty a pack. But, the good news is that Jerry forgot one of the boxes in our storeroom. So I have two hundred Old Country special edition Dunbrownies, if Elsa’s interested. I was going to drop them over when Katie and Elsa had their lesson. But then I thought it might be nice if you delivered the good news.” Perry hesitated. Marcus could see his instinct to decline written clearly on his face. But something Marcus had learned fast is that fathers will do anything they can to keep their kids—and especially their daughters—happy. In a way, he felt sorry for Perry, the internal struggle of whether to accept, palpable in his eyes if not on his stoic face, that if he did accept, was that the same as giving in, of condoning what Tom and Marcus were doing. But then again, declining would mean letting his daughter down, even though she would never know. Could he live with himself if he did that? “Of course, if it’s too much to carry—“ “No, it’s fine. Viv, my wife, is coming to pick me up later,” said Perry, finally, his common sense winning out. “This is—really kind of you. Elsa will be over the moon. I suppose I—thank you.” “Don’t mention it. I hope it goes well. There’s a couple of extra ones in there, too, if you and Viv want to try one. They’re great with a mug of tea.” After that Marcus was invited to stay for a quick beer. Marcus was more concerned about Tina but after a quick text, she told him to carry on. At first Tom seemed cautious, but when he realised Marcus could give as good as he got, he relaxed. When Marcus hit the restroom later on, he decided to take one of the four cubicles and locked the door. Second later, two familiar voices entered the room. One was Don. They’d been talking about the game but soon their conversation turned to Tom. “I still don’t get it,” said one, not a voice Marcus remembered. “I mean, Tom’s a good looking bloke. Why not find another bird?” “Marcus is alright, you know,” said Don. “Yeah, doesn’t have the right anatomy, but he’s a good bloke. And a bloody good cook. Better than my missus, I can tell you.” “I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m no homophone. There’s this underwear model in my wife’s magazine. She raves about him. ‘Why can’t you take care of your body like he does?’. Bloody hell, this guy is carved from stone, you know? I says “if I had his body, love, d’you think I’d be hanging around here anymore?’ Course she didn’t like that. But this geezer, well, he’s always in those shots with gorgeous birds hanging off him. But I do get how she can find him attractive, you know. Lucky bastard’s probably up to his neck in pussy. What I would give to be him for a day.” “I dunno who you mean. What model?” “Frederick. Something like that. American. You’d know him if you saw him. Always on billboards around town.” Feredique. Marcus had almost laughed aloud in the cubicle but managed to restrain himself with hand over his mouth. Once they had finished and left, he finally allowed himself a quick chuckle. Should he go and tell them? No, that would be rubbing it in their faces. Let them have their fantasies. In bed that Friday night—their night, because the girls were with Moira and John—Tom had been both passionate and extra attentive, and Marcus felt this was Tom’s unspoken way of saying thank you. Panting and sweaty and sated, staring at the ceiling, he decided he needed to do more good deeds for Tom. One thing felt certain, that in some way, together, they had won a small battle. And now here they were, four years later, Tom at forty-five, Marcus at thirty-five, about to celebrate their combined eightieth birthday party together. Had she been alive, Raine would have wanted this. Fitting a hundred and twenty people into the back garden of their new semi-detached house turned out to be easier than either of them had imagined. Fortunately, Marcus and Tom’s new neighbours had all accepted the invitation to their garden party, so they could at least continue into the early July evening while daylight remained. More importantly, they had woken to blue, cloudless skies and a beautiful summer temperature. Even so, Tina had got Joel, her latest assistant—she managed to get through them like Christine got through cocktails—to call her events contacts and book a large marquee which they had erected at one end of their spacious garden. Even rain could not have stopped the event. As it turned out, both John, Moira, plus Marcus’ parents, Todd and Debs, who turned up later, appreciated being able to sit in the shade. Since Tom, Marcus and the girls had moved into the house two roads away from John and Moira, life had settled into a comfortable rhythm. Late in the afternoon of the party, with Tom uncharacteristically insisting on providing the speech to all gathered—despite Marcus’ offer to take over—Marcus stood at the sink of their kitchen, the window open, enjoying the aroma from his small window ledge herb garden. After sending the girls off to collect used plates, cups, cutlery and glasses from around the garden, Marcus washed while Moira wiped. “Even when Lorraine was alive, I was always going to be in their lives, Moira. That much hasn't changed," said Marcus, rinsing tumblers one-by-one then handing them absently to Moira. "You know. Background checks on the girl's boyfriends when the princesses grew old and serious enough to date, even if that entailed hiring private detectives. Or a personal stakeout outside their respective houses." Beside him Moira clucked her tongue the way she did when John had said something vulgar or politically incorrect. "Now I’ll have Tom by my side, through good times and bad. And I honestly can't think of anything more wonderful. A couple of curly straws, sharing a can of special brew in the old folks home together, while we watch Chelsea version two-hundred-and-fifty-five with players whose names neither of us can pronounce. Or sitting on the front pew at St Marks with you and other members of the family while Tom walks one of his beauties down the aisle. Or being there to hug the man and stuff a cigar in his mouth when one of them produces a grandson or granddaughter." Absently, he twisted his head around and for the first time in his life saw Moira had turned away from him. For a moment he wondered what was happening, thought she might have turned away to sneeze, until he noticed a small movement, the gentle rise and fall of her back. She was sobbing. Unsure what to do, he dried his hands quickly and put his arm around her shoulders. “I’m so sorry, Moira,” he said, mortified. “I didn’t realise—“ “Oh, don’t mind me, dear,” she said, pulling away, embarrassed at herself, wiping her eyes with the tea towel. Straightening up, she patted him on the forearm, back to her old starchy self. “Just getting a little soppy in my old age. Shush, anyway. Tom’s about to give his speech.” Instantly Marcus’s attention was drawn out through the window to the love of his life standing alone on the small stage. In that moment, his stomach curdled, knowing how nervous Tom was at speaking publicly, remembering how Tom had tried to memorise the speech over and over. And now the time had come. “Family and friends, neighbours and—and—guests. Welcome to our garden party to celebrate our combined eightieth birthday. I’m not going to let on to our individual ages, but just let you guess. However, please remember that Marcus has misleadingly young genes. Today is also a time to commemorate someone who has meant such a lot to many of us gathered. My late wife once planned to have a joint birthday party for me and her best friend, something she never lived to see. So a big part of today is fulfilling her wish.” Tom stopped for a moment, overcome, and Marcus put the tea towel down, ready to go and help him. But then he rallied. “I know it’s me giving the speech today, when Marcus could probably do this with his eyes closed. But I wanted to prove to him—and to myself—that I can do this. Sometimes we all need to take a step outside our comfort zone, to appreciate what others do for us, and also to help us become stronger. That is something Marcus taught me and I am so grateful to him for that as well as a host of other things. I am also grateful for my parents being close at hand, for my darling Katie who is growing up so fast and, more importantly, has settled into her studies and is doing her dad and Marcus proud at grammar school. To Charlie who used to dance like an angel, and now dances like—“ “Britney!” The crowd laughed, which seemed to relax Tom even more. “I was going to say Madonna, but Britney will do.” “Dad!” shouted Charlotte, from somewhere in the crowd, followed by the muttered. “So embarrassing.” “But who has always, somehow, been able to put a smile onto anyone’s lips. Especially grumpy old grandad’s.” Tom continued on thanking family, his people at work for being supportive, and his friends for turning out that day, even giving a special mention to Marcus’ parents who had travelled a long way to join them. Eventually, having fluffed a few lines—nothing serious—he reached the toast. “So finally, I would like to toast a propose—“ said Tom, then quickly clammed up. Many of those gathered, chuckled at Tom’s faux-pas. Marcus looked up from washing up, his heart going out to Tom. “Come on, love,” Marcus muttered to himself. “You can do this. You would like to propose a toast to all those gathered here on our joint eightieth birthday party.” “Wait, no,” said Tom, an uncomfortable feedback screech come from the personal address system. “This is coming out all wrong.” Marcus glared through the window, willing Tom to say what he needed. “I would like to—“ Once again, Tom stuttered to a halt. Marcus quickly wiped his hands and began to stride out of the kitchen door towards Tom. All those gathered parted as Marcus headed for the small stage. “Shit, where’s Marcus?” said Tom. “Don’t worry,” called Marcus. “The cavalry’s here. Hold your horses.” “Should have done this years ago,” said Tom, still speaking into the microphone. “I would like to propose, Marcus.” “I know,” said Marcus, reaching the stage. “You’d like to propose a toast to all those gathered here today on our combined eightieth birthday.” “No,” said Tom, a self-assured smile Marcus had rarely spreading across his face. And just like that, Tom dropped onto one knee. “I would like to propose. To you. Will you, Marcus Edward Fryne, marry me?” With that, Tom revealed the small velvet box he had been holding in his hand. Marcus barely heard the cheer that went up around the garden, followed by a huge round of applause. With tears in his eyes, he stared bleary-eyed into Tom’s happy face. And with that, a drop fell onto Marcus’ hand. Oddly, the spot felt cold, not the warm teardrop he had expected. And then, speck by speck more cold spots touched his arm, his forehead, his nose, his lips—until finally he realised what was happening. Rain. The End
  6. 55 likes
    Chapter 25 After Bryce made himself presentable, they drove in his car the cafe picked out by Nathan. It still amused him at how excited Nathan seemed to be when he learned Bryce would be joining them. Judging by the way both men had behaved, it appeared the attraction went both ways. Maybe there was a chance for the two men to make a connection after all. When he looked over, intending to tease the other man, Bryce’s glum expression made him recall their earlier conversation, and the smile slipped from his face. His friend had been lucky. Things could have ended up so much worse than they did. “Don’t look at me like that,” Bryce said softly as he navigated the busy streets. “How am I looking at you?” “Like you see me differently now. I didn’t tell you what happened for you to feel sorry for me. Maybe I should’ve just kept my mouth shut.” “I’m sorry,” Liam interjected. “I didn’t mean to make you feel like you’ve changed in my eyes. You’re still my Bryce. I was just thinking how much I’d like to take a two-by-four to those two guys... and to that asshole you met when you were eighteen.” “You’re the only person I’ve ever told.” Bryce chewed on his lower lip, his expression pensive as he looked quickly at Liam before returning his attention to the road. “Please don’t say anything to anyone, okay? Especially Nathan.” “Of course not. I would never betray your trust like that.” Bryce exhaled loudly. “I know you wouldn’t. I’m just not used to opening up this much… it’s unsettling.” Liam reached across the console to squeeze a lean shoulder. “Your secrets will always be safe with me.” “Thanks.” Bryce’s smile was finally more genuine as he turned towards downtown. “What’s with the parking down here? I didn’t think this many people lived in Kingston.” “It’s always like this on Saturdays. I have no idea why everyone wants to run errands on Saturday mornings.” Circling the block, they found an open spot, and after parking they walked the short distance to the restaurant. It was a popular place with a cozy feel, and the food reminded him of something Marty’s mom might have made. Scanning the tables, he didn’t see Nathan anywhere. “Are we early?” Bryce asked, also having looked over the crowded space. “No, I don’t think so, but he did have a late shift so he might be running late today.” Luckily, even with the crowd, they only had to wait a few minutes for a table to open up. They were enjoying their drinks and perusing the menu for lunch options when a harried looking Nathan finally arrived. Liam heard a gasp from Bryce just as he spotted the ugly bruise on Nathan’s cheek and jaw. The man spotted them, and with a smile that looked pained, he hurried over. “Sorry,” he apologized as he sat. “It was a long night, and I fell asleep on the couch without setting my alarm.” “What happened to your face?” Bryce interjected, asking the question they had both been thinking. Nathan frowned as he touched the injured area. Now that he was closer, Liam noticed the bruising was darker in the centre and there was a cut down the centre of the oblong shaped discolouration. “We responded to a building fire with possible casualties, on the outskirts of town. The firefighters asked for the gas main to be turned off, but I guess there was still a build-up in the line, and it blew one side of the building apart. This was just from the debris flying through the air. I was lucky…. one of the firefighters got hurt way worse. Fortunately the residents were already evacuated, or it could have been a lot worse.” “Jesus,” Liam whispered. “I never thought of how dangerous your job could be.” Bryce nodded, looking a little distraught as his hands twitched on the table. “You could have been badly hurt.” Nathan gave Bryce a warm smile. “It’s sweet of you to worry, but we’re usually pretty safe. This was just a fluke accident. I’d feel worse for firefighters and the police who put themselves in harms way all of the time.” “Well, I don’t know them, now do I?” Bryce muttered under his breath before picking up his glass and taking a long sip of his iced tea. Nathan stared at Bryce for a moment, looking confused, before turning his attention to Liam. “Speaking of injuries, your eye seems to be healing nicely.” “I hardly notice it at all anymore. Just a twinge every now and then.” “He really needs to stop putting his face in front of fists,” Bryce quipped, giving Liam a wink. “It’s bad for his health.” “I heard through the grapevine you pressed charges?” “Who told you that?” “I ran into Corey yesterday. He told me Alek convinced you to go in.” “Alek made me realize I didn’t want to let that asshole get away with it.” “Good,” Nathan replied with a firm nod. “If you didn’t, I’m sure Bryce and I would’ve found a way to convince you.” He turned to the other man for confirmation and received enthusiastic agreement. “Damned right.” Liam rolled his eyes, but was secretly happy he had friends who cared so much about him. “Enough talk about dangerous jobs and assholes in bars... how did the date go?” Nathan asked after he put in his drink order. “Was it what you hoped for?” “It was surprising, to be honest.” “How so? Did he do something wrong?” Liam looked across the table at his friends, and saw curiosity and affection reflected back at him. “No, he was great actually. We went out to that new seafood place on the waterfront, and then we went to a movie.” “What did you see? Thanks, Shell,” Nathan paused to thank the waitress when she placed a mug of coffee in front of him. “I have no idea,” Liam replied, feeling a full-fledged blush warming his face. Bryce laughed with a knowing look on his face. “Too busy paying attention to the hot body beside you?” “Something like that.” This time both men laughed, and teased Liam for several minutes about one-track minds and the effects of diverted blood flow; apparently Nathan was the resident expert… being in the medical field. “I can’t believe he only kissed your forehead and then left,” Bryce commented when Liam finished his story. “Are we sure he’s still gay?” Liam chuckled and stole a fry from his friend’s plate. “He’s definitely gay. Alek was just taking things slowly, like I’d asked.” “Bet you regretted it when you were alone in the shower jacking off,” Bryce responded with a mischievous twinkle in his eyes, making Liam choke on his food. “I think it’s great he’s respecting your boundaries,” Nathan said as he poked at his homefries. “People are always in such a hurry to jump into bed that they miss actually getting to know the person they slept with.” Liam saw Bryce visibly stiffen, and his expression turned cloudy. “There’s nothing wrong with enjoying sex.” “No there isn’t,” Nathan replied, turning his head to look at the much smaller man, “but people don’t have to sleep with someone new every weekend either. Being discriminating isn’t a bad thing.” Liam could tell that Bryce was gearing up for an argument, and didn’t want his two friends to ruin any chance they had at happiness because of a few hot-headed words, so he tried to draw the attention back on himself. “My libido was unhappy with Alek’s willpower,” he said with a grin. “And probably isn’t talking to my brain anymore.” Bryce looked at Nathan once more before smiling at Liam. “What did you plan for your second date?” “How do you know we have a second date?” “That sappy little smile gives it away. Besides, I know you. You’d have planned a second date before letting Alek leave.” Liam sighed in mock exasperation. “Fine. Yes, I made a date for tomorrow. We’re watching movies and ordering in.” “Oh… a movie… just the two of you?” Bryce teased. “You seem happy,” Nathan commented, sounding wistful. Liam wondered what the paramedic was feeling. The look on his face was thoughtful, but he didn’t seem upset. “I am. I never thought Alek and I would get to the point where we could actually be seen in public and he wouldn’t balk or act uncomfortable because someone might figure out his secret.” “You might be in happy boyfriend mode, but Alek is going to need to do a lot more to convince me,” Bryce commented with a scowl. “I was there when you fell apart after the breakup. It’s not going to be easy to forget how hurt you were.” Liam smiled affectionately at the scowling man. “That’s why I love you so much. You’re protective of the people closest to you.” A surprising flush crept up Bryce’s cheeks as he looked down at the table. “Yeah well, just tell Alek he’d better be extra good to you.” The rest of their meal passed quickly, and the conversation centred mostly on filling Nathan in on Liam’s history with Alek—with Bryce’s added colour commentary on the subject. “It sounds like you were pretty happy with the guy… except for the secrecy, of course.” Liam considered the statement as he swirled the last few ice cubes in his glass. “I was, for the most part. You have to understand, though. I’ve been out from a pretty young age, and never denied my sexuality to anyone who asked. Keeping that part of myself hidden was hard. The sneaking around—not letting people see me go into his place… sneaking him out of mine—made me feel like we were having an affair.” “I can understand that,” Nathan replied with a grimace. “It would be hard to be proud of a relationship that had to be kept secret.” Bryce nodded his agreement. “I can’t imagine having to pretend to be something I’m not.” “I don’t think I was doing that....” “Not you, sweetie. I meant Alek.” “Oh?” Liam was a little surprised to actually hear sympathy in Bryce’s voice. “I’ve been doing some thinking since you and Alek started talking again. It had to be hard for him to hide such a big part of himself away from the people he loves. Sure, being gay isn’t all that he is, but it is important.” “You don’t still think he was a coward for not coming out sooner?” Bryce huffed an irritated sounding breath. “I still think he should have come out much sooner, especially with you being stuck in that stupid closet with him, but I understand now why it was such a hard decision... the man did lose his parents.” “My grandmother won’t speak to me anymore,” Nathan interjected, “but my parents were great and the rest of the family seems okay with it. The ones who aren’t are no great loss anyways. I can’t imagine how it would feel to have my parents turn their backs on me. I wasn’t one hundred percent sure they would take it well, but was fairly confident they would eventually get over it.” “Alek’s parents still won’t talk to him?” Bryce asked. “No… well, his dad apparently stops in every once in a while to see if Alek’s changed his mind, but his mom hasn’t spoken to him since he came out. His sisters are great though. They’ve known for years.” “That should help,” Nathan said. “At least he has some support.” “I think it’s the only thing that got him through the fallout with this dad. I was thinking of inviting them over sometime—dinner or something. I think Alek would like that.” “Maybe you could have a dinner party? Invite a few friends, as well as the sisters?” Bryce suggested. “That’s a great idea. Alek’s birthday is in a couple of weeks. We could do it then.” Liam could feel himself getting excited at the thought. Although Alek didn’t talk about it much, Liam knew the estrangement from his parents bothered him, and maybe having his sisters there to celebrate his birthday with him would alleviate some of the sting. “Would you two be able to come?” “Are you sure you want me to be there?” Nathan asked, his brow furrowing. “Won’t that be awkward since he thought we were dating?” “It’ll be fine. He knows we’ve only ever been good friends. If this works out, Alek will be a big part of my life, and I’d love for my friends to get to know him better.” “Okay, if you think it’s a good idea, I’d like to be there.” “Bry?” “And miss a chance to grill the birthday boy?” “Bryce….” “Oh, relax. I’ll be nice to the guy during his party, but the two of us will be having a chat.” “You sound just like Marty,” Liam said with a laugh. “He said almost the exact same thing last night.” “That’s because we both love you,” Bryce said with a teasing smirk. “Even if you make it so hard sometimes.” Liam stuck out his tongue and laughed when his friend quipped about his lack of maturity. Nathan sat back, appearing amused by the teasing. “So, big guy,” Bryce turned his attention on the paramedic. “How’s your love life?” “When did this become about me?” Nathan responded, looking suddenly uncomfortable and squirming in his chair. “I thought we were talking about Liam.” “We were, but he’s sickeningly happy, so now we’re on to you.” “What about you?” “You don’t want to talk about me,” Bryce assured him, his humour fading slightly before he smiled widely again. “So, no steamy paramedic sex in the back of one of the busses?” Nathan let out a startled laugh. “No… I think I’m the only gay man on the crew.” “Well maybe I’ll come by and we can give them something to really think about,” Bryce quipped with a wink. Liam chuckled when Nathan looked sideways at the smaller man with clear admiration before clearing his throat and standing. “I should get going,” he said as he waved vaguely at the door “I didn’t get a lot of sleep, and I have some stuff to get done before I go back to work.” The man was clearly nervous, and after a few more pleasantries, and a quick stop to pay his bill, he practically ran out the door. Bryce stared out the large front window for a few moments before turning to Liam with a bemused look on his face. “Well that went well.”
  7. 52 likes
    Chapter 23 “Whatever you’re thinking about must be pretty serious. You look lost in thought.” Alek’s voice broke through Liam’s introspection, and he peered up at the other man with a sheepish smile. “Sorry. I was just thinking how this time last year I never thought we’d be here, on a date… in public. It’s nice.” Alek looked embarrassed as he moved the food around on his plate. “I know we should have done this a long time ago. I can’t apologize enough for hiding you away like I did.” Liam grinned and gathered a forkful of linguine. “You’re not hiding me now. That’s what matters. The past is the past. We can’t do anything about it now, except figure out where we went wrong last time.” “You mean where I went wrong.” “No.” Liam set his fork down and gave Alek his full attention. “I mean both of us. Yes, you hid me and yes, you took me for granted, but I made mistakes too. I allowed it to go on for far too long, and didn’t tell you how badly it was affecting me. Sure, I left angry sometimes, but I would always come back when I knew nothing had changed. I sought you out because I missed you so much, and let the problems not matter until it was too much. That’s on me, not you.” “Li….” “No, Alek,” Liam replied, his voice firm. “We both fucked this up last time. It’s up to both of us to make sure we don’t do it again. If you promise not to try to pull me back into the closet, I’ll promise to be open with you about my feelings. If you’re making me feel taken for granted, I’ll tell you. Deal?” Alek blinked at him for a few seconds, looking stunned, before a smile lit up his face. “We have a deal.” “Good. Now that that’s settled, we can get on with the good parts of this date.” “Like the kissing?” Liam scoffed as he chewed on a bite of food. “No kissing on the first date. I’m not that easy.” “You kind of blew that out of the water already… didn’t you?” “Hey, no fair. I was comforting you. It doesn’t count.” Liam gave Alek a playful pout, although he knew his eyes were full of mirth. Alek chuckled and winked at him. “So does that mean I have a chance at another kiss?” “No kissing on the first date, mister,” Liam repeated, pointing at Alek with his fork. “Well then, I guess we’ll need to set up a second date as soon as possible.” Liam shook his head with faked dismay. “It’s so sad. Men have such one-track minds.” A touch of something against his ankle made Liam jump slightly before he realized it was Alek’s foot. “I hate to break it to you, Li,” Alek said with a mischievous gleam in his eyes, “but you’re a man too, so that one-track mind goes with the territory.” Liam suppressed a shudder as Alek’s foot slowly moved up his leg to his knee, before it was gone. The simple touch made him shift in his chair in an attempt to adjust himself without being too obvious. Judging by Alek’s amused expression, he’d failed. “Tease,” Liam whispered, looking around to see if anyone else had noticed them. Alek’s focus, on the other hand, was completely on him. “I’m only a tease if I don’t follow through.” Someone cleared their throat, making both men look up. The waiter, whose cheeks were now stained bright red, apologized for the interruption. “I’m sorry, sirs, but I wanted to make sure you didn’t need anything else.” Alek’s shy smile was adorable. “No, I think we’re good for now. Thank you.” “Of course.” The man, still looking embarrassed, made a hasty exit. As soon as he was out of sight, Alek snickered. “I think we may have traumatized the poor guy.” Liam studied Alek’s face for any sign of discomfort, but only found happiness reflected in his brown eyes. “Didn’t that bother you?” he couldn’t help but ask. “The waiter catching us flirting?” “Yeah.” “No… well I was embarrassed for him. In a place like this, where the majority of customers are people on dates, discretion is pretty important, so he was probably mortified to interrupt us.” “That’s all?” “What did…?” Alek tilted his head and considered him for a moment before continuing. “You mean was I embarrassed that someone caught me flirting with you?” Liam nodded. “I have to admit I am, a little, but not because of you, or us. I’ve never been much for PDA, so having someone seconds away from seeing me feel you up with my foot? Yes, that bothers me.” Liam pondered Alek’s answer as he continued to eat his delicious meal. “I can understand that. You’re saying that if you were straight, and with a woman, you’d have the same reaction.” “Exactly,” Alek responded, sounding relieved that Liam understood. “I don’t mind holding hands, a hug, or even a kiss in public once in a while, but anything more will probably make me uncomfortable, at least until I get used to it. Is that going to be okay? If it’s not I can work on becoming better.” “Don’t worry about it,” Liam said, holding up his hand to stop Alek’s rambling. “I’m fine with hand holding and an occasional hug or kiss in pubic. I don’t expect you to change everything about yourself for me.” “I want you to be happy.” “You make me happy, and I love holding your hand, so that’s enough.” “If it’s ever not enough….” “You’ll be the first to know.” After dinner, which Alek paid for over Liam’s objections, they walked to the theatre, where Liam insisted he pay. He felt it was only fair since he was the one who demanded the date in the first place. Alek, after several minutes of back-and-forth discussion, finally acquiesced with a muttered comment about stubbornness. The movie wasn’t so much bad as it was unremarkable. Of course, that could also be because most of Liam’s attention was centred on the man sitting beside him. The theatre was busy, but Alek didn’t hesitate to grab Liam’s hand as soon as they sat down. The gentle slide of Alek’s thumb over his knuckles was causing a reaction such a chaste touch had no business inciting. Liam fought the need to either adjust himself or lean into Alek’s body. Ideally, he would love to have Alek’s arm around him, but knew, realistically, it probably wasn’t a great idea. Kingston might not be a bad place for a gay man to live, but it wasn’t exactly Church Street in Toronto either. The movie ended with Liam having almost no idea what had happened. There’d been explosions, and people yelling, but the plot escaped him. “Did you like the movie?” Alek asked as they stood up to leave. “Yeah, it was great.” Alek raised an eyebrow. “Really? What was the main character’s name?” Liam blinked, trying to search his memory. “Uh.” “Okay, where was the movie set?” “I, umm.” Alek chuckled and touched his cheek. “I know you weren’t watching. You spent most of the movie looking at me.” “That’s not….” Liam cleared his throat as he felt heat climb up his neck to his face. “It’s okay,” Alek leaned close and whispered in his ear. “I like being the centre of your attention. If it helps, I wasn’t paying attention either.” Liam let out a startled laugh. “Really?” “Really. There was this really hot guy sitting beside me, and I kept imagining all of the wicked things I could do to him in the dark.” Liam swallowed hard, his entire body humming with arousal. “We should… we should probably get going.” Alek grinned and gestured for Liam to head into the aisle. He could practically feel Alek’s warmth close behind him as they exited the theatre. The drive back to Liam’s apartment was quiet, but not uncomfortable, and Liam found he enjoyed the comfort of Alek’s hand covering his. When they arrived at the apartment complex, Alek hopped out and rounded the truck before Liam had a chance to open the door. With a happy smile, Liam let Alek help him out of the vehicle and preceded the man up the stairs. He was filled with nervous anticipation as they climbed the last few steps. Liam unlocked his door and turned to invite Alek in, when the man leaned down to give him a kiss on the forehead. “Thank you for agreeing to go out with me,” he said softly before backing away. “Are you… do you want to come in?” “Yes,” Alek replied, but the shake of his head contracted his words, “but I shouldn’t. You said you wanted to take things slowly, and you were right. I don’t want to screw this up because we can’t keep our hands off of each other. I won’t risk it. This is too important.” Liam took a deep breath, trying to calm his libido. Most of him wanted to drag Alek into his apartment and explore the body he’d missed for so long, but the smaller, rational part of him knew Alek was right. Doing what his body was demanding would feel good… so damned good, but it could risk jeopardizing the fragile relationship they had started to rebuild. “Sunday,” he said, instead of insisting Alek come inside. “Sunday?” “For our second date. Your shop is closed on Sunday, so I thought we try again with the movie? Maybe we could find something on Netflix? Order in?” The happiness on Alek’s face could light up a room. “I’d like that.” With a smile and a wave, Alek bounded back down the stairs, and Liam turned to let himself into his apartment. Leaning against the door, he closed his eyes. There was no doubt about it: Alek could affect him like no other. Reaching down he palmed his cock, giving it a squeeze. It wasn’t going to take much to set him off. With a groan, he headed down the hall, stripping as he practically ran to the shower. With the hot water pouring down onto his overly sensitized body, he brought up an image of Alek, with that sexy grin, hovering over him. He could practically feel the blanket beneath him as he recalled their last visit to the pond. Alek’s imagined lips ghosted across his jaw to his neck, before teeth gently nipped at a hard nipple. The remembered sensation was enough to send Liam over the edge with a muffled groan. “Damn,” he panted, with his head bowed under the stream of water. “It’s been too long.” After a functional wash to clean himself, Liam stepped out of the shower. He was in the process of toweling off when he heard his cell ringing from somewhere in the apartment. After a hurried search, he finally found his pants in a crumpled heap down the hall. “Hello,” he answered, still out of breath from his earlier activities. “Li,” Marty’s voice sounded worried. “You okay? You sound out of breath.” With a roll of his eyes, Liam walked into his bedroom and flopped onto the bed. “I’m fine. I just couldn’t find my phone.” “So what’s up? How did the hockey game go?” “It was great.” Liam could hear the smile in his voice. “We all went out to a bar later to celebrate.” “All?” “Me, Alek, Corey, and Jason.” “And Alek was okay with that?” “He was better than okay with it. He introduced me to his teammates as his ex.” “Well that’s impressive. It sounds like he’s finally stepped out of that closet.” “I think so.” Liam paused for a moment, knowing Marty might not like what he said next. “We’re going to try dating.” “What? Dating?” “Yeah, you know. When two people go out together to eat, watch movies. Surely it hasn’t been so long that you don’t remember?” “Don’t be a smartass. You’re going to start dating Alek again? Isn’t that a little quick?” “We’re taking it slowly this time,” Liam defended. “How slowly?” “Well, when he dropped me off from our first date tonight, he kissed me on the forehead and left. Is that slow enough for you?” “You had a date tonight?” “Yes.” “And you didn’t say anything before now because?” “Because you’re not my parent,” Liam replied in a huff. “I went on a date with a hot guy. I don’t tell you about every date I’ve ever had.” “Yes, you do,” Marty retorted. “You didn’t tell me about this one because you thought I would tell you not to go.” “Would you have?” Liam asked, chewing on a fingernail. “Are you happy, Li? Does Alek make you happy?” “Yes.” “Is he making you feel like a dirty secret? Do you think he’s really changed?” “No, he’s not. He told him friends about me. Hell, after we got back from the police station he even got into an argument with his dad about me.” “Police station?” Marty’s voice suddenly turned hard. “Why were you at the police station?” Liam sighed, knowing he was going to be in trouble for not calling Marty sooner. The man’s big brother protective side was pretty fierce. “It wasn’t that bad,” he hedged. “Some asshole at the bar took exception to my gay self and hit me. Alek convinced me to press charges, and took me to the station.” “Are you okay?” The anger had morphed into concern. “He got me in the eye. It looks like shit, but it doesn’t bother me much. Alek already gave me hell for not seeing a doctor, and I promised to go if I get headaches or dizziness, so please don’t worry about me.” “You know I’m not going to stop worrying about you, Li. You’re my brother.” “I know,” Liam replied with an affectionate smile. “I love you too.” “You’re really happy with Alek?” “I am.” “Okay.” “Okay?” “Okay, I believe you’re happy. Alek and I will have a long talk at some point about the proper way to treat my brother, but I promise I won’t knock him out on sight. Good enough?” Liam laughed, feeling tears prick his eyes. “Thank you.” “Just be happy, Liam. That’s all I want for you.”
  8. 47 likes
    "Ow."Rowan banged his left knee against the return bin and spilled the stack of mystery novels he'd been clutching to his chest. Perfect. Not only was he a dead tired librarian, he was a clumsy one too."Who put the return bin out here?"Nobody answered him, of course, because he was only one of two employees left to see the library's night shift to its end. The other was Neil, a senior librarian. Rowan more often than not found him face down on his desk around this hour. Rowan stared at the mess of books on the carpeted floor and sighed. The teens from the neighboring school had probably shoved the bin into the middle of the floor. Is this what kids did for fun now? Didn't they know they could watch porn on their phones?After gathering up the mystery novels, Rowan pushed the bin back into its rightful place. Through the intake slot he noticed a lone book had been deposited inside."The Time Traveler's Wife," he grinned. One of his somewhat guilty pleasures. This copy was worn and dog-eared, the cover nearly coming off its spine. He brought it back to the circulation desk to fill out a repair request form just as a folded paper fluttered from the pages and landed at his feet. A letter? Rowan's slender, delicate face gathered into a smirk. Patrons had left worse things in books, such as the strip of bacon that had thoughtfully been used to bookmark a Harry Potter paperback last year. As a newbie librarian, he wasn't yet hardened to the trials of public service, but he couldn't imagine seeing anything stranger than that.Before his green Converse shoes could step on it, Rowan scooped up the fallen paper and unfolded it. It wasn't so much a letter as a short note, unaddressed, and composed with strong, purposeful handwriting. Tatiana, I'm not ready. Don't think I'll ever be ready. Just stop asking. I'll always love you. I'm sorry. Grant Rowan brushed the mousy brown bangs off his forehead as his smirk curved into a frown. This wasn't exactly a list of groceries, he'd seriously infringed upon someone's privacy. A couple's privacy..."Yet that didn't stop you from looking." He snapped the rubber band he kept around his wrist. Talking to himself had become quite the embarrassing compulsion, honed from countless nights of copy cataloging and straightening up shelves. Rowan scanned the book's bar code. The system displayed the name of the patron who had last borrowed it: WOLFE, GRANT. A hard pit formed in his stomach. If Grant borrowed The Time Traveler's Wife, that meant Tatiana - whoever and wherever she was - never saw the note he'd written for her. Guilt struck him low in the stomach, followed by a flood of questions. Her feelings may have been spared but didn't she still have the right to know? Had this note been shoved into a book by mistake or in the false hope that whatever feelings inspired it would dissolve into nothing? Out of sight, out of mind? 'I'll always love you. I'm sorry.' The immediacy laced into every word made Rowan's chest tighten."This is is none of your business," he scolded himself. Rowan placed The Time Traveler's Wife on the intake cart where one of the student pages would shelve it the next morning. He slipped the note itself into a blank envelope and searched for the lost items bin under the desk. He noted with a trace amount of irony that it was nowhere to be found. Throwing the note away or leaving it sitting around didn't seem right either. If he was never meant to read Grant's words, he certainly didn't want to turn it into a point of gossip with the entire branch.As a child, his mom had always warned him about kids with sticky fingers. Not one to rock the boat, Rowan managed to live his entire 27 years without ever knowingly stealing from another person. Turning the envelope over and over in his hands, he wondered how morally upright it would be to take it home with him. It was almost like taking home someone else's bad dream."Just for safekeeping," he muttered. "Just until I figure out what to do with it."Rowan eyed the clock. Half an hour until closing. It was only a piece of paper. No monetary value, just a serious declaration of emotions that he had no right to see. He'd bring it back to his next shift, of course.He hoped by then the lost items bin would be found. "Grant Wolfe," Neil read off the computer screen. "Hell of a name. Sounds like he should be raiding ancient temples in Peru."Rowan sat opposite of the senior librarian's desk, nodding along as he fidgeted with the Iron Man bobble head beside the stapler and pencil tray. It might have seemed odd for any man pushing 60 to have accrued a set of Avengers knickknacks, but it made sense for Neil, who had an almost manically youthful energy to him. "His record doesn't indicate anything étrange," Neil continued. "Toronto resident, adult patron. Blah blah blah. This account is so ordinary it should be writing articles about the latest thing millennials have killed.""Age?" Rowan didn't know why he wanted to know, but it seemed like a thoughtful thing to ask."Date of birth puts him at 32."Iron Man bobble-bobble-bobbled his huge head.Neil lowered his glasses. "Why the sudden interest in this Mr. Wolfe?""He, um, misplaced a personal possession in a book he returned last night."Neil's brows, bushy and dark silver, bunched up on his forehead. "And this is why you came into my office with all the gravity of a young man who just witnessed a murder?""I didn't look that serious.""Care for a mirror?""He left behind a very, very personal note, which I happened to read. I didn't know if it was appropriate to get in touch with the patron to let him know I had it.""Is the note urgent? Life or death? The Joker's got all of Gotham's orphans trapped in a school bus full of dynamite?""Not urgent in that way, but..." He trailed off, unsure of the words he needed, unable to communicate the vague but pressing nature of what he'd read. Neil watched him carefully. These silent gaps hadn't been unusual during their working relationship; Rowan often found himself at a loss for words during difficult conversations. It was by no means a knock against the boy's intelligence. Neil was part of the committee that hired him to their small neighborhood library branch. He'd seen Rowan's grades - they were bursting with so many uninterrupted 'A's it looked like the transcript was screaming. No, Rowan's silences were more of a social affliction. The young man was inside his head so often that when it came voicing his thoughts to another person, they butted up against roadblocks that took a little longer than average to be removed. "Allow me," Neil gently chided, "Perhaps this Grant Wolfe caught your attention while you were on circulation duty but you were too shy to-""No, Neil.""Because you tend to be a little quiet around certain men in the library. Usually the tall and handsome ones-""Neil!" Rowan's face flared a bright emergency red. "I never saw this man at all.""Also, I don't recall you speaking of any gentleman callers at all lately. Am I not allowed to be worried? ""Oh my god, I'm actually gonna have to throw your own Iron Man bobble head at you.""I'm sorry. I'm doing that thing you hate. What do you call it?""Prying.""So it's not a meetcute you're reeling from. It's a crisis of conscience."This is what they both referred to as landing the plane - when one of them helped the other reach a conclusion. More often than not, it was Neil doing the landing."There's nothing in the library policy that says you can't contact a patron to let them know their forgetful ass left something in a returned item. I would leave out the part about you being a nosy little jerk and reading it, though.""I think I'll be a little more diplomatic than that.""Diplomatic?" Neil sighed at the ceiling. "Youth truly is wasted on the young.""My next day shift is Saturday, I guess I can do it then.""Hmm. Hold that thought," Neil raised a finger and squinted at his screen. "There's a laundry list of admin notes attached to Grant's record. I must have missed them.""You might have been too busy accusing me of gawking at all the tall handsome men to have noticed.""That's an accusation rooted in fact, my boy."Rowan tamped down the very sudden and very real ache of sadness that always clutched him when the subject of men came up. Though he had no time to date, he told himself it was a waste of time, and thus he did not care. And yet he couldn't deny the accuracy of Neil's words... particularly how awkward and short of breath he became around a certain kind of man.Once, a long time ago, he was different. Outgoing. Free. But the person he used to be had been locked away in a chamber he'd long since lost the map to."So," Neil said, startling Rowan from his thoughts, "Grant's record indicates the phone number he used to register for a library card no longer works. A couple of letters have already been mailed out to request an updated number but he hasn't been answering." Hrmph. That dashed Rowan's plan to call him. "Here's the strangest part: just yesterday he submitted a request to use our Home Library Services.""You mean our home delivery program?" Rowan thought he'd misheard - those services were used almost exclusively by senior citizens. "His application is on hold. Looks like he forgot to tick any of the option boxes for eligibility.""What would those be?""Age, illness, or disability. Attention to detail isn't this fellow's strong suit."Rowan breathed out with a little more force than normal. Grant being possibly sick or disabled put his note to Tatiana in a new and bracingly uncomfortable light. "What happens with his account, then?" "We can't accept Grant into the program until we verify his eligibility. And we can't do that until we speak with him or a caregiver. And we can't do that-""-until we have a phone number," Rowan finished. "But is there nothing we can do until then? We can't let his application just sit in the system.""The initiative has to start with the patron.""But there might be an issue or a circumstance we're not aware of. Maybe he's not able to use the phone or his caregiver gave the wrong number or, or..."He stopped when he noticed Neil's eyes on him, intelligent and searching. "You want to give him back that note, don't you?"A deep breath. He knows me too well. Rowan forced himself to push through the discomfort. "I know what it's like to put something off. To feel it fester and grow until you can't take it back or repair the damage. I know what it's like to see your entire life derail because of something as small and inconsequential as a series of words you could never bring yourself to say. I can't let that happen to anyone. Not even a stranger."Neil, usually so full of quips and comebacks, let the silence sit between them like a fog that needed a moment to lift. He returned to his computer screen. "I used to work in Home Library Services. There was the rare occasion, in the case of lapsed communication, when someone on staff would need to visit the patron at their home to verify their eligibility."Rowan's slim chest puffed out. "Do you think this constitutes a rare occasion? In your incredibly professional opinion?""Ah, suddenly I'm incredibly professional!"Rowan smiled and twisted the Iron Man figure into a heroic pose. "I think Tony Stark would agree.""All I need to do is call the department head and request to put one of my own staff on this application. They're always backlogged over there. They'd appreciate it, trust me.""You would do that?""Hell, if I'm gonna abuse my seniority it might as well be for a good cause." Neil printed out Grant's record, complete with his address, and held it aloft with a knowing grin. "But this is all up to you, my boy. Say yes and the case is yours."A flash of doubt rippled through him. Rowan could only see himself navigating such a delicate situation with the grace and subtlety of a spooked hippo."I would need to visit him in person?""You would. And I hope you realize this investigation will actually require you to talk.""Yes, that crossed my mind.""You might even need to, egad, make eye contact with someone.""Neil.""Is it a yes?"I could try, Rowan almost offered. And rather unexpectedly, the voice of Yoda invaded his mind. Do or do not. There is no try.Put in those terms, his choice seemed clear. Stay on course as a junior librarian toiling away on never-ending night shifts or maybe, possibly going outside his comfort zone to make a difference for someone who might need it."Yes," he exhaled and took the printout right from Neil's hand. "I'll do it.""And you'll talk?""I'll talk his ears off."Neil smiled at his protege. He took a flick at Iron Man and made it nod in agreement. "Tony Stark would be so proud." Rowan was starting to get a little scared. The rhythmic grind of the library delivery van's wheels on the road helped him shut out his chattering thoughts, but didn't do much to dissuade his anxiety. A bright Saturday morning like this was usually spent working his one and only day shift at the library, but now he was heading into a completely uncharted area of Toronto (to him, anyway) to talk to a total stranger. Who had no idea that he was coming. Yep. Just a little scared.Grant Wolfe's address placed him off Crothers Woods, which a quick Google search told him was one of the city's 'hidden gems'. The pictures were pleasantly beautiful and that's what made it so strange. A downtown kid all his life, Rowan never realized Toronto was home to something so quaint and rural looking. "Just hope I still get cell reception out here," he muttered at the steering wheel. Beyond the windshield were trees upon trees, green with scarlet and gold licks at the blue sky. The residential road he'd been driving on opened up to reveal a small bungalow home sitting by itself at the end of the street. 112 Tyre Lane. Grant Wolfe's address.Rowan pulled into the empty driveway and adjusted the rear view mirror onto his face. He noted his eyes, the color of the sea, inquisitive and wide and (surprisingly) only somewhat panicked. Summer had come and gone in a flash but you couldn't see it on his face - which was still pale as snow. He looked as out of place as he felt.Gradually he left the comfort of the delivery van and faced the bungalow. It looked very much like a home: golden squares of windows, red brick, and a rustic yet immaculate porch. Rowan steadied his breath as he walked up the porch steps. He knew why he was here. He'd come all this way. No use turning back now. Before he even had the chance to knock, a nearby sound interrupted. A dull thwack. Silence. Another thwack. More silence. Yet another thwack! Kind of like... like...Wood being chopped?It seemed to come from behind the bungalow, perhaps the backyard. He retraced his steps back to the driveway and around the side of the building. Nothing fenced in the property, it was simply a wide clearing of grass that led into the forest. The first thing Rowan saw as he rounded the corner to the backyard was a man, barechested. He was facing the woods, an axe in hand and a pile of split wood at his feet. Rowan could only see the broadness of his shoulders and the sweat dancing down the deep olive tan of his extraordinary back muscles. His first thought was that this couldn't possibly be Grant, couldn't be the man struck with illness or a disability who needed the services of their delivery program. It was similarly difficult to imagine this man kicking back to read The Time Traveler's Wife. Maybe he was Grant's caregiver or a... very resourceful brother.Rowan cleared his throat. "Excuse me, sir?" A moment passed and the man raised the axe skyward. Though he was nowhere near it, Rowan took a step back. With one smooth and studied motion, the man brought the axe down and split a chunk of wood with that familiar dull thwack. Impressive, but he'd made no effort to acknowledge Rowan's question."Sir? I'm sorry to bother you. Does a Grant Wolfe live here?"Rowan tried very hard not to notice the man's sweat dripping into the low waist of his jeans. The man stood panting, muscles clenching and relaxing, clenching and relaxing. He raked his fingers through his hair, which was damp and dark as the night sky. Puzzled, Rowan moved a cautious step forward. He didn't understand why he was receiving the silent treatment, he hadn't said anything rude. He was certainly speaking loud enough to be heard. "Sir, please, am I at the right address?"He moved closer, raising a friendly hand and even waving it to grab his attention. Then movement, finally. The man's head turned a quarter inch, enough for Rowan to finally be seen in his peripheral vision.After what seemed like an impossibly long and awkward pause, the man turned around and fixed Rowan with the most intense grey eyes he'd ever seen. His bare, hairy torso was slick with sweat and heaving with the physical effort of the wood chopping."Hello," Rowan pushed out. His entire body quivered. Nerves? Excitement? Even desire? He couldn't tell which was which. He just knew they were all there. "I'm looking for Grant Wolfe. Does he live here? Can you tell me where he is?"The man's eyes lowered to Rowan's lips as he talked. The intensity of his gaze sharpened, as if he were following along to a story only he could read. Then he nodded and tapped his chest a couple of times. Grant, he mouthed."Oh, okay. Hi, I'm Rowan Watson from the Toronto Public Library. I'm here to talk to you about your application to our home delivery program."The silence returned. He stared up at Grant, his entire being engulfed by his presence. This man was damn tall, six-foot-five at the very least. Though much of it was obscured by the dark forest of his beard, his face was sculpted and ruddy, with a strong nose and firm lips. His torso was almost too much to take in at once, so Rowan processed it in stolen glimpses: the swell of his furry pecs, a stomach he could do his laundry on, and an enticing, damp line of hair that divided his abs and disappeared into the wilderness of his tight jeans. He looked very much like a man of the woods, sawdust and dirt clinging to his wet skin.And he needed books delivered to him?Grant's attention had been at Rowan's lips again, and when he continued to say nothing, the young librarian tried a second time. Nerves made the words come faster than he could control. "I'm from the Toronto Public Library, and I need to verify a few details about your Home Library Services application to determine your eligibility and..." Still no reaction. When Rowan started a third attempt, Grant interrupted. "I can speechread." His voice was deep and booming, like a tree trunk hitting the forest ground. Rowan felt the vibrations right in his chest. But there was a halting, careful quality to it. "You need to speak slower." He gestured one hand over his arm and trailed it up to his perfectly sculpted bicep. "Slower."It all clicked together. 'Speechreading'. Then the gesture - Slower. That was American Sign Language. He's deaf, Rowan finally realized. Or hard of hearing. Oh my god, you idiot. You couldn't have figured that out before? And he's a patron! Who you were ogling! The audience watching the movie about your life is throwing popcorn at the screen right now."I'm so sorry. I didn't know.""That's okay." Grant then fingerspelled the letters O and K."I know... a little signing. I took a class once." Rowan tried to sign learn and little and signing but his movements were hesitant and slow. That class had been years ago and it was for beginners. His brain was now full of comparatively useless things: the Dewey Decimal system, circulation policies, and where all the Jojo Moyes books were shelved.Grant watched him try and seemed to understand, though his face portrayed no emotion. He extended an arm toward his bungalow. "Do you want to sit?""Sure. Thank you," Rowan exhaled, grateful that the attention was no longer on his terrible signing. His face was boiling hot, he could only imagine how anxious he must have looked. As they headed toward the house, Grant's back muscles glistening in the sunlight, Rowan found himself desperately trying to recall the sign for Help. Something told him he'd need it.
  9. 44 likes
    Awakened by the alarm Daniel shut down the beep almost immediately. Raymond shifted slightly but remained unfazed by the intrusive alarm. Daniel was tempted to awaken his lover for more of what they had shared last night. Instead he gently lifted Raymond's arm from his chest and twisted out from under his leg. His man pulled him in close to his chest. He could feel that massive cock press against his lower back as Raymond stretched, yawned and pulled him beven closer. “This is the first time in over a year that I have awakened with a man in my bed and you are trying to sneak out without saying goodbye. I think I’ll hold you until you either apologize or fuck my brains out like you promised to do last night.” Raymond's hand sifted through the hair on his lover's chest and drifted down to capture Daniel's manroot. “Looks like someone is interested in trying for a lobotomy the hard way this morning.” Daniel twisted in his lover's arms. Smiling into Raymond's emerald green eyes he planted a peck on his nose and explained, “I wasn't sneaking out. We both have a busy day ahead.” With a heavy sigh, he continued, “As much as I regret it, my alarm was not set to allow for much more than a shower. Besides, we have a play date scheduled for later via long distance, remember”? He gently extracted his cock from Raymond's grip, flipped the cover back, rolled away and stood from the bed. The cover exposed Raymond's leaking manroot. “I don't remember ever having a stronger incentive to stay in bed. But, I have to get going.” Daniel tucked the covers up under Raymond's chin and planted a kiss on his cheek. “Go back to sleep. I hope you do call me to participate in your, uh,... Well, I hope you do call.” Without waiting for a response, he moved to the bathroom for a piss and a shower. When he was finally dressed he found Raymond in the kitchen, nursing a cup of coffee. Raymond looked up from his iPad and asked, “Do you have time for a cup of coffee”? Daniel nodded and Raymond fetched a mug and the pot. Daniel took a sip, then spoke softly, “What does it say about me that I can turn down an offer of incredibly hot sex from an absolute stud, but can’t say no to a cup of coffee”? “Well, first of all, I’m flattered that you describe it as ‘incredibly hot sex’ and refer to me as a ‘stud’. I assure you those perceptions are shared. In light of the circumstances, I’d say you were simply thinking with your big head instead of your not so little head. I promise to always respect that kind logic. However, if you make a habit of rejecting my advances, I might develop a complex.” Daniel rested his mug on the counter, taking Raymond in his arms said softly, “Sometimes you sound like a lawyer negotiating a contract and other times you sound like that teenage kid whose world is about to fall apart. I think you know how difficult it is for me to simply leave your side, like yesterday at the diner. When it's you and me alone, it’s damn near impossible.” The kiss tasted of coffee, lust and unspoken promises. They were interrupted by the security guards seeking coffee refills and bringing in warm, fresh pastries from Runt. By the time Daniel threw his bag into his truck and drove away, the pair had decided that Raymond would text him throughout the day. Daniel would know where Raymond was at any given time. That way the moment of intimacy would not catch Daniel off guard and unavailable. After Daniel left, Raymond cleaned up the kitchen and walked over to thank Runt for the breakfast pastries. He found both men already hard at work. When he explained his plans for refurbishing their abode, Larry offered to contact a cousin, in Austin, who sold modular homes and see what might be immediately available. He knew that they had modules on hand that could be set up in a matter of days as a complete home. They agreed the location should be close to their home so as to share existing water, electrical and plumbing connections. Raymond told them to take whatever they wanted from the big house exempting the bedroom and a few select pieces. Runt had decided to accept the job as cook/housekeeper. He encouraged Runt to set up the smaller house’s kitchen to his liking. Runt and Larry were to stop by the motel offices to pick up cards for purchasing home and ranch supplies. On his way to the airport, Raymond arranged for a new 4X4 supercab pickup to be ready for them when they picked up the bank cards. Once airborne he texted Daniel to let him know. Landing in Fayetteville he texted Daniel with an update. Then again as the car and driver took him, and his security team, to the clinic. Raymond was impressed with the clinic and the staff. It was clean and comfortable without the sense of cold sterility usually associated with a medical facility. Each person he dealt with was friendly and professional, as if they had strange men coming in everyday to jerk off. He chuckled as he realized, for them, it was an everyday occurrence. Once he was situated in a surprisingly comfortable sitting room and had checked the deadbolt lock, twice, he texted Daniel. Almost immediately he received a FaceTime request from “Lawman”. He was surprised to see Daniel had removed his shirt. “Aren't you concerned that one of your Deputies or staff might walk in on you half dressed”? “Considering I’m at home, in my bedroom, I don't think that’s likely to happen.” Daniel set his phone down and began to caress his hairy chest. Suddenly he froze. “For God's sake. Tell me you're alone right now.” Raymond chuckled and assured him they were alone. Daniel let his doubts rest and resumed his self exploration. “Ok cowboy, drop your drawers and show me what you got. I’ve been horney since I woke up beside you this morning. I thought about dragging you into the shower and having my wicked way with you. I don't know about you but I could use some playtime right about now.” At this, he stepped back far enough so that Raymond could see his already throbbing, leaking erection. Raymond looked around for a suitable resting place for his iPad. He hurriedly stripped to present his own throbbing manhood to his video lover. “You are so hot. You look like some super sexy porn star.” Daniel slowly stroked his cock, “Show me your receptacle, big boy.” Raymond froze mid stroke. “What part of that is supposed to be sexy”? “Well, I didn't want it to be awkward when you shoot your load into a cup.” “Believe me, the only way this could be more awkward is if I had to do it at the reception desk. I suppose I should be grateful I’m not jerking off in some men’s room.” “Have you ever jerked off in a men’s room”? “Yeah, the first time I ever came was in a men's room in Dallas. I had only had a couple of wet dreams. My mom had taken me shopping for school clothes. The salesman took measurements that got me hard and I said I had to go pee. I felt like something was gonna bust. It only took a couple of strokes and I was shooting against the back wall of the stall. I was shocked. It was so intense, I almost collapsed on the men’s room floor. I must have taken some tIme to recover because the salesman was knocking on the stall door asking if I was alright and if I needed some help. If he had been young and hot, I might have opened the door. Instead, I made some excuse that implied diarrhea and he left me alone. I couldn't wait to get home and do that again. How about you”? “Yeah, I actually watched one of my Marine buddies suck off our company CO. It was in a restaurant in San Diego. I think it was a rendezvous planned by those two. The CO was with his wife or girlfriend and there were three of us that went out to dinner together. There was a small hole in the divider wall. I looked through and saw them kissing and then sucking each other. It was hot. But, it just reinforced my closet walls. I imagined I was one of them and someone else was sitting there watching me suck my way to a dishonorable discharge. I shot my wad and left before they finished. Our third buddy kidded us about being in the ‘lady's room’ together. My buddy turned green in fear I might have caught him sucking cock. I quickly explained that I had been making a phone call. I sometimes think about getting in touch with him, but I don't want him to think I’m interested in him other than as a friend.” “Yeah when I was a junior in highschool I saw my baseball coach jerk off in the shower. I think he was straight, and just horney. I think he would have been embarrassed and angry if he knew I jerked off while watching him jerk off. I came before he did and snuck out, so he never knew. I never told anyone about that until just now. I still jerk off to that memory. Coach Stevens was hairy, hot and hung.” “Coach Stevens was one of my coaches too. He was hot alright. He was just beginning to turn gray when he coached us. I often wondered if that bulge unfolded like it did in my jack off fantasies. It's hot even now to learn it did.” “Fantasies are great when you don't have the real thing. But, none of those memories match the sensation of touching and tasting you last night. I need to cum. I can feel your hot ass gripping my cock as I pounded into you. It felt like you were peeling back a new layer of skin on my cock to reveal never before exposed nerve endings. It was like the first time I ever fucked an ass only ten times more sensitive… more sensational. Daniel, I, uhh, ung… ung, I’m cumming. Oh God! Where’s my cup”? Fortunately, the cup was in easy reach. Daniel could offer no real help. He too was caught up in his memories of the night before. By the time Raymond mentioned the cup Daniel was already cupping his own balls, crouching down and painting his hairy chest with ribbons of baby batter. Recovery time was cut short so Raymond could seal the sample and attach the label with his name and information on it. The cleanup was matter of fact and only as they said their goodbyes did an air of awkwardness settle over the conversation. Raymond became concerned. “Lawman, are you upset about something”? “Well, I know you planned on going back to your, er, uh, to Uncle Joe’s until the small house is set up. I was wondering when I would see you again”? “You know that you could come stay tonight with me there. No one would object or even comment. Well, except maybe Jeff. But, even that would be only teasing. You know him well enough that you can return it in kind.” “I was wondering, if you would stay tonight at my place. I know it's probably not what you're used to… But, it's out of the way. Nobody’d be there except you and me and my king sized bed. I could heat up some canned ravioli and pour some boxed wine.” “That all sounds good except the ravioli. I have actually had real ravioli and it doesn't come in a can and the last time I had boxed wine was in high school. Let me take care of dinner and the wine tonight. I think our relationship will thrive if you settle for occasionally manning the grill. I have taken a couple of cooking courses and am actually pretty good at it. I just don't usually take the time except on the weekend. I expect to be back in town by early evening. What time should I arrive”? “Tell you what, let me do dinner and you bring the wine, a nice Chardonnay, I would think. I’ll serve roasted chicken with garlic and rosemary with lemony Greek potatoes and a wilted salad. Some crusty sourdough bread to spread the garlic on. That's something so simple, even I can't mess it up.” “Do you even have canned ravioli in your pantry”? “Actually, I do. I also have spam and Vienna sausages. All courtesy of my Mother. She knows I can cook, after all she taught me. But, she also worries that I might starve without convenience foods. I made the mistake of once telling her I was going to bed, too tired to cook. So anytime she finds canned foods on sale, I benefit. I learned to like sardines in hot sauce. I can smother canned ravioli in shredded cheese and tabasco sauce. It might not be gourmet, but it’ll stave off starvation.” “Someday we’ll compare our quick and easy solutions for staving off starvation. You’d be impressed with what I can do with Ramen noodles. I think I left most of those recipes behind once I learned how to order in something other than pizza and Chinese. Restaurants, in Dallas, were too willing to deliver with just a phone call or an app. I don't think Miss Julie would deliver out to my place. I’m pretty sure the only food I could get delivered out there would be still on the hoof”. That brought out a shared chuckle. By the time they ended the conversation, Raymond was in the car on his way to the airport. Meanwhile………. Jeff awakened alone. It took a moment for him to realize that he shouldn't be alone. Furthermore, he didn't like being alone. When his hand swept the cool expanse of sheet that his lover normally occupied he realized he had been alone for some time. He thought back to the previous night. The kneeling, the neckties, the feel of the goatskin rug on his naked flesh. Paul touching him so, gently, so erotically. His own inability to respond except to accept the attention. He threw back the covers and watched as his morning wood throbbed and began to seep a glistening drop of precum. He considered jerking off. Last night left him with plenty of inciting and exciting memories. In the not too distant past he would have gladly given into the urge toward self gratification. But, now he had Paul. Where was Paul? Aloud he softly called his lover, “Paul”? He wasn't surprised at the lack of response. Getting out of bed to took a moment to stretch luxuriously, regretting it couldn't go on indefinitely. Idly he scratched his balls as he headed to the bathroom. From the corner of his eye he caught sight of a strange lump lying on the goatskin rug. It was Paul curled up under a blanket. He halted mid stride and wondered what he had done to drive his lover from their bed. He switched on the analytical framework he used when studying various elements of a client's situation. He mentally checked off the most offensive nocturnal habits that might have led to Paul being unable to share his bed… Snoring, hogging the covers, tossing and turning, farting, talking in his sleep… Jeff felt he was not egregiously afflicted by any of these. And yet, his lover preferred to sleep on a rug rather than share a bed with him. Until last night Paul had been more than willing to split the sheets with him. What happened last night? They had not been together long enough to establish a real routine. Hell, their time together was hardly what any sane person could identify as routine. As reasons and reason failed him he began to feel oddly familiar sensations of loss and emptiness. It was almost a comfortable sensation of being truly alone. He turned away from his lover and headed to the bathroom to empty his bladder. Paul awakened to the distant hum of the shower. At first he wondered if he had fallen asleep after having hot sex with Jeff on the rug last night. Then, in a staccato series of images he remembered. He had gagged Jeff and tied his hands behind his back and used him as if he were a compliant sex doll. Jeff had been unable to accept or refuse Paul’s selfish demands and in the heat of passion Paul hadn't really cared. After he had freed and cleaned his lover of their cum, Jeff had surrendered to sleep almost immediately. Paul on the other hand had scrubbed his body and shampooed his hair several times in an attempt to get clean. When it felt as though he would rub his already wrinkled skin raw if he continued, he left the shower. Finally, when he had no other excuse, he lay beside his lover. He lay on his side of the bed and tried to sleep. When a still sleeping Jeff tried to pull him close, Paul quietly slipped out of the bed and grabbing a blanket from the closet and curled up on the goatskin rug. Certain he would see the accusations in Jeff's eyes, Paul got dressed and sought out a different bathroom in which to relieve his bladder. When Jeff came out of the bathroom to get dressed his fears of rejection were fueled by his lover’s absence. In spite of the comfortable temperature, the room felt suddenly cold. The atmosphere in the kitchen was no more welcoming than the empty bedroom had been. Jeff had a sneaky suspicion that Paul had shared whatever it was that repulsed him about Jeff with the other members of the household. Fred, Sam and Dave all seemed to be preoccupied with their breakfasts. Paul had not bothered to wait for Jeff before consuming his own meal. Without looking up Paul began, “I have asked Dave to take me around to my clients today so I can explain my new circumstances. I am sure you have things you need to get done before going to Chicago so I expect we will both be busy.” At first Jeff wasn't sure the conversation was even directed toward him. Paul was busily sipping at his coffee. Jeff stared, but it was soon clear that Paul refused to make eye contact. He wanted to slam his fist down on the table and demand to know what crime he had apparently already been convicted of. He was made of stronger stuff. Maybe this would blow over after Paul had some time alone. They had been stitched together for the last week or so. Maybe he could find some time to be alone with Paul and simply ask what he had done that was so repulsive as to warrant this sudden cold shoulder. “I think Sam and I will go to Uncle Joe's and I’ll take Maria for a ride.” Without so much as a glance his way, Paul responded, “That sounds good. You and your Uncle Joe probably need some time alone to absorb Raymond's revelation and what it means to the Adams family.” At last looking up, Paul asked Dave, “You ready”? Dave stood, gave Sam a quick kiss and searched Jeff's face seeking an explanation. Jeff just shrugged. Jeff stoically hid the impact Paul's words had had on him. It was like a giant stake had been pounded into his chest. By saying “your Uncle Joe” and “the Adams family” instead of “the Adams family trust” he had effectively distanced himself to the status of almost stranger. Only the fact that Paul would allow him to spend some time with Maria offered Jeff the slightest hope that they could have some kind of relationship. Jeff was convinced that Paul would be sleeping in another room tonight, if not another house. Even though he had to provide directions and Dave offered, Paul refused to drive. When Dave pointed out that it was Paul's personal vehicle, he was greeted with silence. When Dave offered to listen as a friend, Paul reminded him his job was to drive. Dave insisted on being at his side through each visit. Only one client chose to be abusive, stating he would not trust his animals to the care of a known sodomite. When Dave took an intimidating step forward the man shut up, except to say he would be seeking other sources for veterinarian care. Back in the Tahoe, Paul offered his thanks, to which Dave simply stated he was just doing his job. The tone was set. The two slide into a professional, respectful silence. The day saw Paul vacillating between wanting to beg for his lover’s forgiveness and being man enough to accept Jeff's disdain and move on with his life. Again, the vast difference in resources hit Paul hard. He was homeless, no vehicle and a helpless child to support. He refused to accept any of the Adams family largesse, he just couldn't. He didn't want to think about the contempt Joe and Mellie would feel if Jeff chose to share the truth of his cruel and animalistic disregard for someone they so dearly loved. Mentally he reviewed his financial assets. After consulting his accounts he decided he could purchase another used vehicle and get an apartment easily enough. At this last thought occurred to him he could literally feel his own heart break. It was hard to measure the sense of loss and isolation and physical pain he felt at this moment. Choking back a sob, he asked Dave to stop so he could take a leak alongside the road. He moved to the back of the vehicle and relieved his bladder. He knew it wasn't safe to breakdown here. Dave would most likely feel he had to report tears to Jeff and besides there were more clients that deserved a visit. As the piss flowed so did his tears. The incongruity of the situation struck him as funny, but instead of a laugh he released a choked out sob. Mentally he thanked his grandpa for teaching him to always carry a handkerchief. He wiped his eyes and blew his nose and got on with his life. Sam picked up on Jeff's subtle clues that he didn't feel like chatting. Even though he felt more than professionally close to both Jeff and Paul, he respected his boss's wishes. At Joe's place, Jeff was warmly and enthusiastically welcomed by a little brown haired bombshell. He brushed off Paul’s absence with a quick explanation and was pleased when no one seemed overly concerned. He smiled and laughed at Maria's antics and thrilled her when he invited her to go horseback riding. She rushed off to get dressed while Joe ushered him into his office. Unbeknownst to Raymond and Jeff, Joe had set in motion the plan to make both his nephews and himself equal in the eyes of the Adams Family Trust. The only point of contention was where Raymond's share was to be drawn from. Joe’s plan had himself sacrificing the lion's share where Jeff felt Raymond's portion should be derived solely from an equal split of Jeff’s holdings and access to the trust. An outsider would have thought they were playing with Monopoly money as they bandied about assets worth hundreds of millions of dollars. In the end, a suitable compromise was achieved with both men feeling they had effectively welcomed their brother and nephew to the Adams family. Snap, Snap… Snap, Snap. Jeff found Maria in the kitchen consoling herself over the delay with milk and warm cookies. At the barn Tom greeted Jeff with a hug and Maria with a hug and a kiss on the cheek. “Darlin, I got Bluebell all decked out in her finest for you. Where’s your other Daddy? I figure the honeymoon would last at least into the New Year.” With this he glanced at Jeff. Jeff simply turned away and checked Trigger’s cinch. Maria explained her Daddy's absence and was more than pleased when Tom insisted on joining them on their ride. Jeff was not really in the mood for company. Maria put Bluebell through her paces. Shifting effortlessly through the gaits into a full gallop. Jeff had her reign it in explaining that her Daddy would have both his and Tom’s hide if something happened to her because they let her run wild. It settled into a pattern where Maria would race ahead then race back while the two men discussed ranch business. When it became clear that Jeff wouldn't discuss what was wrong Tom offered an opinion. “I don't know what's got into you, but I’m guessing things aren't quite kosher between you and Paul.” Jeff cut an emerald green gaze toward his friend. “Ha! I thought so. Well, you can either talk or listen. What’s it gonna be Cowboy”? Jeff's silence answered his query so Tom continued. “I don't have to tell you what an amazing man Paul Wilson is. Or what an amazing father he is to that amazing little girl. I love you like a brother Jeff. But, you need to know that men like Paul don't come along everyday. If you fucked up, you need to beg for his forgiveness. I know you well enough to know that whatever you done ain't so bad as it can't be forgiven. Same applies to him, if he fucked up, you better be forgiving him right quick. I’m dating someone right now and it seems like it could grow into something special between us. If you think that you and Paul might have been just a flash in the pan. I’d appreciate you being square with me, cause I just might rethink my situation.” Jeff’s response was a snarl and spurs into Trigger’s flanks. The stallion snorted and burst away like a practiced thoroughbred at the starting gate. Tom laughed out loud. He knew his friend. Knew how those two felt about each other. He knew that his remarks were just like spurs digging into his friends flanks. His laugh faded as he considered the remarks meant only to annoy and motivate his friend, might actually hold an element of truth. He pulled out his cell phone and noticeably relaxed once he heard that thick, sexy Russian accent. Jeff herded Maria back toward the barn. He explained that he had received a call that required his attention in town. He offered no further explanation and Maria was happy to race him back to the barn. Jeff was focused on an upcoming, much needed conversation.
  10. 42 likes
    Day 2 - Without Liam - Cont “Will?” Liam asked, “Honey, you couldn’t have done anything differently. We’re lucky it wasn’t Cash as well. Please don’t work yourself up until we know more.” “I’m so sorry, if anything happens to her I’ll never forgive myself.” I cried into the phone. “Aw! Babe, I’ll come home?” Liam croaked into the phone. “NO! There’s nothing you can do. You can’t miss out on this opportunity.” I told him. “There’s nothing more important to me than my family Will, I don’t want you upset like you are, and I’m not there,” Liam growled at me. “I didn’t mean it like that Liam, but you coming home isn’t going to change anything. Let me call you in the morning when I hear from the vet, and we’ll talk about it then.” I said sadly. “Okay, I’ll talk to you then, I love you,” Liam said flatly. “Love you too. Liam?” “Yeah?” He answered quietly. “I miss you,” I mumbled before I sobbed away from the phone and disconnecting the call. <>-<>-<> Day 3 - Without Liam I flicked the switch on the coffee maker in Dad’s kitchen. I didn't get much sleep last night and gave up at about five am and went for a run ending up here. I filled a water bowl for Cash and put it on the floor on top of a dishtowel. He’s slobbery after a run, more water ends up outside the bowl than in his mouth. Pulling out a mug, I heard Dad’s bedroom door open, so I grabbed another cup. I could hear Papi talking, “How would I know where he is, maybe he’s sleeping Liam like I should… Never mind he’s here in the kitchen making coffee and about to make me toast to go with it.” Papi said, “Yes Liam, I’ll call you later, you photographers and your ridiculous hours.” “Will, love, what are you doing here so early?” He leaned down and scratched Cash behind the ear, looking around, “Where’s C.C?” “She’s at the vet's,” I answered quietly. “What? Why? Is she sick?” Papi asked. “She got bitten by a snake yesterday, they gave her the antivenom, now we’re just waiting to see if she’ll make it. They gave her 30% chance of survival. I’m waiting for them to call me to let me know how she is. I was told they’d call if there were any change through the night. So far nothing, I’m trying to take it as no news is good news.” I acted on auto-pilot while making the coffees and waiting for the toast to pop. “What did Liam want?” “He couldn’t get hold of you, he was worried, just wanted me to go and check on you. Did you know Liam knows how to use the F-Word? – Very well,” Papi sat at the breakfast table watching me. The toast popped, I flung it on to a plate so as not to burn my fingers. I buttered it and put it in front of Papi, then got his jam from the fridge and put it on the table, bringing both our mugs with me. “I brought your paper in,” I gave it to him and concentrated on my coffee. We sat in silence, while we drank our morning cup of wake up juice, Papi read the paper and ate his toast. I stood, while I swallowed my last mouthful of coffee, moving closer to the dishwasher to clear my cup. I did the same with Cash’s water bowl. “I’ll see you later Papi, thanks for the coffee. Sorry, Liam woke you. Come on Cash.” I said clicking my fingers for him to follow. “Did you want me to drive you home Will, you look exhausted,” Papi asked. “Nope, we’ll be okay. I’ll call you later.” I said leaving. “All right, take it easy. Call Liam when you get a chance.” He told me. <>-<>-<> I hopped in the shower with Cash, he’d decided to run and jump in the puddles left by the rain showers we’d had through the night on the way home from Dad’s. I was drying Cash with a towel and could hear my phone ring, so I ran for the phone and missed the call. Looking at the number it was the vet, even though they weren’t open yet. I rang the number back, and Stephen answered. “Hello,” “I just missed a call, it’s Will Blundell-Sands, is C.C. okay? Tell me she’s okay.” I said frantically. “Will it’s Stephen, I can’t tell you much, but she’s improved overnight. The vet will be here in a couple of hours, and he’ll be able to tell you more. I thought I’d let you know she’s doing okay, you probably didn’t get much sleep last night.” Stephen said sincerely. “Thanks, Stephen,” I sighed with relief, “I’ve already had Liam trying to hunt me down to find out what’s happening. So that’s something I guess. Thank you for staying and looking after her. Do you think the vet will let me come see her today.” “Not usually, but I’ll try for you Will.” He said in earnest. “Thanks. Maybe you should go and get some sleep yourself.” I told him, he sounded tired and I felt a little guilty he’d stayed with my C.C. for no pay. “I wish,” he chuckled, “I start my work day in an hour and a half, doesn’t seem any point.” “Well, thanks again, we appreciate it,” I told him, that tasted like vinegar coming out of my mouth. I’m finding it hard to not like him. He’s not at all what I expected, I want to hate him for what he did to Liam. The knowledge that Liam has forgiven him makes it more difficult. I dialed Liam's number, “Hello Babe, where were you? How come you didn’t pick up? I’ve been going out of my mind, I was ready to pack and fly home.” “Well now you won’t have to bother, Stephen just rang, he said she’s made it through the night. The vet doesn’t start for a couple of hours and will probably have more information for me. I’m going to ask if they’ll let me see her, I can tell you more then.” I repeated what been said. “That’s a relief. Are you doing okay Babe?” he asked. “Yep, I’m fine. I’ll talk to you later, love you,” “Love you too,” Liam said sadly. <>-<>-<> I was laying in bed, trying to get some kind of rest. But my mind won’t turn off. I hate this kind of waiting, the vet should have gotten to work at least an hour ago. I want to ring, I should ring, but I don’t want to pester them. Fuck it, I’m going to ring. “Yeah, um… hello, this is Will Blundell-Sands, I was just wondering how C.C. is?” I asked the receptionist. “Oh hi, let me see if the Vet is available, he should be finishing up with a patient.” The woman said and put me on hold. I hate hold music, especially the chimed mimicking of recent pop hits. “Mr. Blundell-Sands?” The Vet from yesterday asked. “How is she, please tell me I used up my miracle for this year on C.C?” I asked. The guy chuckled, “It seems you may have, she’s doing a lot better than I expected. I’m cautiously optimistic about her outcome. According to the notes, Stephen has given me, there has even been a vast improvement since you spoke with him this morning. We are giving her fluids, if she eats and drinks by herself and passes her bowels, you’ll be able to take her home tomorrow morning.” “Thank God, I was scared we’d lose her,” I said with relief. “C.C.’s not out of the woods yet, as I said I’m cautiously optimistic.” The vet repeated. “Am I able to come and sit with her?” hearing the desperation in my own voice made me a little foolish, I know it sounds crazy, but she’s my furbaby. C.C. is our family, mine, Liam, and Cash. “I would love to say yes, but we really don’t have space, and I’m not sure our insurance would allow it. But feel free to call and check on her throughout the day, if it helps keep your mind at ease. I will contact you later in the day and let you know how she’s progressing. Honestly Will, I really do think everything will be okay.” The vet said. “Thank you, thank you so much. Umm…” “Is there something else I can help you with?” he asked. “If I were to pay for Stephen’s wages for last night would you pay him?” I asked I know this is petty, but I really don’t want to owe him any favors. On the other hand, he has to be struggling, and that doesn’t seem fair either. “Don’t worry Will, we’ll take care of him,” the vet promised me. To: Liam, Dad, Papi Message: Spoke to the Vet, he’s optimistic. If everything is okay by tonight, should be able to bring C.C. home tomorrow. I looked at the time, I only have an hour before I have to be at the shelter to practice baseball with the kids. At least there’s time for a quick sandwich. Seb and Beau were eating a sandwich. “Hey,” I said pulling the fixings out of the refrigerator. “Hey,” Seb answered with a mouthful. “Dad said you wanted to talk to Liam and me about something,” I inquired. “Oh, yeah. I was wondering if you guys mind me living here until next year. I’m going to go back to college when you all go, and I need to save as much as possible.” He told me. “Really? What are you going to study?” “Architecture,” he smiled. “That’s cool, I’ll talk to Liam, but I can’t imagine it would be a problem. You’re fine Seb, just keep that boyfriend of yours in line.” I chuckled. Seb looked at Beau lovingly, “I’ll give it a try, but he’s a handful.” Beau flicked me the middle finger. “See what I mean,” I said shaking my head and sitting down with my sandwich. “You guys look loved up, I’m guessing everything going well?” “I love him,” Beau signed. I smiled at him, “It shows,” I signed back, “I’m glad you’re happy, and everything has worked out for you guys. I know I was a pain at first, but I was worried it would be hard with the age difference. But I guess you showed me.” I chuckled. “Don’t worry Will, you weren’t the only one. But we’re happy, and I really don’t give a shit about anyone else's opinion. It’s our relationship, we’ll deal with things as they come.” Seb frowned. “As a recently married seventeen-year-old, I hear ya. And I’m sorry I stuck my nose in your business.” I apologized again. “We’re good Will, I like that Beau has a friend that cares that much.” “My concern isn’t only for Beau, Seb. You’re both loved around here. I don’t want to see either of you hurt,” I said, “I better head out, I’ll see you guys later. I’ll think about tonight, but don’t wait on me, I don’t really feel up to it.” “Take it easy shit-head,” Seb said laughing, this time I flipped them the bird. <>-<>-<> The security guy checked my ID, then let me through. That’s good because it means Derek’s probably isn’t around and I won’t have to deal with him. I walked through to the common area, Jason was sitting over at the books shelves just staring out the window. Making my way over to him, I noticed he’d been crying. I gently sat down next to him, Cash sat in front of Jason's chair, putting his head on the troubled boy's lap. Jason smiled sadly at him and scratched the friendly dog behind the ears. “Hey Jason, buddy what’s wrong?” I asked quietly, he wiped his eyes and looked at me for a second then turned his gaze to his knees that were hanging over the chair. “Umm… nothing, I’ll be okay.” He said sadly. “You can talk to me, I’ll never judge you I promise you that. But maybe I can help.” I said. “I don’t think you can, nobody can.” He said as tears fell involuntarily from his eyes and he wiped them away angrily. “Well, let's see?” I asked, and tapped his shoe. Jason took a deep, shaky breath, then sighed, “Derek organized a mediation between my parents and me. They didn’t even bother showing up. The mediator called them, and they basically told him to fuck off and hung up on him.” “Oh Jason, that’s awful,” I said empathetically, “I’m so sorry you have to go through this.” “I don’t know why I’m so upset,” he laughed without any humor in it, “I should have known better than to think they’d show up in the first place.” He wiped more tears away. “You had hope, Jason, there’s nothing wrong with that. How old are you now?” “Seventeen,” he answered, “I’ll be eighteen, December 7th.” “Bullshit!” I chuckled. His face turned to one of surprise, not expecting my reaction, “I’m not bullshitting you,” he said confused. “That’s my birthday, I’ll be eighteen too. We’ll have to have a party together.” Jason scoffed, “Who would I invite? I don’t have anybody.” “That’s not true, I know it’s not the same as having your parents. But you have Lee, he thinks you’re the ants pants. There are Derek and Theo. I know Theo is really fond of you, he wouldn’t shut up about how great you were when we had the baseball game. Derek fights for you every single day. And if I didn’t like hanging out with you, I wouldn’t come around, would I?” I asked him. Jason looked down while he fiddled with his fingers, “No I guess not.” “What about friends at school?” “I stopped going I fell too far behind,” poor kid. We were silent for a little while, my mind going ten to the dozen. He needs help, I can’t let Jason give up on himself. Kat is starting summer school classes for a few subjects she wasn’t able to complete because of being on bed rest and giving birth. I wonder if Jason, could do the same and he could come with us next year. That way we could all help him, make sure he keeps up and gets through. “How much school did you actually miss?” I asked him. “I don’t know. I didn’t go for about the last six weeks, but I fell behind before that.” He played with a loose thread on his pants. “If I come pick you up tomorrow will you go with me to speak to some people about what we can do to fix it. I’m not saying it’ll be easy, you’ll have to put in the work, no-one can do that for you. But the effort you put in when we practice baseball, I’m positive you’re not lazy. If you struggle with any of the work, we’ll help you, get you a tutor or if any of us can help we will.” I said. Jason didn’t say anything, his brain was ticking over, I could almost hear his brain at war with the rest of him. “Come on, let’s go and take out your frustration on a baseball. Go wash your face, grab a bottle of water, get one for me too, I’m lazy, I’ll grab the others, and they can help me set up.” I chuckled. Jason was fighting a smile as he dragged himself out of the chair and started off toward the restroom with Cash in tow. “Jase?” “Yeah?” He turned back to me. “Want some advice from one surly seventeen-year-old to another surly seventeen-year-old?” “Okay?” “Fuck them! Don’t let them keep you from being your best self. You’re a good person, you’re almost as handsome as me and as far as I can tell you’re intelligent. Because that’s something, they can’t take away from you. So next time it gets you down, allow yourself a ten-minute pity party. Then pull yourself together and remember, Fuck Them! You’re Awesome!” I told him harshly. Jason threw his head back laughing loudly and walked off. “Whoever wants to try and hit the ball further than Jason today, better be outside in two minutes,” I called out to the kids who were hanging around. I saw Jason stop for a second, he laughed louder and walked off. A bunch of the kids commenced walking out to the yard. Who knew, throw down a challenge telling a kid they can’t do something and they want to prove you wrong. Strange that. I gave them all instructions on how to set up and sent them off, while I quickly called the vet. They informed me C.C. was better and things were going well and made an appointment for me to be able to pick her up tomorrow at ten in the morning and visit with the vet. I excitedly called Liam. “Baby, they said C.C’s doing well, and I can pick her up in the morning.” I practically yelled down the phone in my excitement. “That’s great Babe,” Liam laughed, “what a relief, now I hope my stomach will stop being queasy,” “Liam, I miss you Honey, three more sleeps and you’ll be home with us where you belong.” “I know, I miss you too, I can’t wait to get home. We need some time when I get home, at least two naked days.” He chuckled. “I agree! Ooh! Poor Katherine having to see your saggy old man balls.” “You’ll pay for that, my balls are gorgeous, you seem to like them.” He growled. “I love them, bye baby, talk to you tonight, love ya.” “Bye, love you too,” I hung up, turned and Jason was standing right in front of me smirking. “Not a word,” warning him pointing my finger. “Wouldn’t dare,” he chortled putting his hands up in defense, “let's show these ass-hats how it’s done.” “Let’s,” I said while we fist bumped. <>-<>-<> By the time I got home, family dinner prep was well underway. I jumped in giving a hand where I could. The last to arrive was Derek and Theo, I nodded my hello. Dinner was making its way to the dinner table, the only person missing was Liam and C.C. of course. The conversation flowed around the table, I sat and ate quietly keeping to myself. When dinner was finished, I offered to clear the table. While cleaning the kitchen, Derek came with a wary look. “I heard you were at the center today?” Derek asked. I kept cleaning, “Yep,” “Oh, okay, um… Jason said you spoke with him.” “Yep,” “Well, whatever you said. Thank you.” “I didn’t do anything,” I said shortly. Coach Campbell brought some serving plates through from the dining room. “While I have you, Coach, can you and Coach stay as well as Uncle Ian? I need your help, I’m not sure if you actually can, but I’d at least like to try.” I asked. “Is this to do with Jason?” Derek asked. “Maybe,” “Can I stay I’d like to know what’s going on,” “Please yourself,” I turned to Coach, “anything else left in the dining room?” He looked from Derek to me, “Uh… no that’s it. I’ll send Beau in to help with the coffee’s,” I nodded my head. <>-<>-<> I sat at the table with five adults staring at me. Usually, I wouldn’t give a shit, but Derek being there put me off kilter. I needed to speak freely, without hurting Jason’s space at the shelter. “Just tell us what you need, Will,” Coach Ferrige said. “Okay, it’s about two different kids. First I need to know, what the rules are at the shelter before I continue. What would cause someone to lose their bed?” I asked Derek. “Drugs, alcohol, fighting, violence, most everything else is a case by case basis,” He answered. “Good, Theo, can you promise and follow through on helping me find a good place if this violates Derek’s case by case basis parameters.” “I can try Will, but I can’t promise anything,” Theo said. “Okay, I only need to speak to you about one kid then,” I gathered myself for a second, “What would be the chances of helping me get Stephen back to school so he could finish his senior year?” I asked. “Are you serious?” Coach Ferrige barked, leaning onto the table, “How about we go with not freakin’ likely.” Coach Campbell put his hand on his husband's forearm, “Cass, Honey, calm down hear Will out. There must be a good reason, he’s the last person I thought would help Stephen.” I chortled without humor, “Trust me, this even grates me the wrong way. But he didn’t hurt Liam nor lay a hand on him. The way Liam tells it Stephen was frozen in fear the whole time. There’s also a lot more to his story than we knew. He’s happily taking his punishment without complaint, but I don’t think he deserves everything he’s been dealt.” “I don’t care, Will, I won’t ever forget Liam on the shower floor, beaten and bloody, left for dead.” Coach Ferrige was angry and upset at the same time. “Coach! Trent and Gator were forcing him to do things for their protection where he lives, acts I believe are nothing short of sexual assault. That includes protecting him from his own parents. He was scared and had no-one. For his own safety, he felt he had no choice and couldn’t go against them.” I pleaded. I can’t believe I’m doing this, “Did you know he made Detective Price bring him to this house, and he apologized to Liam. I was against it, but Liam made me see it was the right thing to do for Stephen.” Coach Ferrige leaned back and slumped in his seat arms crossed, with a sour look on his face. “The other two got what they deserved, they’re going to jail. Hopefully for a long time. Stephen didn’t and has never laid one finger on Liam, and I’m almost certain he’s the reason they got caught. But can you honestly tell me it sits right with you that he be set back at a minimum of five years in his education? He’s now homeless, working a job for next to no pay. He wants to be a vet. I’m not happy about being the one asking for someone to help him, but I really don’t think the punishment fits the crime. Regardless of my personal feelings toward him, he is remorseful, I do believe he would never physically hurt another person.” “Cass, come on we have to help if we can. We…” Coach Campbell started to plead Stephen’s case. “Fine, but I don’t have to be happy about it.” Coach said. “Uncle Ian, you’ve been awful quiet. Are you okay with this?” I asked. “You’re something else Will, it takes a big person to have sympathy for someone that’s wronged their family so badly. If you feel this strongly, I’ll help.” Uncle Ian smiled proudly. “We’ll talk to the Principal and get back to you Will,” Coach Campbell said. “Thank you, if he needs to meet with her can it be after hours? I assume he can’t afford to lose any pay or risk his job at the moment.” I explained. Coach Campbell nodded yes. “Are you okay with this Derek? He’s one of yours,” “Is that Stephen Carter?” I nodded in confirmation, “That would actually be pretty great, he’s a nice kid, who’s was dealt the shitty parent's card.” I saw Coach Ferrige flinch and his husband soothe him into silence. “What about the other kid, you're not going to help him now?” Derek said like the ass he is. “Oh, I’m going to help him, but I won’t risk what he has now to do it,” I said bitterly. “Will, Bud, give us a hypothetical, no names. Then the kid isn’t at risk.” Theo said and gave his husband a sharp look. I sighed, “Fine, a kid was going through a lot at one time. Coming to terms with his sexuality, got kicked out of his parents home, friends turning their back on him. He fell behind in his school work, then found he couldn’t catch up nor keep up. It was too hard with everything else he was dealing with, so he stopped going. Is there a chance he could fix it with summer school, then do his senior year at our school and me and the others can help him. Or as an alternative, he can repeat his junior year, switching to our school where the chances are no-one would know he’s redoing his junior year.” “Again Will, we’ll have to talk to the Principal and let you know. I’ll try and reach her tomorrow, the five of us, will more than likely meet to discuss it. Seeing as there is a pressing need we’ll try for tomorrow. Please don’t get your hopes up for Stephen, that one's going to be a big ask.” “I won’t, but at least my conscience will be clear. It’s been bugging me since yesterday when I saw Stephen at the vet’s office, and it won’t go away. Did you guys want another coffee or anything?” I said. “Nah! It’s getting late, we’d better head off. I’ll call you when we know what’s going on.” Coach Campbell said as he stood, hauling his husband to his feet. <>-<>-<> Later that night Liam called, I answered straight away, “Hey Baby,” “Hello beautiful, how’s the rest of your day been?” He asked. “I’m not sure you want to know,” “What did you do Babe?” Liam asked. “I kind of asked for help to get Stephen back into school,” I said cautiously. “Really? I never expected that ” he chuckled. “You’re not mad?” I asked. “Not even a little bit, after what you told me last night. I feel really bad for him, it’s great that you’re trying to help him. You have my full support.” Liam said. “Seriously? The whole thing leaves a bad taste in my mouth, but I think he’s been dealt a bigger punishment than is warranted. I couldn’t leave it the way it was.” “You have the biggest heart of anyone I know, I’m proud of you Babe.”
  11. 42 likes
    Rowan took a seat on the living room sofa while Grant dried off his chest with a towel. Clearing his throat, Rowan became very interested in examining the stitches of the sofa cushions. He hadn't been around such casual partial nudity since his last gym visit. A year and a half ago."Coffee?" Grant asked. "Oh, yeah, sure." He realized a moment too late that he'd hidden the movement of his lips. He corrected his posture and the position of his chin. "Yes, please. Thank you."Grant draped the heavy towel around his shoulders but it couldn't conceal the power of his body. He didn't seem the type to exercise just for vanity; he was a honed machine, built for a boxing ring or fighting cage. Yet here they were in the comfort of his home and there was too much wariness in his stance, too much danger. Why? Rowan didn't think of himself as intimidating by any definition of the word. "Do you need any help?" he offered. "No." Grant shot off to the kitchen, that gruff expression never changing. As soon as he disappeared Rowan collapsed into the sofa, hands shielding his face. Ugh, it was awkward. No denying that. The situation was uncomfortable to begin with and now that he was dealing with an impossibly gorgeous lumberjack, well...Rowan peeked through his finger tent and took in his pristine, spare surroundings. No television, no pictures or any personal objects of any kind. Just the sofa, a coffee table, and several half-empty bookshelves. Of everything in the room only the fireplace, with its blackened brick edges and deep smoky scent, seemed to get any use at all. He was still hunched into his defeated little curl when Grant returned with a tray of coffee. The taller man made a noise - a grunt that was caught between surprise and confusion - which made Rowan sit straight up. "I was just..." he started, but Grant settled onto the chair across from him and didn't seem that interested in an explanation. He was now in a tanktop and sweats."Spell your name for me." "Sorry?""Your name," Grant said louder as he tapped a blank pad of paper on the table. "Spell it."He did as he was told, feeling Grant's slate grey eyes all over him. When he finished, Rowan pushed the pad in his direction."Roh-wan?""That's my name, believe it or not. It's actually a dumb story. When my mom was in labor she read that the Rowan tree in England was believed to protect people from witches and that was the only thing that calmed her down before the epidural kicked in. In Gaelic it means someone who heals, and... I'm talking a lot about my name, aren't I?"Grant pinned him with an expression as opaque as his eyes. He drank his entire coffee in one non-nonchalant gulp. "Why are you here, again?"Right, Rowan thought with a twinge of embarrassment. Stop wasting the man's time and get down to business.They spent the next several minutes going over Grant's home delivery application, filling in gaps, correcting misinformation. The mystery of his phone number was solved: Grant had been using a phone relay service that he recently decided to disconnect."It was very annoying." He signed annoying for emphasis.Thankfully, Grant also had a smartphone and agreed to update his record with the number. He then provided an email address but warned, "I don't like to check it.""Well, you're going to have start liking it, Mr. Wolfe. Especially if you plan on using our services."Rowan explained his job as a librarian and learned that the correct term for Grant was deafened, meaning he'd lost his hearing as an adult. It fell under the realm of eligibility for the program and the news seemed to be a genuine relief. Grant's shoulders, broad as a mountain rage, actually relaxed somewhat."What can the library deliver for me?""Books, magazines, and DVDs. You'll receive a monthly delivery. You can request specific titles yourself through the library website. Or if you prefer, you can give me a list of genres and formats you're interested in and the selecting can be done for you.""Books," Grant signed. It looked exactly how Rowan thought it would: two palms opening side by side. "Only books."Rowan rather liked watching Grant sign as he talked, it lent his words a certain expressiveness that his face (handsome as it was) didn't quite allow. Even if he hadn't smiled once during their conversation, he still seemed engaged and interested."And what genres interest you?""Biographies. Literary fiction.""So, anything that's won an award?" Rowan teased. "I'm working my way through the complete list of Giller Prize winners." "I'll have to make a note of that." Grant scanned the pucker of Rowan's lips to the arch of his brows. "You're surprised.""I'm what?""The way your eyebrows raised when you spoke. You looked surprised.""It's just- I work in my branch's circulation department and if something hasn't been adapted into a movie or Netflix series, patrons aren't very interested in reading it." A pause. "And now I sound like a judgmental snob...""No, no." Grant shook his head and then signed, "You're fine.""I really didn't mean to. The reason I'm a librarian is because I want to encourage anyone to read or access whatever information they want. I just can't help but notice certain trends, I guess."Grant repeated the You're fine sign. If he was offended, he didn't show it. "What else are you interested in reading, then?""Adventure. Maybe science fiction.""Horror? Mystery? " "I don't think so.""What about... romance?" "No."Rowan kept his face neutral and tried to hush the confused voice in his head. But what about The Time Traveler's Wife?"Back to science fiction, were you interested in any particular subgenre? Like sci-fi fantasy, speculative sci-fi, first contact, military--""No." The word shot out hard and sudden. The hand holding his cup seized with a violent reflex, sloshing his arm with the warm liquid. "No military books. Nothing like that.""Okay." Taken aback, Rowan handed him a napkin. "Take science fiction off my list. Alright?""Alright. It's off."Grant dried off and threw the crumpled napkin to the table. "Excuse me." He was gone before Rowan could protest. Grant slammed into the backyard and took in huge mouthfuls of air. He tried doing all those things his former therapist had told him: go outside if you can, count to ten, root yourself to the ground. He sat on the grass, feet planted and knees up. He slowed his breathing. He counted. One, two...He knew Rowan had looked at him the same way everyone else did when he got this way. Doctor, teammate, family member, friend - like he had those anymore - the expression was always the same. Fear. Stretched tight across their eyes and mouths. That's why he had to get out of there. He hated that look. Hated knowing he was the reason for it. ...three, four...Grant thought he'd been getting better at controlling himself. One year ago he removed himself from his triggers, moved all the way up from the States to Canada, found a nice little place by the woods. Yet he couldn't endure a visit from a damn librarian (!) without needing an escape plan after a few minutes. ...five, six...A librarian. The thought almost brought him out of the darkness, almost put a smile on his scruffy face. Of all the things to trip him up and throw him out of sorts... a librarian? And not some stern old lady, either. Earlier in the yard when Grant realized he'd been approached by a slender young man with chocolate brown hair that fell messily over his wide, searching eyes, he thought... ...seven, eight...Well, he didn't know what he thought. A neighbor? Some kid who'd been trailing the woods and got lost? This Rowan boy hadn't looked scared when their eyes first connected, though he had every reason to be. He was in the yard of a strange man holding an axe. But his approach had been friendly and curious, if not entirely confident. Urgh. Somehow, that made flying off the handle in front of him all the worse. A librarian. God damn....nine, ten.A shadow crossed the lawn. He looked up to find Rowan waving as he approached. "I don't mean to bother you, Mr. Wolfe.""I'm sorry." He signed sorry, a fist closed over his chest that he rubbed in a circular motion.Rowan shook his head. "You don't need to apologize. I just need to confirm a couple of things before I go."Grant started to rise, thinking they should reconvene in the living room, but Rowan joined him on the grass instead. The glow of the low sun highlighted the shape of his face, his high cheekbones and full lips. His eyes flowed like clear tropical water, welcoming and calm.The tightness in Grant's chest unfurled. "What day of the week would you prefer for your delivery?""Saturdays are fine."Rowan ticked off another box on his form. "Mornings or afternoons?""Mornings." "Great. Do you have any other questions before I go?"Grant noticed the younger man's chest was rising and falling at a faster clip. He was nervous, but about what? Saying goodbye?"Are you going to be my delivery person?"A shade of rose blushed his guest's milky skin."Oh, I... I don't know. That's up to the department.""Can I request you to be my delivery person?"Rowan's chest fluttered again as he clearly tried to fight back the start of a grin. "I could try but I can't guarantee anything.""I don't like to meet too many new people. Explaining myself over and over... I don't like that." He signed I don't like that and let his mouth dip into a small frown. Back when he was still learning ASL, his instructors once got on his case for not making himself expressive enough when he signed. Grant then 'expressed' that if someone couldn't suss out the meaning of his signs that was their goddamn problem, not his. His instructors never mentioned it again. Mostly because he stopped going to their classes."I understand," Rowan's lips said slowly. "Can you teach me something? You don't have to, but I'm curious. How do you sign 'understand'?"Grant raised his fist to the side of his forehead and flicked his forefinger upward. "Understand."Rowan mirrored him, positioned his fist, flicked his forefinger. "Understand." He pointed to his chest and performed the sign again. "I understand. Was that right?""You don't have to point to yourself. Just sign it and nod."Rowan did as he suggested. Grant made a thumbs up in approval."Aha, I did it!" He started to laugh. "I actually learned something useful. It only took me 27 years."Since his accident, Grant had no use for laughter. He couldn't hear it and didn't miss it - it served no purpose in his life. But seeing Rowan light up over learning one simple sign... a feeling stirred deep inside him. Something he'd buried a long time ago. Something he had no idea how to handle. "Well, I have all the information I need here." Rowan handed him a card. "Email me if something changes. I definitely recommend setting up your account on our website. That'll make it easier to track your holds.""You're very... helpful. Thank you." He'd almost forgotten how to say it. Did the words come out too fast? Too slow? Though he couldn't hear himself, Grant only hoped he gave the words the conviction they deserved. "I'm just doing my job, Mr. Wolfe."As Rowan motioned to stand up, that unearthed feeling stirred again, making itself clearer and fuller. The chivalry he'd been taught growing up in Dallas pulsed into every limb and nerve ending he had. So Grant stood first, his brawny six-foot-five frame filling the air, as he extended a hand. "Please," he said, "Allow me."After a moment of hesitation, their hands met. Grant hadn't felt skin that soft in ages. It almost embarrassed him how rough and calloused his palm must have felt against those silky fingers. Rowan lifted to his feet without much effort at all as a shy smile emerged in the shadow that crossed his face.A muscle spasmed in Grant's jaw. The involuntary movement made Rowan's smile disappear. "Is everything okay?"There were times when Grant was fine with speaking even though he couldn't hear his own voice. Speech therapists helped him pace his words and form the correct mouth shapes just as he could when he was a hearing man. Then there were times like these, when a question like Is everything okay? inspired such a confusing tidal wave of thoughts that Grant could no longer trust his ability to vocalize. In these circumstances the words wanted to come out faster than his brain could process. He feared what those words would sound like if he ever unleashed him. Would they be striking, loud, terrorizing? Or the same toneless drone that school kids used when they mimicked the deaf or disabled? No. He wouldn't let anyone hear him like that. So he turned every vein and muscle into steel and kept those thoughts inside where they were safe and couldn't hurt anyone. That's enough, a strong voice chastised. There's someone standing in front of you. You're not lying in bed in a cold sweat anymore. Be present. Be the man who got through all three phases of BUD/S.BUD/S. Remembering it was a startling explosion of red in the darkness. Then the images and sensations cascaded: obstacle courses, long distance diving, kicking up sand as his calves screamed, weapons training, brutal three-hour night sleeps, demolitions, combat swimming in frigid waters, the ghostly echoes of shouts and screams and...Enough. The memory of his Navy service was enough to wrench him back to reality, back to the grass under his feet, the trill of songbirds over his head, the early autumn breeze on his bare arms. Rowan's lips were moving. Though he had trouble focusing, he didn't need an interpreter to see how concerned the young librarian was. "Yes," Grant settled. "I'm fine." Rowan buckled his seat belt and readjusted the library van's rear view mirror off his face and onto the road. Grant escorted him back to the driveway to see him off. There were a couple of moments when the man almost seemed to go blank, not to mention that strange interruption that saw him step outside, but otherwise Grant had been nothing but a gentleman. He kept a certain distance, sure, but they were strangers. Not everyone warmed up at the same speed.He was intriguing. Rowan couldn't imagine losing his hearing and then voluntarily living on his own. That seemed scary. But Grant was a great deal more resourceful and resilient than the average man. Whatever led him to his life of solitude, that was his business. And yet.... doesn't a part of him seem... you know... lonely?Grant approached the driver's side door as the engine started. He was still ruggedly handsome, but up close Rowan could see how haunted his features were. Hollow, almost. The features of a man who'd seen - and perhaps did - more than he ever wanted to. And his eyes, intense and alert as they were, hid a profound sense of longing. Stop it, Rowan snapped. You don't know this man. You have a master's degree in library science, not psychology.Grant leaned one muscular arm against the van roof. "When is the first delivery?"Rowan tried not to pay attention to the way that thin grey tanktop generously hugged the outline of his chest. But at least it was a distraction from the flex of his bare arms, which were a deep shade of sun-given bronze. An ache of desire blossomed in his stomach. "It can start as early as next Saturday." "So I'll see you next Saturday.""But I still can't guarantee I'll be the driver."Grant ran a couple of fingers back and forth across his beard. "What sign is that?""No, it's just itchy.""Ah. Right." A finger self-consciously tapped his smooth cheek. "Not being a beard owner myself, I didn't realize they could get itchy. But, duh. Of course they do.""I wont sign something without saying it in front of you first. I'll make that a rule now.""You seem very confident that you'll see me again, Mr. Wolfe.""If the library sends someone else I can't guarantee I'll be as nice to them."Rowan laughed. "Something tells me you aren't kidding." "I'm not." "Then I'll be sure to warn the department head." He brought the van's stick shift out of park and into reverse. "Goodbye for now?"Grant patted the roof and eased away from the vehicle. "Until next time.""If I see you again, you better teach me some new signs!""Okay," Grant signed in response. He recognized the gestures: the hand making an O, and then the forefinger, middle finger and thumb forming the K. Rowan waved goodbye as the van peeled off the driveway and into the street.It wasn't until he'd driven halfway back to library that he remembered the envelope sitting on the passenger seat. And the paper folded inside it, with those troubling words to a woman named Tatiana..."Shit," Rowan hit a hand against the steering wheel. The note had completely slipped his mind. It was the entire reason he came! Returning it seemed more awkward than ever. He didn't want to be responsible for the damn thing. It really was like hanging on to someone else's bad dream. But then he thought of the way Grant asked to see him again, how he curtly insisted that he be the one to make the deliveries. Oh, Rowan hoped he hadn't made too much of an ass of himself. When Grant's large hand slipped over his it was like the air had escaped his lungs. No... not just his lungs. It was like the air had escaped the atmosphere. To think that a man - any man - could pin him down with such a warm, strong gaze - and then ask, no, demand, that they see each other again, well... Shit.Yes, Rowan's head was in the clouds. Yes, he was nursing a bit of a crush. (Just a bit.) He could admit it. He could almost admit that it likely meant nothing. Men like Grant Wolfe were never interested in men like Rowan Watson. The lumberjack and the librarian wasn't exactly a popular pairing. It wasn't an observation rooted in bitterness, but reality. He knew where he stood in the dating pool, and it was certainly nowhere near anyone who looked like they could rip a tree out of the ground with their bare hands.But he could compartmentalize as needed. A crush, while fun, can be put aside. And Rowan knew he would have to, especially if it meant helping out someone who needed it. That made the possibility of returning to the cozy little bungalow off Crothers Woods more than just a silly but pleasant daydream. Grant padded down to the basement he'd converted into a personal gym. His head had been swimming all damn day and he needed a good rush of endorphins to tide him over until dinner. With the casual ease of a man who'd spent his entire life getting fit, Grant gripped the pull-up bar built into the basement ceiling and started his routine.One... two... three... his breaths escaped him in small, practiced grunts.It was his way of coming back to normal. Well, his version of normal. His days usually consisted of exercise, reading, cooking, doing chores around the house, working on his paintings. Long, involved conversations with a hearing person were rare. Well, non-existent, really. He'd forgotten how much work being around the hearing was. Speechreading, something he still hadn't fully mastered, required a profound level of concentration on a good day. ...four... five... six...Rarer still was being around a hearing person he actually wanted to speechread. Thankfully, Rowan was expressive enough and made an actual effort to speak slowly and clearly. Grant only had trouble understanding him when he stumbled over his words. As polite as he was, the younger man seemed to struggle with his confidence. And dealing with Grant's moods couldn't have been easy, either....seven, eight, nine...Grant finished his tenth pull-up and dropped into a set of push-ups. His mind was on autopilot now, drifting toward that night's meal, reminding himself to check the weather forecast, to prepare the fireplace if need be.By the time he started on dips, the faint memory of helping Rowan get to his feet resurfaced. Grant thought of the way that tight runner's body went taut as he stood, how the wind slapped against them in that moment and made him shiver slightly. He'd fought the urge to pull the younger man closer, to warm him against his chest. Grant had to stop mid-dip. His focus was eroding. Tiny streams of electricity danced up his right hand and forearm - the same one Rowan allowed him the pleasure of touching. He wiped at his sweating brow. Where the hell did all this come from? He ran from things like this - ran and never dared to look back. But one simple, unannounced visit had untethered him from the world he worked so hard to build and now he was spinning out of orbit. The weirdest part? He was kind of... intrigued... to see where it would take him.He hoped that this strange creature - this librarian - would show up on his doorstep next Saturday with that same timid smile. Grant strapped on his weight lifting gloves and took a seat on the padded bench. He scratched at his beard again and wondered if he should shave for next time. Huh. Next time. He wanted there to be a next time.How strange it was to look forward to something again.
  12. 42 likes
    Dum Dum De Dum I can’t believe the day is finally here, this is nerve racking. I know he’s always wanted us to get married but what if doesn’t like what I’ve done. Liam left with his Mom this morning to pick up his Grandma. He thinks she’s coming for a week to visit. And they convinced him to be their escort tonight to a Gala at the Botanical Gardens. That’s where our ceremony will be. I dropped his tux off at Dad’s for him to change into as soon as they get back. I talked him into getting a haircut yesterday, damn, does he look handsome. “Will!” Dad called out. I turned to face him, and smiled, “What’s up?” “Where do you want the DJ to set up?” He asked. “Um… probably top right corner of the dance floor, away from the guests but also, so he doesn’t appear in every damn photo. I’m sure he’s handsome but…” I laughed with Dad. “You ready Will, I’m about to turn on the lights to test them,” Theo said. I nodded, as Papi put his hand on my shoulder. “How are you holding up Son?” he asked me. “I think I’m going to throw up, to be honest, what if he balks and doesn’t want to go through with it,” I said. “You’re worrying about nothing, that boy will be dragging you down that aisle once he figures out what’s happening.” Papi laughed. The lights came on, and they are soft and warm – Perfect. “They look great Theo, thanks so much,” I called out. He nodded, turned them off and removed the ladder from the Marquee. My God, the marquee is huge I’ve never seen anything like it. Thankfully, it’s a beautiful warm day and clear sky which meant we didn’t have to put the sides on the marquee. The flooring is like polished floor boards. Even though we decided to at the back of the Marquee. “What do you think about the centerpieces and colors?” Katherine asked smiling, while she was holding Noah. He is so beautiful, I always want to squish his little baby cheeks. He sleeps well, you barely hear a peep out of him. A very happy baby. We all love him, Liam and I can’t spoil him enough. But that’s our job right? “They are… I don’t even know what to say, perfect, superb, you and Mom couldn’t have chosen anything better.” I said. The centerpieces are three burgundy colored candles with three inches in height difference, so they kind of look like they cascade down. At the bottom, they are surrounded by what kind of looks like a birds nest with a thin burgundy ribbon lightly threaded through. Then it has a few pine cones and dyed jacaranda pods nestled against one side. It goes perfectly with the cream table cloths and chair covers. The seats are covered in cream cloth with a thick burgundy colored ribbon wrapped around the back with a big bow on the back of each. “Have you seen the cake topper yet?” Kat asked pointing to the cake with a smug grin. I shook my head. We moved toward the cake. The cake or I should say cakes are gorgeous. It’s four separate cakes on an arc-shaped stepping stone cake display reducing in size to the top. Each cake is covered in a smooth cream colored fondant with a narrow burgundy ribbon wrapped around the base of each cake then streaming up to wrap around the base of the next cake. On the top cake are two men with an arm around each other and their foreheads resting together. Ollie came over and took Noah from Kat, kissing her then his son on the top of his head before nestling him in the crook of his arm. “Okay boys, I’m going to check the place cards one last time, then check on the caterer and we should be set.” Kat said sauntering off. She’s amazing the way she has taken to motherhood. Kat is a natural. Her and Oliver’s relationship couldn’t be stronger, they are muddling their way through their new life and are thriving. Both of them are amazing. I felt Lee wrap his arms around my arm before I saw him, “Hey little brother, are you ready for today?” I asked Lee. He gave me a very vigorous nod of his head, “Yup! I’m so excited, I could pee myself.” “How ‘bout we use that as a backup plan?” I laughed with him. “I like the way you set the tables,” Ollie said with admiration. “Thanks,” I smiled. We set up 22 round tables of ten. Instead of the wedding party at the head of all the tables. We have put us in the middle and then surrounded us by the guests. I did that so we could be in the thick of it and enjoy everyone rather than be separated. The wedding party table colors are reversed from the others. All my happy helpers started to congregate where I was standing. “So what’s left?” Seb asked. We all kind of looked around, the caterers were setting the tables with plates, glasses, and cutlery, the DJ was setting up, and everything else looked like it was done. “I think that’s it, we have two hours before the limos arrive. We have three bathrooms in the house so we should be able to all have enough time to get ready.” I said smiling looking around the marquee, “Listen, guys, thank you so much for everything you’ve done today and leading up to this. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate everything you’ve done.” I laughed nervously. I got a bunch of warm sentiments from the crowd, trying to relieve my nerves. Everyone either left for their own house or mine to get ready. After I had showered and dressed, I went down to the kitchen where the masses were congregating and having a beer. “I’ll have one of those if it will calm my nerves,” I said jokingly, Papi handed me one. “It couldn’t hurt, drink up the cars will be here any minute,” Papi said smiling, “and come here so I can fix your tie.” I slowly sipped on the cold amber liquid. I don’t want to get drunk tonight, I want to remember everything. “We all look good, I’m glad I went with the tux’s.” I said, as Katherine came through to the kitchen in her gown, it was burgundy with only a thick strap on one side, it gathered under her breasts then snugged her figure gently to the ground, and her hair up and off of her neck and face. I put my hands to my heart and said, “my God baby girl you look breathtaking.” I took her hand and pulled her to me, kissed her cheek and gave her a hug. “Heaven help me if you wrinkle my dress or mess up my makeup William Blundell-Sunderland.” She said in a warning tone, “and if any of you boys make a speech that makes me cry and I end up looking like a raccoon, you’ll be escorting me for the rest of the evening.” A whole bunch of, “Yes Ma’am,” came out of all our mouths. She has that southern Momma tone down perfectly. Paddy’s jaw dropped, and eyes popped out of his head as Sasha entered the room, “Oh Babe, you look more gorgeous than ever,” he said giving her a kiss, while the rest of the family complimented her. “Shit, where are Cash and C.C, I have to…” I said panicking. Seb came into the kitchen with both on a lead, and Beau right behind him, “Here! Stop having a meltdown, they’re ready,” Seb said smiling, he and Beau are our official mutt wranglers for the evening. “Thank you so much Seb, I can’t believe I almost forgot,” I said. “CARS ARE HERE!” Ollie was on limo lookout duty. I handed the rest of my beer to Seb who let it slide down his throat without swallowing. Wow! Beau’s a lucky guy. I laughed in my head. <>-<>-<> I stood at the edge of the carpark of the Botanical Gardens, waiting for Liam to arrive, Mom, text me they were pulling in. As Liam stepped out of the car, he saw me and his whole face lit up with a big smile. Oh my fucking God, but he is gorgeous. My legs went to jelly immediately, he looks so sexy, handsome, hot and every other descriptive word I can think of. My breath caught, and my throat is as dry as a Nun’s… well, you know. He looks so WOW! So far so good. I greet his Mom and Grandma first then Liam. “I thought I’d keep you company,” I said to Liam. His smile got bigger. “Why don’t you boys look around the gardens a bit, we still have some time, and we’ll meet you up there.” Mom said smiling as she and Grandma walked off. As soon as they were out of earshot, “Fuck you look so hot! And my God you smell good,” I said to Liam. “So do you, Babe, if I could drag you behind some bushes and have my way with you right now, I would.” He said laughing and taking my hand to lead me around. We walked around for about fifteen minutes and then Liam spotted all the excitement in another part of the garden. “Look, Babe,” Liam pointed, “I think someone is having their wedding here. Let’s go sticky beak.” He said gently steering me in the direction of all the fuss. As we approached most guests were seated and facing the front. The chairs were divided into two sides by a burgundy carpet all the way to the altar. Papi was standing and waiting as were Oliver and Patrick on one side and Katherine and Lee on the other. “We should get married here when we do, it’s beautiful.” “Do you really think so?” I asked nervously. “Yeah, I do,” he said looking around at the garden surrounding the ceremony. “Maybe we should get married now?” I said lovingly. “Wouldn’t that be awesome,” Liam laughed. I leaned into him and whispered, “Take a closer look, my sweet boy,” He was looking around, I watched as he squinted up at the altar and stretched his neck as if to get closer. I could see his lips move while he quietly said names to himself as he found more and more faces he recognized. The more he recognized, the more confused he looked. “What’s going on Will? What is all this?” He asked in confusion looking at the guests. “This is your wedding if you want it to be,” I said. “You… You’re…Mine…Mine and You. You’re going to marry me?” he asked stuttering with tears in his eyes. “All we have to do is walk down the aisle,” I said to him. “Are you serious?” as more and more tears fell. I nodded my head, and wiped his tears from his face, “so we just walk down here and then we’ll be legal, for real married? Mr & Mr. William Blundell-Sands.” “If that’s what you want,” I said with a chuckle. He took my hand, “Well what are we waiting for, let’s go,” he pulled me gently toward the isle. “Hold on there tiger, you might be missing a step or two,” I said bringing him back to me. Mom and Dad walked up to us with Benny and Haley, the dogs leading Seb and Beau. Benny dressed in a tuxedo and Haley’s dress matched Katherine and Sasha’s but had a strap over each shoulder, perfect for a young girl. “Oh my God, you two look so gorgeous,” he said to the little ones as he hugged them, “it’s Benny and Haley Babe,” he said pointing. I chuckled, “I know Honey,” I paused waiting for him to compose himself for a second, “we have two choices, your Mom walks you down the aisle and Dad walks me, or they walk down together, and then we follow.” “Mom and Dad first, then we follow, I want us to start our marriage together.” Liam said, “I can’t believe you’re going to marry me.” He kissed me on the lips so hard, I thought my teeth were going to be knocked down the back of my throat. Liam then turned to his Mom and hugged her and did the same with Dad, “Thank you, thank you, thank you, this is the best day of my life.” Kenny Chesney’s, Me and You started to play. Mom sent little Haley on her way to Oliver spraying rose petal out of basket the entire way. Then she sent young Master Benny, to Katherine, she usually called him ‘Master Benny,' because it made him giggle. Seb and Beau went next holding on to Cash and C.C, Cash with a collar and bow tie and C.C. with a tiara. They sat to the left when they reached the end of the aisle, Mom and Dad then started down the aisle, and as they reached the end sat to the right, finally, Liam and I walked down. Liam walked tall, chest puffed out, proud as punch, to say Liam’s smile was glowing would be underestimating its capability. He had our arms linked so tight like he thought I would run away. I smiled so hard all the way down the aisle my cheeks hurt. Once we reached the altar and came to a stop in front of Papi, the gardens went silent. “Welcome, Family and Friends,” Papi started, “We’re here today to witness an extraordinary couple come together as one. Will and Liam have been best friends since they were four years old. Their friendship strengthened into a love relatively quickly becoming a connection so strong it can withstand just about anything… Papi went on about more of our life as kids, teenagers right up until now. I couldn’t really pay attention all my focus was on Liam, the proud look on his face mixed with happiness and pure raw love. God, I love him. I can’t believe I was scared to do this. This is the best day of my life, the day we truly become one, the start of our very own family. I am beyond excited to be his husband. “Liam would you like to say your vows?” he looked like a stunned mullet for a second, shit sorry Baby, I thought to myself. “I don’t have anything written down as it was short notice,” he got a chuckle from everyone, “but I will say this; This is the happiest day of my life, you becoming my husband is all I’ve dreamed about for a really long time. This is the start of our family together, and I can’t wait for us to build our life. There is not a soul on this planet that could make me feel more loved and understood than you. You have the biggest heart of anyone I know, and I am lucky enough to be the keeper of that heart. I will always treasure this gift you have given me and never let it go. I love you, my sweet boy.” Liam cried throughout his entire speech, which of course, in turn, made me weep. “Will,” Papi said. “I’m so in love with you Liam. Today you’ve made me the happiest guy in the world. I promise to always give my whole self to you; mind, body, and soul. Love and support you no matter where life takes us, you are the love of my life. I want you to have everything, everything you deserve, everything you earn and everything you wish for. I will stand by your side, you won’t have to look for me just reach out, and I’ll be there. I want to be the one to laugh with you, cry with you, bask in the glow of your successes, hold you when life fails you. You’ve already given me the greatest gift in life – yourself. I will love you always from here and into eternity.” I didn’t cry though my little vows – I balled my eyes out. Liam kept brushing away my tears as I talked and giving me my love smile the entire time while his tears fell silently. “Do we have the rings?” Papi asked. “I have them, Uncle Bill,” Benny called out as he tried to undo the ribbon they were attached to on his jacket. “Kafrin, can you please help me.” He said embarrassed. Kat kissed his forehead and untied the ribbon then gave him the rings. Benny walked over and gave them to Papi and went to Haley and held her hand for the remainder of the ceremony. He’s too cute. “Do you Liam take Will as your husband no matter where life leads you?” Papi asked. “I do,” Liam said affectionately. I put the ring on his finger, and he quickly kissed me. “Hey knock that off we still got one to go,” Papi said chuckling. “Sorry,” Liam said sheepishly. “S’alright, Do you Will take Liam as your husband no matter where life leads you?” Papi asked. “I do,” I said, and Liam put the ring on my finger. Liam kissed me again but didn’t stop. “I now pronounce you Husband and Husband, you may keep kissing,” Papi said, “because lord knows you can’t seem to stop.” Papi laughed. Our guests all stood and applauded, as we continued, well basically making out. “Ahem,” Papi cleared his throat. “Um… guys, you need to sign some paperwork first. Then you can get back to this.” Liam broke the embrace for a second, “Okay Papi,” then pulled me to him and kissed me again. Every cell in my body was dancing. We signed the papers, and the photographer took about a thousand photos of us and the wedding party and the parents, while our guests made their way to the reception. It wasn’t until we were in the Limo and alone I finally started to relax. Liam must have noticed, “You relaxed now Husband?” I rested my head against his shoulder and closed my eyes, “Mmmm… yep. I definitely like the sound of that. Are you okay with everything you don’t feel like you were pressured.” “Are you kidding me, I’m still trying to convince myself this is real. So what happens now Babe, are we headed home?” Liam asked as he kissed the top of my head. “Hey, no kissing or inappropriate touching in the Limo, I won’t be able to stop,” I said laughing, waving my hand around. “We still have the reception Baby, a whole night of celebrating ahead of us. Then we are off to the Marriott for the night. Tomorrow back to our place for brunch with the extended family.” I told him. Liam quietly sang to me, “I’m going to get you pregnant,” I laughed and shook my head at him. “Oh, did you pick these rings out because I don’t remember ever showing them to you?” He asked. “No, but you did show them to Oliver,” I answered. Liam inspected his ring with a quirky smile as he twisted it round his finger. He went to put his hand on my crotch. I smacked his hand away. “I wasn’t kidding, I won’t be able to control myself if we start something,” I muttered laughing, “too damn sexy.” We finally pulled into our drive, there were cars everywhere out in the street. The driver pulled around the back of the house and let us out. “Oh Wow! Will, how did you do all of this? It looks spectacular. It’s so perfect, so us. Thank you,” Liam said then gave me a nice wet kiss. “Babe, I love you more than life itself, but I gotta pee so bad,” Liam said shifting his weight from left to right foot. “Go, Honey, it’s fine,” I said. He closed his eyes, let his head fall back and started to get a look of relief on his face, “Shit, not in your pants; go inside.” Liam started laughing, “Oh crap, don’t make me laugh. I really gotta go.” and he ran off into the house. <>-<>-<> We were standing outside the marquee, with the rest of the wedding party, Liam was straightening my tie and laying little soft kisses on my lips while we were waiting to be announced. Benny and Haley were snatched up by Alex as soon as the cars arrived and he was hanging with us and would walk the kids in when they were announced and then wait at our table until the rest of us arrived. Cash and C.C. were hovering nearby marking their territory on the rental equipment. Bad doggies. “Ladies and Gentleman, introducing the flower girl, Haley Vasquez and Ring Barer, Benny Blundell,” Alex carried both the kids through the table while the kids waved as the guests gave their applause. “Best man and lady, Oliver and Katherine Petrovelli,” Katherine and Oliver just glared at us. Liam and I cracked up. “Just go with it, the guy has no idea what he’s doing,” I said. “That’s your Dad!” Katherine said. “I know!.” I said laughing. Liam pushed them toward the table. They smiled and walked to the wedding table, Dad is so going to pay for that later. But still funny just the look on their faces. “Groomsmen, Patrick Wright and Lee Blundell-Sunderland.” Lee turned to us, “Happy Wedding Day, Brothers,” Lee hugged and kissed our cheek. Hearing Lee Blundell-Sunderland had me all proud as a big brother. Paddy and Lee made their way to our table. “And let’s not forget, Johnny Cash and June Carter-Cash, affectionately known to us as Cash and C.C. Escorted by Sebastian Morris and Beau Ferrige. The dogs sniffed the guests on the way to the table with Seb and Beau pulling them along. When we are all seated the boys will let the pooches off of their leads. “And finally, introducing Mr. Liam and Will Blundell-Sands.” We walked to the dance floor as Chris Stapleton sang Your Man through the speakers. Dad stopped us in the middle of the dance floor. For their first dance as husbands, Mr. and Mr. Blundell-Sands, “Tennessee Whiskey,” another Chris Stapleton song spread through the marquee as we danced. Arms around each other swaying and moving as one; our foreheads together gazing into the eyes of the other, Liam softly singing to me. The world faded away, it was just us, intimate and that warm feeling of love that fills your soul. I love this man so much, I can’t believe he’s mine. The wedding party and parents were asked to join us on the next song, Van Morrison’s – “Days Like This.” I know it seems an odd choice, but Liam likes it. He thinks it gives him a lift on a bad day but makes him smile bigger when he’s having a good day. We danced a few more songs together, I danced with Mom, Dad then Papi. Then they announced dinner. Liam finally looked around when we reached our table. We were seated with Katherine, Oliver, Lee, Beau, Seb, Benny, Haley and Patrick. The table already had hors derv’s set around the table. Liam dug straight into the celery sticks and nuts. “This is perfect Will, everything, the colors, the lights, candles, just everything it’s all perfect,” Liam said looking around. I took his hand and entwined our fingers holding it in my lap. He turned his focus to me. “Thank you so much,” he leaned over to me and kissed me softly, running his fingers through the hair on at the back of my head with his free hand. “You’ve no idea how happy you’ve made me Will, my husband, this is definitely the best day of my life.” Dad put his hand on my shoulder, “I’m just going to steal Lee before his food arrives, introduce him to the mob from Florida,” “That’s my Daddy and Poppy,” Benny said with a big smile, “tell them we is being good, kay, Uncle John, kay.” Dad reached out and ruffled Benny’s hair, “I certainly will Benny, I know you’ve been good.” Benny nodded his head with a serious look on his face. I couldn’t help but chuckle. Benny went back to his coloring book. We’d put on the table for him and Haley, so they didn’t get bored. I’d also snuck a couple of board games and a deck of cards over by Mom, just in case. The DJ played soft blues and love songs at a low volume throughout dinner so people could talk. The food was mouth watering delicious, I was given the southern fried chicken, and Liam got bourbon maple glazed salmon. We switched, I haven’t eaten any real deep fried food in months, and I wasn’t sure how my belly would handle it. I know Liam sneaks cheeseburgers and fries with Lee when they hang out. So he’d be okay. I don’t know why he thinks he has to sneak them because I don’t care that he eats them, I just don’t care to. Toward the end of eating our dinner, Dad got behind the mike again. “Since the boys have their mouths busy and full, now seems to be the perfect time to start the speeches so they can’t use their smart mouths.” That received a chuckle from the crowd. Everyone’s a fucking comedian. The cater waiters were delivering glasses of champagne among the guests. Non-Alcoholic for anyone under 21, juice for kids under fourteen. “Even though Liam has been a member of this family for over a decade, I’d like to officially welcome you to the family and to say you can keep Will. There are no returns he’s now your problem.” Again with the funny comments. “In all seriousness, there isn’t anyone that would be better suited than you for Will. You boys have always made us proud, and we couldn’t be happier for you. I hope you have many decades of happiness together.” Dad lifted his glass, “To Will and Liam,” “Will and Liam,” rumbled through the marquee as people sipped their champagne. “Hi Everyone, I’m Evan Sands, Liam’s uncle. Kit has asked me to make a speech on behalf of the family as sadly William isn’t here with us today. Liam, your Dad, would be so proud of the young man you’ve become. But the fact that you’ve married Will, well that would have tickled him pink. He would call every week and brag about the two of you, and how envious he was of the friendship you two had and then after you came out to your parents he would talk about how close the two of you were getting. He knew how you pined after Will and the closer you two became, the more excited he was for you. I used to think he was crazy, just a Dad bragging about how great his kid is, but after watching you two today, and listening to some of the stories from the people closest to you. I got to see first hand why he was bragging. I wish you all the happiness in the world. Welcome to the family Will. To Liam and Will.” Liam’s, Uncle Evan held up his glass. Liam stood from his chair, pulling me up with him and led us over to his Uncle Evan where they hugged, with a few tears. Uncle Evan hugged me tight and whispered “Congratulations,” in my ear. Dad pulled us aside and called up Ollie and Katherine. “Hi, I’m Oliver, and this is my Katherine. We are the best friends and housemates of Will and Liam. What can we say about these two? They are two of the most amazing men I think we’ve ever had the privilege of getting to know. Will and Liam are unselfish, caring, considerate, loving and that’s not just to each other. I’m not sure they realize how far their love reaches. When Kat and I had nowhere to go, they made certain that we had a roof over our head. If someone needs help, they don’t think about it; they give it. They never ask nor expect anything in return. They never judge a person. They let people be who they are. Will and Liam, you are an inspiration and wonderful role models to us all. We look forward to the future as part of your family. Thank you and Congratulations, To Will and Liam, your love is endless.” How could we not let a few tears fall after that speech, even Ollie didn’t make it all the way through without dropping a few. We hugged Kat and Ollie, they let us be part of their family, and we’re honored. They are the friends you keep for a lifetime, no matter where you all end up. We love them dearly. Ollie handed the mike to Liam. He snaked his arm around my waist and pulled me to him. “I want to thank everyone for coming to celebrate the best day of our life so far. I’d also like to clear up Ollie’s version of us that he sees. Any behavior we have has been learned by example from the adult role models we have in our lives. My Dad & Mom, Dad and Papi, Uncle Ian, Coaches, Derek and Theo. You are a constant example of how to behave and treat others. There are many more, just three days ago, Callen, took time off from his job and flew here from Florida to make the dreams come true for my Will, Lee, and Papi. I will be forever in your debt Callen, thank you.” “I would like to say big thanks to all those who helped put this entire wedding together. I can’t begin to explain how perfect it is, from the ceremony all the way to the food and centerpieces. Now my list is here somewhere.” Liam checked his pocket and pulled out a wad of post-it’s and smirked, people chuckled. “Dad and Papi have an abundance of post-it’s, Will gave me the list of people to thank.” “Okay, here we go….” Liam started picking off one post-it at a time. I think it took him twenty minutes to get through all the thanks. The music started again, and the desserts started coming out. Liam grabbed a plate of cherry pie and stole the pecan pie from my plate and put it on his while we did the rounds of the tables. We had Benny and Haley come with us and bring their desserts with them and dropped them at the Dad’s table while we did the rounds. We visited all the tables spending a few minutes at each and thanking them for coming and their donation to the LGBT center instead of a gift. Our second last table being the mob from Florida, we stayed and sat for a while chatting. It’s amazing two hundred plus guests, came to a wedding for a same-sex couple, that are seventeen years old. Not a bitchy comment or grumble among them. Nothing but smiles and congratulations all night. Maybe the world is getting more tolerant. “Zoot Suit Riot” – Cherry Poppin Daddies bounced out at the empty dance floor. “Hey, Liam is that Aunt Liz your Mom is talking too,” I asked and pointed. He laughed “Yup,” nodding his head, “You got Mom, wedding pick up are you ready,” I nodded my head. “Excuse us for a second fella’s,” I looked at Liam “Are you ready?” I nodded and then we ran to Mom and Aunt Liz, picked them up and carried them to the dance floor as if they were the brides. Set them on their feet and danced 50’s Rock n roll style. Liam’s parents took lessons when we were younger, and they dragged us along to dance with the ladies without a partner. We got some whistles and cat calls and everyone clapping along with the music as we danced. Half way through the dance we strategically switched partners to applause. The four of us were a hit, Mom and Aunt Liz, wore big grins on their faces. It’s so nice to see Mom with a grin on her face, been so long since she looked so happy. The next couple of songs were taken up by us dancing with Benny and Haley, we had a blast, so much fun. My Liam wore the biggest smile I’ve ever seen on his face all night, I can’t even put into words how happy I am. This whole day has gotten better as each minute ticks by. More and more guests got up to dance. I danced with so many people, I usually have pretty decent stamina but this week has been emotionally and physically draining. I needed to sit down for a while. I left Liam on the dance floor, blowing a kiss in his direction. I got back to our table, and Kat was holding Noah. “You look so beautiful with a baby in your arms Kat,” I said to her. She smiled, “Thank you, sweetie. You look happy, and Liam is absolutely radiating sunshine from his smile.” I looked in Liam’s direction on the dance floor, he was dancing with some of his cousins. Kat laughed. “What?” I asked. She shook her head, “You should see your face, you two are hopeless. You are even more goofy for each other than when you first told Ollie and I about yourselves.” I chuckled, “God, I hope so. I can’t imagine my life without him.” I sighed. Lee climbed across my lap and rested his head on my shoulder, and yawned. “Are you tired baby brother?” I asked him and kissed his forehead as I held him around the waist and held his legs in place, so he didn’t fall. Lee nodded his head. A flash went off in our face. “Dear God, Dad, enough already with the photo’s,” I said holding up a hand to block anymore. “No way Will, I want as many photos of you boys as I can get. We missed out on your brother growing up, I’m just making up for lost time,” Dad admonished me as if I had said the outrageous thing imaginable. “It’s getting late, you and Liam should think about heading out, so we can get the young ones home. Even poor Benny and Haley are asleep upstairs. And it doesn’t look like your brother is going to last much longer.” “I don’t think I will either, to be honest.” As I yawned. <>-<>-<> I looked at the clock beside the bed, UGH! Four AM and I’m wide awake. Too much excitement from yesterday, and then last night. Ahhh! Last night, Liam captured my mouth with his as soon as the motel suite door clicked and he had me up against it. The kiss had heat, passion, and lust, his tongue tangling with mine, the fight for dominance. His movements kissing from my mouth, across my jaw down to my neck and behind my ear while he pinned my hands above my head with one of his. While his free hand fought with my belt and pants to get them undone and dropped to the floor. Liam fell to his knees as my pants dropped to the floor. “Oh!!! Fuck me! Have you been wearing this all day?” Liam said as he sucked on my cock through the mesh on my Andrew Christian mesh jock. I ran my fingers through his hair, looking down into his eyes lovingly. I took my shirt and jacket off letting them fall next to me in a heap on the floor. Liam licked the inside of my thigh, when he got back to my jock he moaned staring at it. “Fuck Will, if I’d have known you were wearing this all night…” he growled out as he stood and flipped me around, so I was facing the door, so he could see me from behind. “Fuckkkkk!” he growled as he bit into my neck. He snaked his hand around my front and ran his hand down from my chest all the way into my jock and gripped my very erect, very hard manhood. He wiped his finger across my slit and rubbing the salty lubricant over my cock, gripped it in his fist and stroked. Liam ran his tongue down my skin from my neck all the way into the crack of my ass, teasing and entering me with his tongue as he kept stroking me until I screamed his name releasing over his hand and into my jock. Liam stirred next to me and rolled on his back, his beautiful body exposed to me, we’d kicked the covers off at some point. Mmm… those big strong arms wrapped around me, the safest place in the world. His flaccid cock snaking down his muscled thigh. Licking my lips, the memory of stroking him while he was on his back, those legs wrapped around me. His eyes rolling back in his head as my cock entered him all the way until my balls rest against him and out again slowly glancing against his prostate. His moans and the little noises he makes, his breath catching every now and then. I stayed steadied and at a slow pace waiting for him to beg me to let him come. Him grabbing my hips and pulling me into him hard so he could get the release he was seeking; pushing his hips to meet me. He fell over the edge with a noise somewhere between a grunt of pain and a moan of pleasure. Covered in his own release, panting, his eyes finally open and gazing lovingly into mine. He lifted his hand to the back of my neck and pulled me down to blanket him, our lips meeting and our tongues dancing together saying everything we were incapable of saying in the moment. Liam absolutely takes my breath away. I hadn’t realized I had been stroking myself while I was reliving our wedding night love making, I hadn’t even felt the bed dip next to me. Liam ran my pesky hand away while he took over and put his mouth over my cock and took it all the way down his throat. Fuck! He’s never done that before, he moaned, his throat vibrating around my cock. “Oh… Fu… nghhh… Liam!” I called out. I reached out and pulled his hips toward me, I have to taste him too. I love the high from sucking on him as he does the same to me. I can’t explain it. Having him in my mouth turns me on just as much as having him sucking on me. But at the same time is magical. Everything we do is magical. I sucked and played a little with his tender rosebud with my fingers, then moved to his balls taking them in my mouth. I let them pop out and move back to his cock, Liam is reciprocating every move I make on him, I’m not going to last. He stroked and sucked at the same time as I shot down his throat while he moaned as his cum hit the back of my throat. I sucked and licked until he was clean. I laid on my back panting, my skin damp and clammy from our morning activity. I reached my hand over and rest it on his thigh, “Good morning Husband,” I greeted him. “Aww! I’m definitely love the sound of that.” Liam said putting his hand over mine on his thigh, “Babe?” “Yeah Honey,” I answered. “Let’s shower and go home,” Liam murmured and entwining our fingers. “Mmm… Home,” I said dreamily.
  13. 40 likes
    Kao came back from graduation with Dean. It had been a whirlwind being in one state for the day and then flying back to California on the same night. The best part of the day for Dean was getting to see Kao again. While they had to keep it PG, it was still so wonderful to be reunited with the man he loved. To hold him, to smell him. He had missed him so much. The PG rating lasted until they got onto the chopper, and then Dean had pulled Kao into his lap and began to kiss him soundly. Over the scent of their mates, the scent of desire, was a cloud of happiness that came from the pilot. The same pilot that Kao had flown with the last time. The duo ran into the house and all but stripped before the door had shut fully. "Dean...god I have missed you." Kao was in his arms again in a second with a passionate kiss. Their lips pressed together tightly until Kao opened to allow Dean entry, which the man took full advantage of. The taste of Dean, the taste of his mate, exploded on his tongue and filled Kao's mind. All of it made him harder than he had ever been, and all of it tasted, smelled, felt like home. Dean carried his mate to the bedroom, bypassing the boxes that would be loaded onto the moving truck in a week, and laid him gently on the bed. He gazed into the dark eyes of his mate, his love, and just fell in love all over again. Soft caresses of finger tips on skin, near silent gasps as the sensations tingled up and down both bodies. The raging fire of the moment before was dampened and replaced with a slower burning one that would build towards a far more gratifying climax. That didn't stop Dean from asking Kao a question. "Have we waited long enough?" "Oh god, yes." Kao's simple statement was enough for Dean. "I...do have a few concerns." Dean nodded. "I've never been with anyone before. I heard through the grapevine that you've had some experience with men." "Just ask," said Dean with a patient smile. "Can you just utterly fuck my brains out tonight? That has always been the way I wanted to lose my virginity." Dean's pulse shot up, and the amount of pheromones he was giving off made Kao's stomach clench. "No foreplay?" "I...I want you to take full command tonight." Kao blushed furiously. Dean took him gently in his arms and kissed him lovingly. "If I am in charge tonight, then I need to know that I have full consent to do as I please, but I also need to set up a safe-word if it gets to be too much." "I'll use the phrase 'hi mom,' which should be enough to kill the mood." Kao's eyes were a bit playful, but it would work. It was one of those phrases that was ingrained in a man's survival instincts. "Okay. That will be the only thing that will get me to stop. Remember that. I might do things you're not ready for, and I need you to understand when enough is enough." Kao nodded his understanding. "When you're ready, just let me know." Dean went to the bathroom to give his mate a moment to gather his thoughts and possibly call it off. He wanted to make sure he had full consent to do as he pleased. While Dean was not one for power exchange on a regular basis, he knew that some things had to be done to ensure both parties were safe and loved. Dean went back into the room and found Kao on his side, fully naked, and gazing at him with so much desire that he had no need for a verbal confirmation. He crossed the space between them and pushed Kao onto his back. "You are to keep your hands behind your head. If you move them without consent, then tonight will be over and will not happen again for a week. Is that understood?" Dean's voice was soft but firm. Kao swallowed heavily and nodded, placing his hands behind his head. The effect on Dean was noticeable as he got harder. The combination of scent and sight, Kao's arousing smell mixed with the very obvious physical signs, had Dean questioning how much he could draw this out. The soft, downy hair in his underarms, the sleek and taut body tapering down to his erect cock, the wonderfully shaped legs; all of it given freely to Dean. Dean traced his finger along the sole of Kao's foot, making him jump a bit. They shared a grin, Kao knowing Dean planned on making this a night to remember. His finger glided up the younger man's calf and back down, Dean testing every inch for any spot that made Kao gasp. There was a small spot behind the knee that made his lover's breath catch. Dean mirrored the touch on the other leg, filing away each spot for future use. He lifted Kao's leg and kissed his way from ankle to the spot, nibbling and making Kao squirm and whimper. A sudden scent made Dean look up to Kao's erection. A thin line of pre-cum had oozed out of the throbbing shaft. Nibbling again made another dollop dribble out. Dean couldn't help but feel pleased. His mate was enjoying this. Dean went up the thighs, finding that Kao's entire inner thigh was one big erogenous zone. Tickling, teasing, licking, nibbling, and even biting...Kao loved it all, and soon his tummy was covered in pre-cum. It was getting harder for Dean to do this. He needed his mate in the most possessive way he had ever experienced. He needed to claim him, to mark him, to show to everyone that Kao belonged to Dean. His tongue slid up past Kao's throbbing dick and lapped at the puddle of juices. The taste sent a surge down Dean's body and triggered an immediate reaction. His own cock sent a thick stream of pre-cum shooting out and covering Kao's hip, the first one Dean ever had as he normally didn't pre-cum until the last few moments. "Holy fuck, you taste amazing," Dean panted out, trying to calm himself from just pouncing on Kao. His tongue lapped up all of the juices, reveling in the taste and having to use more of his self-control than ever just so he would not cum and would not just take Kao. His need to claim his mate was only marginally behind his need to make this night, Kao's first, something both would remember forever. Dean kissed and licked up Kao's abs, tasting and testing for spots that made his mate squirm. The quiver under his palm and the quick gasps and panting coming from his mate let Dean know he was doing something right. When Dean got to Kao's perky nipple, Kao's back arched as he cried out his orgasm. It was explosive, sending ropes of cum all over Kao's chest and Dean's shoulder. This new scent, the most potent one to ever fill Dean's senses, pushed Dean to the edge and over. Dean couldn't help but moan while sucking hard on Kao's nipple, and he spilled his seed onto Kao's thigh. The duo just panted and positioned themselves to kiss through the euphoric feeling. "Just...holy fucking wow-ee-wow-wow," exclaimed Kao, making Dean laugh. "Gods, that was something." His chest was heaving as he tried to catch his breath, a glorious smile on his face. "And we're not through yet." Dean's voice was husky, filled with lust even after that powerful release. As lusty as his voice was, his eyes held only love for Kao. "How...how many times can you do this?" "Three is my record before needing a break." Dean's grin was insufferable, and Kao knew he was in for quite the night. Dean placed a few more tender kisses on those lips he was coming to love more and more. Gently, he kissed his way along Kao's chin and jaw to that soft spot at the ear, getting a groan and gasp from his mate. "I like that place very much," said Kao breathily. "Do you now?" asked Dean, his voice low and rumbling against the tender flesh. Kao nodded while shivers went down his spine. "Good." Dean moved faster than Kao had ever seen, flipping Kao over onto his stomach even while keeping the teasing going. Dean sat back, gazing at the perfection of his mate. The subtle definition of the muscles of his shoulders and back which tapered down to those sexy dimples just above his oh-so-perky rump. "You, my mate, have a very sexy ass. I wonder what it is going to taste like." The only response Kao was able to give was to giggle while gasping. Dean's fingers traced up from Kao's heels, the hands kneading the tight muscles of the legs. The soft groan that he heard said he was massaging just right. The muscles loosened and relaxed, which is what Dean wanted. He wanted to give Kao his fantasy: to be utterly fucked. Yet he knew Kao needed to be relaxed. Leaning over, Dean pulled out a bottle of massage oil and began to work his fingers all over Kao's back, legs, and glutes. Try as he might, Dean could not keep it clinical and stayed rock hard the entire time. When Dean straddled Kao's hips, the younger man's rump raised almost by reflex. "Dean...please." Dean leaned forward, massaging Kao's shoulders as he whispered, "Soon, my love," and then really dug his fingers into the muscles. As much as Kao wanted it, Dean felt bad he was going to do this so...rough. Not that Kao wouldn't heal quickly, he would, but Dean did not like to cause pain. Still, his mate wanted it, and Dean would do whatever he could to get Kao anything he asked for. Dean's massaging led him down toward that delicious bum where he spent time teasing the hole with his thumbs while his fingers rubbed the rest. Kao was writhing and whimpering, begging Dean to take him, to claim him, to mate him. Dean had to keep one thought in the forefront of his mind. He had to make sure Kao was more than ready for when Dean claimed him. He knew that once he started fucking his mate, he would not be able to stop easily. He was riding that edge of thought and lustful, animalistic urges. Not even Dean knew when he would tip over and give Kao everything he had...and what would happen if he did? Carefully, Dean stretched out atop Kao. His arms slid under Kao's to wrap him in a hug while Dean's hard dick nestled between those wondrous mounds. "This is your last chance to stop me, Kao. Once I start, I don't know if I will be able to stop myself." Without hesitation, Kao whispered, "Take me." With little adjustment, Dean shoved fully into his mate. That moment, that one second as both Dean and Kao cried out in fulfillment, Dean felt it. Everything snapped into place. His animal and thoughts were one beast. He pulled out and slammed in harder and faster than he ever did with any other partner, urged on by Kao's cries for more. The cries didn't come from Kao's lips, they came from deeper inside. It was a place Dean could feel his mate. He could feel how much Kao loved him, how the fire of passion had been ignited fully and would never go out. Dean knew Kao wanted this as surely as Kao sensed all of Dean's worry he was going too fast or too hard. I won't break, Dean. Make me yours. Never hold back. Kao's words came through loud and clear. Are you sure? Dean felt a resounding yes. Dean pulled out, flipped Kao over, lifted his legs, and drove back in. He could hear Kao begging verbally and mentally. Both sets of eyes were glowing golden as their mating bond was forming stronger and stronger. Dean looked deep into the eyes of the only person he would ever love this deeply, this fully. He could see so much in those eyes. All the worries, all the fears, all the reservations, and he could see them all drifting away to be replaced with a serene acknowledgement of how right this was. That look turned Dean on more than the rest, and he could feel the pressure building quickly. When this orgasm hit, he buried his cock all the way in Kao and flooded him with his seed and his mating scent. It ripped Dean apart and put him back together with bits of Kao thrown in for completion. He wasn't done. The mating was not complete, at least not in Dean's eyes. To Kao's surprise, Dean pulled out and let his legs down gently before he straddled Kao's hips and lowering himself down on his mate's perfect cock. Dean didn't even bat an eyelash at the pain because Kao's pleasure filled him and washed away any other concerns. He gave himself fully over to Kao like he had never given himself to anyone else. "Dean! Fuck that is...damn..." Kao was thrusting upward now, sensing what Dean wanted. He knew Dean wanted Kao to have just as much claim on him, and he knew he had also taken Dean's virgin hole. "Tight...so hot...gonna cum." "Claim me, Kao. I am yours forever." Kao's orgasm was mighty, pouring out from him and into Dean. Much to both of their surprise, Dean began to cum again, his seed gushing out and going everywhere as he rode his mate's cock through their joined orgasm. It had been perfect for both. Dean pulled off gingerly, hissing a bit at the pain, and lay beside his mate. Their hearts beat as one, racing with the rush of mating and the most complete they had ever felt. Tender kisses followed while Dean caressed Kao's cheek. "Now I know why," Dean said softly. "Why what?" Kao asked, exhausted. "Why your dad has so little in him. If I lost you, I wouldn't be able to move on. My life would be so empty without you. I would rather die than have to live as an empty shell." Dean knew how much will power the Wind Master must have to live after his mate and wife died. "It fills me with more respect and sorrow for my father...and explains so much. Now...why the hell did you ride me like a cowboy?" The curious look on his face belied the mischief in his mind. Dean chuckled. "Hey, you said I was in charge. I wanted to feel what it was like to have a dick in my butt." Kao swatted at his arm and laughed. "It felt right. Complete. I felt it had to be done to complete our mating. And you know what, my little Vietnamese hottie?" Dean leaned close to his ear. "I fucking loved it." Kao giggled. "Yeah, we'll need to wash the ceiling, the headboard, the mirror over there, and all the bedding. You got them all." As Dean looked around, he saw Kao was right. "How the hell did I get it on the ceiling?" That sent both men into fits of laughter which bubbled up as giggles and chuckles as they cleaned up the mess, showered, and put on clean sheets on the bed. It was still a bit early in the night, barely ten o'clock, so they pulled on their shorts and walked down to the beach to cuddle in the sand. The moon was casting its waning light on the surface of the waves. The gentle shushing of the surf was breaking on the beach. A few distant lights on the waters showed where boats and other vessels were going about their business. A tickling breeze played with their hair as they entwined their fingers. Never had there been a more perfect night. Which meant something had to go wrong. "Don't you two look all cozy," came a familiar voice from behind. Dean and Kao looked over to see Goldie, Sarge, and Alice walking from the house's side walk. They were dressed formally. "Well, since we just completed the mating, we're a happy pair." Dean flushed a bit at what Kao said, but he didn't deny it. "So, what brings you out here dressed like that?" "Lars Olsen is coming into town in a half hour. Tried calling your phone, Dean, but I now see why you didn't answer." Her grin was huge. "I would like both of you to be with us as representatives of Homestead. Phuong will be there as the Flock's rep." Dean stood and pulled Kao to his feet. "We would be honored, Alpha Kirkland, to witness the joining of your two packs. It will also be a personal honor to meet the man who humbles himself for the welfare of his people." "Give us a moment to get fancied up. Alice, is Alpha Olsen a good man?" Kao asked. "Almost as good as you," she replied. "Low standards," Kao said with a grin toward Goldie. Half an hour later, Dean and Kao were standing beside Phuong Saechao. She had been ecstatic to know her little brother was now mated. "You two are so damn CUTE!" Dean leaned over to Kao and loudly whispered, "She's not going to go all J-Pop fan-girl squeal on us, is she?" "She might," Kao replied solemnly. Both ducked as she swatted their heads. "Tell me again why I let you live past puberty?" she asked Kao in mock rage. "I make good sushi." "Point," she conceded and they laughed. "I am so happy. I know Father will be as happy as he can be." Dean asked a question both he and Kao were wanting the answer to. Kao was simply too polite to ask. "So...what happened to Kai?" Phuong just shook her head. "The Wind Master, in his wisdom, has banished the rogue known as Kai from the Flock. He will never again be able to take shelter in her skies." Dean and Kao stood in awe. "Then that makes you..." Phuong nodded gravely. "The next Wind Master. The first female Wind Master in five hundred years." She didn't seem too pleased about it either, yet she would take her place with honor and dignity. "Father...is stepping down as Wind Master in a year or so." That was also a bit unusual. "He realizes you would...win? Lose?" Dean didn't know what would happen. Phuong had youth and speed, not to mention magic, but was she an Alpha? "He knows it is best to step down. All three of his sons are gone from the Flock. One to death, one to exile, and one to take his place as Beta beside his mate. It is now up to me to carry on the line of succession before he gets challenged and someone takes the Flock from the Saechao family." "He's passing his power to you." Kao's utter shock was concealed behind a mask of composure, but Dean could feel it ringing in his head. Sensing his confusion, Kao inwardly said, It's literal. He will give her his status and power as Wind Master, and then he will die. That was one way to join his mate and ensure his Flock's continuity. Dean bowed to Phuong. "If it is appropriate, I request that Beta Saechao and I be allowed to attend." Phuong returned the bow. "All family is to attend, and as his son's mate, you would be expected to attend." When she looked up again, Dean saw anger in her eyes. "And if anyone so much as sneers at you, I will rip their throats out." "I knew I liked you," said Dean with a grin. "So, Sister Phuong, when we get married, you wanna be the Maid of Honor?" She just rolled her eyes, suppressing a grin. She liked this man. He was exactly what her brother needed. All three heard the vehicles coming up the drive and corrected their posture. Goldie was just descending the stairs from her house with Alice and Mirabelle at her side. Sarge, for once, was nowhere to be seen. Six SUV's pulled into the circle. None of them were new or shiny. These were working vehicles, and in Dean's opinion, he liked these new people. They came as they were. Simple folk, regular people. No pomp, no fanfare, just honesty. One by one the doors all opened to reveal what was the entire Little Valley Pack...all twenty-nine people. The only way Dean knew which one was Alpha Olsen was his feel. He felt powerful, like all Alphas, but he was not what Dean expected. Lars Olsen was ruggedly handsome with a solid build and slightly thinning waist length blonde hair. He would go unnoticed in a crowd because he was just that...normal. Average height and build, he was nothing like nearly every other Lycan Dean had met, and yet he would complement Goldie's petite stature without towering over her. The suit he wore, which smelled of mothballs, was a bit dated, but it was obvious he was not one for preening. He stepped forward and bowed over Goldie's hand. "Alpha Kirkland, may I present the Little Valley Pack." His voice was surprisingly deep, and filled with power. Jon and Travis didn't sound this commanding. "The Cali Sands Pack welcomes you all into her borders. Homes, jobs, and everything you need have been arranged to facilitate the joining of our two packs. I would like to introduce my Beta, Mirabelle D'Arlene, and my daughter Alice. To my right are the representatives from the Rogue Valley Flock, who share our northern border, and Homestead Pack from the north. Both are strong allies with Cali Sands and are here to witness the joining of our Packs. Weather Racer Saechao Phuong of the RVF and the Beta Pair from Homestead, Kao Saechao and Dean Whitmore." If Alpha Olsen was shocked at a male pair, he didn't show it in any way. "I am honored to meet you. I have heard many good things about Rogue Valley and Homestead. I have also heard that I owe a special thanks to two people here. Most importantly," he said and turned a sweet grin to Alice, "to you, Little Cowgirl." Alice grinned and came over for a hug, which he returned. "I am happy to find that I am acceptable to you as a mate to your mother." Alice tilted her head back a bit and looked up at him. "It was either you, a good man, or a lecherous bastard. Not much of a choice, really." Mirabelle turned all sorts of red but Lars and Goldie just laughed. "Such honesty. Keep that quality, Alice." He turned to Dean with an outstretched hand. "I owe you much, Beta Whitmore. Both for ensuring my Pack's safety and for reminding a wonderful woman what strength she has." Dean shook his hand. "It took me all of two minutes to see you and your Pack would be the best for both parties. Since Alice liked you and hated him...no brainer." Lars grinned. "Another honest person. Alpha Davenport must be a brave man to have his Beta be so blunt." "Eh. He's dealt with it for fifteen years or so. Welcome to the area, Alpha Olsen." Attention was turned to the two Alphas as they joined hands. Mirabelle took their hands in hers. "As Beta and as former Alpha Mate to the Cali Sands Pack, I ask you, Alpha Olsen, do you find Alpha Kirkland to be a suitable mate, knowing that she will take in your pack and care for them as they join Cali Sands?" "I find Alpha Kirkland to be more than suitable, and I know she will care for Little Valley as I step down as their Alpha." This was merely ceremonial. It had all been arranged prior to this meeting. "Do you, Alpha Kirkland, find Alpha Olsen to be a suitable mate and do you pledge to care for his people as you would your own?" Goldie smiled. "I do pledge to care for our newest pack-mates as I care for the rest of Cali Sands, and I find Alpha Olsen to be a suitable co-Alpha, not simply my mate." Her words stunned all in attendance, especially Lars. Alice stepped up and put her hand on their joined ones. "And I find Alpha Olsen to be a good man to be my new Daddy." Mirabelle recovered quickly. "Do you, our allied representatives, witness the joining of these two packs and the new co-Alpha Pair?" Phuong stepped forward. "We do so witness and approve of this joining." Her words were formal, but her scent was very happy. The scents of all three representatives said they felt this was a good match. Mirabelle smiled. "Welcome to the family, Lars. You hurt my daughter, I'll bust your chops." Her face was stern, her voice serious, her eyes playful. "Yes, Ma'am," Lars replied. "Goldie, are you sure you want me as co-Alpha? I can be a bit traditional at times." "Good. I tend to stray from tradition most of the time, so we'll work together to further our family with a balance of new ideas and time honored tradition. Now, everyone inside. Food has been set out in welcome." The newest members of the pack just blinked and then did as their new Alpha ordered. "You three are more than welcome to stay..." she began as she turned to Dean, Kao, and Phuong. "We'd love to, but we have family business to discuss. Namely what evil tortures I will put my new brother through if he hurts my Little Bird." Phuong batted her lashes prettily. Goldie nodded and went to take Lars' hand only to find Alice was up on his shoulders. The sight was such a wonderful one as Alice's bio-father had been an anonymous donor. Now she had a dad. Together, with Mirabelle just a fraction behind, they went into the sizable house as a family.
  14. 40 likes
    Colin held my hands to his lips. “Now, we’ll go get some serum.” I smiled, but wasn’t going. “Well, I intend to, but not yet.” Colin’s eyes grew. “Why? He saw you were a vampire! You need to get this under control! He knows!” I nodded and ran my fingers over Colin’s face. “I know and believe me, I will. I hate all this.” I shook my head. “And you went through this every day for almost two centuries!? I heard what you said about it, but having this one day! Two?” I hugged him again. “I have more empathy for what you went through. Even if it is on lesser scale.” Colin smiled and then shook his head. “Okay, but why stay like this? You did it.” I nodded. “That was just the first sample. We have Nabia. And I’m sure Amasis will want to confirm what I am another time.” I shook Colin a little. “I have just taken a huge wrecking ball to everything he held dear and thought he knew! I can’t back down now…not yet.” Colin gave a frustrated grunt. “We have worked so hard to get rid of this vampire curse and you go back.” I rolled what was left of my eyes. “I’ll be the same as I was soon!” Now that I had my needed blood, I looked at Colin. His shirt had been stained with sweat and now that I could smell better…vampires can stink. Bacteria liked vampire sweat as much as any creature. Colin now looked a little…tired wasn’t the word, but he stumbled a little. I grabbed him before he fell. “Colin! When did you eat last?” He shook his head. “I don’t remember.” I looked around. “Where’s Amir?” “Back in the tunnel.” Colin said. “I ran ahead.” That was all due to me. “Oh, baby, you need to eat. Now.” I said pulling his arm around my shoulders. “Let’s go.” I headed toward the dining chamber. His legs started to give out. “I’m so sorry, Colin.” Colin nodded as he leaned on me more. “I know. I was worried. I may have burned to much of what little I carried. I was in a hurry.” I nodded. “I’m sorry.” I said kissed the side of his head as we headed to get him something to eat. Colin stopped and pressed me against a stone wall. “Hear me!” He said gruffly as he leaned in close, not even an inch between our faces. “You promise me…and I mean you say it! You will never, ever do this again!” He waited as I smiled. “Why are you smiling? I’m serious.” I nodded and close the fraction of an inch and kissed him deeply. “I just like having you close to me, Colin.” And then I hurriedly nodded. “I promise. I’ll never do this again.” I looked at Colin. “Unless it’s you I do it for. I can’t promise I won’t if you’re in trouble.” Colin wavered a little and started to go down again. “And we’ll talk more…” I said pulling him with me, “…after you eat.” Colin smiled. “I stink, too, don’t I?” “Yes.” In the dining chamber, we all joined Colin as he ate. Mom was still looked at me in worry. “Did you have any resistance with Tad Morsi?” I asked. Colin was chewing happily as he shook his head. “None.” “That’s odd.” I said thinking about that. Colin nodded. “Stan and Mark are still back at Amir’s place in the village, checking for tracking devices and things.” He chuckled. “You know how Mark is.” I nodded. “Rightfully so. I don’t guess you had time to see where and how he gets email.” Colin smiled. “And you guess wrong.” He said proudly. “The tower he referred to is simply a tall group of metal poles on top of which is a satellite dish. What he’s using for emails is sort of old. A very simple Mailstation, no real PC. Basic for sending and receiving email.” He shrugged. “It took a minute to figure that out.” I chuckled. “You had time to waste?” Colin smiled. “Lots of time.” Amir came in the dining area, but looked tired. “Sorry about leaving you back there, Amir.” Colin smiled. Amir nodded and sat near us. “I understand.” He smiled. “You were worried about Devon.” He looked at me, but he frowned. “You received Amasis’ kiss? But I thought…” I shook my head. “No, I didn’t receive Amasis’ kiss.” I took Colin’s hand, one he could spare while eating, that is. “I got Colin’s kiss a while back.” Amir looked more confused and looked at Colin as Amir was now looking in awe. “Then you are…a god?” Colin shook his head. “No, he's not.” “We’ll be explaining it as we go.” I said. “We’re not gods and we’re no better or worse than you are.” “But you can’t die?” Amir asked trying to understand. Colin nodded. “We’ll explain that, too.” There was a commotion in the corridor. We heard people approaching. “…but husband. I don’t understand.” We heard Nabia’s voice say. Amasis came in followed by Nabia and two servants. “I would speak with you.” He said to me, now much less the proud man he was. I nodded. “Of course.” He nodded once and walked back down the corridor. Nabia looked at me and knew I was the same as Amasis and instantly bowed. “Forgive me.” I rose from where I was sitting and walked to her. “Don’t do that.” I said pulling her upright again. “I don’t want that. You are as good as anyone. Don’t bow to me.” “You are like Amasis.” Nabia said almost reverently. I nodded. “I am, but don’t bow to me.” I looked to where Amasis had gone. “I need to talk with him.” I said. “Stay with my friends. They can explain.” I waved to the others in the dining area and went after Amasis. I went quickly after Amasis. Okay, this place underground was huge. After twenty-five hundred years, it had everything. This was not just and underground palace. It was a city underground. They had carved a few more places down here than just the palace. Where I found Amasis was…a temple? Here they had painstakingly carved and erected decorative pillars with Egyptian drawings…writings on them. These had not faded. This was elegant. There were several pillars, but four stood in the center. Large statues, in gold and stone, with dark heads of birds, the jackal all with bodies of humans. Other figures were carved in walls of Isis (I knew of her). Amasis was leaning over what was an alter in the center of the four pillars. A large place where they burned…whatever. There were tall lamps or containers that stood higher than a man, but burned to light the darkness. Amasis turned to me. His whole world had been called into question. “Well, here they are.” He waved at the statues. “Every god is here.” He pointed the jackal’s head. “Anubis.” He pointed to one with the head of a bird. “Horus.” He spread his arms to indicate the whole temple. “All of them are here.” He walked toward me slowly. “I made sure of it. No god was forgotten and given no reason to be jealous or feel left out.” He looked at the many idols. “But it’s not real, is it?” “I can’t answer that.” I said. “When it comes to religious beliefs, those are kind of private and personal.” I walked a little closer to Amasis. “If you’re asking if I believe in them…” I shook my head, “…I don’t. Religion maybe important. In many cases I think they are good sources of guidelines…to guide people’s lives.” I sighed. “I was raised in a religion…” I waved at the idols, “…not this one. Is it true? I can’t say. With study, I sort of became aware that it was more a way to explain things in the world. How we got here and how we should behave promising reward if we do behave and punishment if we don’t. I have little to no evidence it’s true.” I shrugged. “Do I have a soul?” I shrugged again. “I hope we all do.” Amasis looked at the many writings on the wall. “You are like me.” He said casting a look at me. “I feel it.” He shook his head as he walked slowly. “This is not an afterlife?” He asked. “But I don’t die.” He turned to me with that statement standing. “Neither will you.” I nodded. “No, you haven’t.” I moved closer. I wanted to give comfort with a touch, but he might not appreciate right now. “And unless someone kills me, or an accident…I won’t for a while.” I smiled. “You’re the oldest man I’ve met.” I chuckled. “I thought that was Colin for a while and then I met Burke.” Amasis nodded. “The fact that I continued to live made me a god to these people.” He shrugged. “I knew their parents, grandparents, great grandparents…all those before them.” He frowned. “I sense you’re the same and you tell me it’s because of this…” he struggled with the word, “…vampire?” I nodded. “Yes, there is a venom in our bodies that makes us vampires.” Amasis shook his head again. “I never knew this word before you came.” He looked at me annoyed. “I’ve been alive for a long, long time. You come here and in a week, it’s all gone.” I was guilty. “I am sorry.” Amasis nodded. “But it’s the truth, isn’t it?” I chuckled and raised my hands out to stop this train of thought. “I’m not going there. Your beliefs are your beliefs.” Amasis looked very troubled now. “I’ve wasted time here.” I looked surprised. “What? Why do you think that?” “I am out of time!” Amasis said mournfully. “There are things you take for granted that I have no understanding.” He waved at my translator. “That…whatever…that makes me understand you and you understand me.” Now, I was right next to him. “The world moved on, but you remained the same; to say you wasted time? No, I don’t think that at all.” I waved at the temple. “This is nothing short of amazing. You built a city under the ground. In any time period, this is miraculous!” Amasis shook his head. “But I haven’t grown.” He looked at me and like other vampires moved emotionally, he would be crying if he had tears. “I stagnated!” He looked at me. “Why are you here?” Here it was. Truth time. “We came together seeking others like us. There are many others that have what we have. We seek out those and try to bring them into this world.” I looked him more in the eyes. “I will show you how to get back in the world.” He nodded. “Okay, but you didn’t seek me out specifically.” I smiled. “In a way, yes, we did. There are…” I thought how to explain it better. “…others like you and me who are in a position of power. So far, I’ve met Marissa and Edwin. They are like us and they are in position of power to do something for others like us in their worlds.” I put my hand on his arm. “We did seek you out by name, but didn’t know you. Now, we do. Are there more like us here?” Amasis shrugged. “There were more at one time. Now, there’s just me and Nabia.” “You’ve had wives.” I said. “You’ve lived a long time. You mentioned there were others that got you gift of the kiss. Where are they?” Amasis looked pained. “They are no more.” He turned from me and looked so sad. “They just vanished. They dared go out there.” He waved at the surface. “I knew I couldn’t. They knew they couldn’t, but went anyway.” He turned back to face me. “They chose oblivion rather than endure this afterlife…or whatever with me.” I nodded. “Maybe.” Now that he was understanding more, I dared to ask. “There are others…not like us, but…they are more demonic than we are or others like us are. As I understand it, they are bald, as in no hair anywhere, naked and…” I smiled. “…sorry, but they do not have everything a man should have.” I waved down at my crotch and pointed toward his own. “They lack certain things.” He smiled and nodded. “Oh, yes…the old ones.” He shook his head. “They would attack my people sometimes and turn them into others…we’re kind of like them, but not. They are incapable of language, but retained most everything.” He waved toward my crotch and held his own briefly. “I thought they were demons. I had as many of them destroyed as I could find them. I don’t know if there are any left.” “Old ones?” I repeated. “But you recognize what they are.” He nodded. “They are more ancient than I am.” He walked more into the temple and motioned for me to follow. He went to an area where there were scrolls and parchments tucked in slots. “There are writings in one of these…about the creation of these beings.” He waved at the wall of parchments. “It’s been a while since I’ve read them.” “They were created?” Amasis nodded. “To become warriors.” He explained. “About five thousand years before I was even born, there was a ruler. He wanted to seize control and power over other people in other lands.” He began looking through the scrolls. “According to the writings…there was a man capable of magic.” He smiled at me. “They believed in magic, too. They had a sorcerer that had knowledge to create poisons, elixirs and potions…he wanted to create an army.” He found the scroll. “Here it is.” He handed me the scroll that I could not read without a scanner. Even if I had a scanner, the writing…the language may not be in the database, therefore, we would not be able to read it until we learned how or taught Buddy to read it. “This sorcerer used the elixir on women that were pregnant. There were many failures, but over decades, he got a birth that began the creation of these things.” “But you read this?” I asked holding the scroll. He nodded. “It took a few hundred years for me to figure it out, but I can to a degree.” I smiled I said bringing him into one of those manly, one armed bro-type hugs. “You still have value.” I said. “Our magic is limited.” I held up the translator. “We need you to teach this language to this.” I shook my head as I looked at the scroll. “I knew the answer was here.” I put the scroll back on the shelf. “I’d like one of us…a man that knows how to work this…” I held my translator out. “…magic to come and put the writings on this scroll in here to try to understand it.” I looked at Amasis carefully. “Would you mind if we did that?” Amasis shrugged. “If it will help, sure.” I patted him on the shoulder. “Thank you.” His entire world was called into question today and yet here he was. “You are a remarkable man, Amasis.” Amasis looked surprised. “Why? I simply haven’t died.” I smiled shaking my head. “No, you are. There are some of us…who after a period of time…lose that part of themselves that is human. You kept yours for over two thousand years!” Amasis nodded. “There were times I felt it slipping, but with concentration, I fought it.” “That’s remarkable.” I pressed to him to let him know just how remarkable that was. “That is nothing short of a miracle. I see before me a man that fought and won against the odds.” I looked at him closer. “I hope I can call you friend now.” He nodded. “And I you.” He smiled. “I still need time to get…used to this thinking.” I nodded. “Take your time, but tomorrow, I’ll begin taking the medication that makes me able to go in the outside world. You and Nabia need to witness this so you understand what has to happen. You’ll see the results and when you’re ready…or if you decide not to…you’ll understand more. Then we can start educating about this world. Does that sound plausible?” He smiled. “And you went without this medication just to show me?” Amasis nodded. “That’s very plausible.” Then he smiled and hugged me. He hugged me. “I will witness this transformation and learn about the world.” “There are dangers out there for us. You need to be aware of them.” I said cautiously. I was aware of where the sun was in the sky. “I have time for a bath.” I smiled. “Care to join us?” I noticed stubble the first time on Amasis. “You need to shave.” He rubbed his face and head. “I sort of got distracted.” He grinned. I nodded. “I know, and I am sorry for doing that to you.” He chuckled. “The truth is…I’ve been doubting all this…” he waved at the temple. “…even before I was a god…” he smiled. “…or vampire. You just confirmed what I suspected.” “But I am sorry.” He nodded. “Well, let’s bath.” He sighed. “Then I will tell Nabia about all you’ve told me.” I looked at him stopping his movement. “It is love with Nabia, isn’t it?” He nodded. “Yes. She is unlike many I married…but she began falling into this sadness recently. Maybe this knowledge will help.” “And Amir?” I asked. Amasis smiled. “He’s my son. I am not responsible for his being, but…he is my son. I don’t think, I never was responsible for a child before. He is Nabia’s child. I assisted with his upbringing.” “He seems also remarkable.” I grinned. “Willie is like that for me. He is not responsible for my being, but I am seeing him as a father now.” Amasis and I began walking back to the others and the bath. “He’s very loyal to you.” I said. Amasis chuckled. “There were others with children that I married. I loved all of them. Amir is the last one that joined me as family.” He nodded. “I promoted him because he was Nabia’s child at first, but he earned his rank and place in the guard.” Getting back to the communal bath, I saw Mark and Stan in the bath with the others. Mark looked at me and his eyes widened. “You are a vampire.” I nodded. “I have been a while.” I chuckled. I smiled at Colin. “I’ll be returning back with the rest of you tomorrow. I’m going on the serum again.” Colin let out a breath of relieve. “Good.” Then he shook his head. “You know what you’re in for.” I nodded as I began pulling my clothes off. “I do.” I waved at Amasis. “Stan, Mark…” I began. “This is Amasis. He is Pharaoh here.” Stan also was looking surprised. “THE Amasis?” I nodded. “THE Amasis.” Stan started to rise. Mark held him back. “What are you doing?” “He’s Pharaoh. Royalty. It’s respectful to rise.” Stab said not understanding why Mark didn’t see that. “Showing your wiener is not that much a sign of respect.” Mark shot back reminding Stan. Stan looked down. “Oh, you’re right.” He settled back again. I chuckled at them. Getting in the water, I liked the warmth. The moisture just didn’t go into me like before. Colin watched me. I nodded at Colin. “I found the scroll that tells about the Old Ones.” I said quietly. “The ones we called the Others.” Colin nodded. “They’re here? These Others?” “Amasis said he destroyed them as he found them, but they started here.” I said. “Apparently, they are the creation of a man that used chemicals to create them with the help of some pregnant women; created as an army.” I frowned. “The language it’s written in I don’t recognize.” I chuckled. “Few are, but Amasis said he himself took several hundred years to understand. I’d like Stan to scan it to Buddy. Then with the resources Buddy can use, maybe come up with a more understanding about what’s there. Amasis will help.” Colin looked at Amasis. “How is he?” I smiled looking at him. “It was easier than I hoped.” I grinned at Colin. “We just confirmed what he had started to suspect before we got here.” I nodded. “He’ll be fine.” I looked up. “George.” I called lightly. George looked over at me. “Yes.” “We’ve never done the serum with someone that’s lived as long as Amasis. Do you think it will be different?” George shook his head. “The thing about the venom is that it keeps the body sort of in stasis. All his organs have been maintained, it should be the same.” He smiled at Amasis who was in enjoying the warm water. “We’ll have to see.” The next sunset, I woke again with that raging hunger. I wanted it gone! They couldn’t get the blood to me fast enough, but I got it. I finished the blood with Amasis in the room as well as Nabia. “Okay.” I said as the hunger went away after I consumed it. “What or whose blood was this?” Amasis smiled. “Pretty much what we have the most of; sheep and occasionally camel.” Colin shook his head. “It sucks to be a camel here.” I looked at Colin amused. “Is it better to be a cow or chicken for us?” He grinned. “I’m just not used to camels being on the menu.” I saw George come in with the serum and syringe. “Here we go.” I sighed and got on a large pillow for the insertion of serum. I looked at Amasis and Nabia. “This will hurt me.” I said. “It will hurt a lot, but the results is freedom. You’ll be able to leave these spaces below.” Nabia was smiling at that idea, almost excited. Amasis was nodding and just waited. Okay, it hurt. It was like having a heart attack that never stopped. Sarah and Mom said it was like having a baby that the labor just went on and on. I noticed that Nabia was not as excited as before, and Amasis was now looking concerned. Whether it was about me or realizing that he would have to suffer the same as I would…I didn’t know. Both? It just seemed to never end! I knew what was happening. I knew it was starting my heart again. When it finally ebbed away, I just passed out. I woke up with Colin looking at me concerned. He knew about this as well as I did; better having done it several times now, but the concern was on his face. “There he is.” Colin smiled leaning in kissing me. “There’s my Devon.” “Were they upset?” I asked. He gave the shrug and nod. “Nabia didn’t wait for all of it, but Amasis stayed the whole time until you were asleep.” I sat up kissing him gently. “I’m not sorry I did what I did.” Colin nodded and kissed me to stop me. “I know why you did it.” He pulled me in an embrace. “I love you, Devon. You love everyone.” I smiled. “I try.” I ran a hand over his chest. “Some, more than others.” He grinned. “I hope so, you married me.” What can I say? The old me was coming back. “Who said I was talking about you? Every day I get with very handsome naked men for an hour or two. Who said it was you?” Colin nodded, grinning. “Oh, so I was right. You are attracted to Amasis.” I shook my head. “No, I prefer Wayne.” “Wayne!?” “There’s also Alex and Willie!” “They’re all straight!” Colin pointed out. “Are they really? You yourself said the gender issue wasn’t the same after a while.” “One is now your father! I introduced you!” I chuckled and I put my arms around him. “You know how I am with older men.” I was being forced down on my back as he kissed more and deeper. “Tell me again how much you love me.” Colin grinned. “I love you.” I shook my head. “No, not in words.” Colin nodded. “Oh.” He smiled. “You want me.” I nodded. “Very much.” The computer and equipment we had were checked for tracking devices or signals. The computer was brought from Amir’s village. The problem now was power. Amir had a generator for his little setup, but we needed more power. The solar chargers were good for laptops, scanners and translators, but this part of Buddy required a lot more. Our portable equipment had satellite capabilities and we used that for now. It was just slower. We had to bring more power here to get the connection we needed for Buddy. I again took the next dose of serum and again…PAIN!! Nabia again, didn’t stay to watch me suffer. Amasis did. After that second dose and another sunset, Amasis smiled at what he saw in me. “I sense you are becoming more like you were before…when you first arrived.” I nodded and patted George on the arm. “Thanks to this great guy, it just hurts a few days. Soon, I’ll be eating and going outside again.” Amasis frowned. “I can’t even remember eating.” I smiled at Colin. “Some of us never forgot.” I patted Colin’s stomach. “Yea, well…” Colin smiled. “I use it.” He shrugged. “It tastes good!” Stan was beginning to scan the scrolls; the one Amasis pointed out was the scroll that told of the Old Ones was first. Age had made the scrolls brittle, but they were occasionally read, so not too bad. Amasis began translating what he thought was in the old scroll in the old language. Buddy was having a difficult time matching English word to this old language, but also coming up with a database to form for making translations. It was the usual amount days later and I had a disc made to put in my arm. Amasis watched intently. The Egyptians knew surgery and had it done occasionally, but never had he seen it like this. What fascinated him were all the devices we used. I waved Amasis over. “Okay, I’m going to show you another of our magic things with science.” I opened the laptop and his eyes grew when he saw the screen and images move. He reached out to touch, then was afraid to. “How…I don’t…” I nodded. “I’ll show you.” I smiled. “But I’ve got a ways to go to get you to understand. Be patient.” Amasis chuckled. “I learned patience, believe me.” Then he looked at me. “When can I go on this serum?” I smiled. “As soon as you asked for it.” Amasis nodded and smiled. “I’m asking for it.” He chuckled. “And I want to learn English.” I laughed. “Slow down, man. One thing at a time.” Amasis smiled and waggled his eyebrows. “Now, I’m impatient.”
  15. 39 likes
    Daniel was eagerly awaiting Raymond's arrival. While he understood the need for security. Still, he was not fond of having strangers in his home. Especially, the first time he actually had a sleepover with a lover. Plus, he resented the idea, just a little, that he couldn't keep Raymond safe. The lover's had discussed this at length during Raymond's return flight and agreed they would accede to Ilya’s threat assessment. By the time Raymond physically showed up, dinner was well underway. The chicken was in the oven. The potatoes were ready to join the chicken. Bacon was frying to provide the hot grease for the wilted salad. The tiramisu/coffee ice cream dessert had just been slipped into the freezer to chill. Raymond was greeted with an enthusiastic embrace accompanied by a toe curling kiss. He presented his host with the wine for dinner. Daniel accepted the wine and grinned at his lover's shock at such a blatant display of affection. “I may keep myself in check in public, but I’ll be damned if I hide my feelings inside my own home.” As he made his declaration, he acknowledged both bodyguards with a steady, challenging gaze. Raymond introduced everybody and assured Daniel,that his men were accepting and discreet. Once firm handshakes were exchanged, and he felt he had established his “king of his castle” role, Daniel immediately relaxed and became the affable host. To their credit, the bodyguards tried to be as unobtrusive as possible. They set up in the spare bedroom and arranged for their own dinner. They were either in the bedroom or outside. Daniel was again impressed with the professionalism of Ilya's security forces. Raymond followed Daniel into the kitchen where he immediately washed his hands and asked what he could do to help. Daniel was draining the bacon and suggested they relax in the living room with a drink. After a short discussion they sat on the sofa with Blue Saffire martinis over ice. Daniel set up the drinks with three olives on a toothpick. He explained the first was to be eaten before the first sip, the second mid drink and the last after only the ice was left. Raymond argued that the olives were a holdover from a time when gin tasted like paint thinner with cloves. The newer, more subtle flavors did not require such affectations to make it palatable. With drinks in hand they moved back into the kitchen. Raymond expressed an interest in seeing the rest of the house since it was the first “modular” home he recalled ever being in. Daniel conducted the tour. He explained that it was a three bedroom house, but since the smallest served as his office he thought of it as having two bedrooms. They ended up in the master bedroom. Raymond praised the quilt and was impressed to learn that Daniels mother had made it. He asked if she would be willing to make some for his ranch house. Raymond wound up texting her phone number to his decorator Linda. He wanted the quilts to serve as the focal point of each bedroom, like a work of art. Maybe duplicating Daniel’s quilt and featuring Van Gogh’s other works. He included a picture and Linda soon replied that she liked the idea and would contact Daniel’s mother. They returned to the kitchen where they talked about Raymond’s impending parenthood. Raymond explained it would be about two weeks before they knew if his seed took and at least another four months to determine the gender. He had already told Linda to set up the nursery in neutral colors and use animal borders or some such along the walls. He explained that blue for a boy and pink for a girl was a manufacturing ploy, from the early twentieth century, intended to reduce waste and increase profits. When profits came up, Daniel decided to broach a topic that he was both curious and concerned about; the Adams family’s wealth. Daniel asked Raymond to take a seat at the kitchen/dining room table. “Raymond, I, long ago, suspected that the Adams’ had more wealth than even a large ranch could provide. They have never flaunted it or even discussed it in my presence. I never asked. That would have been rude and none of my business. But, now I feel I have a right to ask. I mean, it looks like I will be a part of their lives through my relationship with you… unless I am being presumptuous”? Raymond reached over and took Daniel's hand. “You know you have been a member of the Adams family since soon after you and Jeff met in school. The ranch was only the first source of income for the Adams family. Through profits from cattle they branched out into banking, then oil and pipelines, then real estate and now technology. In each of those endeavors they have profited greatly. The ranch, as a source of income, was eclipsed by banking profits, both of those were eclipsed by oil and pipeline profits. Technology investment returns currently exceed, by multiples, all other investment returns combined. Through puppet corporations we are invested in a variety of endeavors from personal security to food production enhancement research. I think what you really want to know is how much is the Adams family worth. Actual value fluctuates with the market, but currently they, Jeff, Uncle Joe and Aunt Mellie are worth a little over eight billion dollars. They aren't the richest family in Texas, but they are in the top ten. Daniel was stunned. He had no idea his suspicions would be borne out to this extreme. A kitchen timer went off and Daniel, still in a daze, excused himself to slide the potatoes in the oven. When he came back he had still failed to conceptualize the outrageous amount. He simply pushed it aside for later consideration. “What exactly is your job? I mean, I know you went to law school, but you didn't represent Paul so you aren't a criminal attorney. So, what do you do”? “Well, my specialty is corporate law I also have an undergraduate degree in accounting. I am a licensed CPA. As to my actual occupation… I head up a team that oversees the activities of all the diverse interests of AFT, the Adams Family Trust. It's my responsibility to ensure that all management activities are above board and all actions are in keeping with the moral and financial guidelines established by those who originally established the trust.” “And your worth? Mine is about $1400.00 in my checking account with $37,000.00 in savings and investments and nearly $130,000.00 In my retirement fund. I rent because I get a good deal and I want my first house to be on my own ranch.” “Believe me, Daniel, even as I tried to stay out of your life, Uncle Joe has insisted we keep an eye on you. He offered to aid you in attending college, but you chose the Marines instead. When you did attend college, he felt any offer of assistance he made would be viewed with a jaundiced eye and would raise too many questions. Still, he was apprised of your circumstance every thirty days from the time you left home until well… today. He was ready to help if you ever needed it whether you asked or not. Had you not been hired by the Sheriff's Office, he was prepared to offer you a position with AFT Security. AFT pays better and has better benefits.” “The only downside to that would be if something happened and we split, I would be without a lover and unemployed. I think I should stick with Sheriffin, at least until after the next election.” “Well, think about it. Between the Marines and the Sheriff's office you have the skills we need. Ilya has become a wealthy man in his own right. He speaks of retiring to a tropical island where there's no snow and no potato vodka.” This last remark got them both to chuckling. Before Daniel could remind Raymond that he had answered the question about personal wealth, a kitchen timer went off. Daniel excused himself and slipped a crusty loaf of bread into the oven. Once Daniel resumed his seat, Raymond began, “You asked about my personal wealth. The Adams Family Trust compensates its employees very well. I get paid a hefty six figure salary. Actually, much closer to seven figures. My bonuses usually total several times my salary. I should mention that when I receive a bonus, each of my team members also receive bonuses. I have invested all my bonuses and some of my salary as a mirror of Adams Family Trust investments. As a result of my employment with the Adams Family Trust, my calculated net worth is slightly more than eleven million dollars.” With that Raymond searched his lover's face. He considered offering to donate his accumulated wealth if it meant Daniel could accept his love. Raymond knew that that would not be a demand from Daniel. At least this figure was one that Daniel could conceive. Where he got lost was trying to figure out the number of times his own net worth would have to be multiplied in order for it to equal Raymond's. Suddenly, inexplicably, Daniel felt a sense of comradeship with Paul that would ordinarily take years in civilian life or at least weeks in the Corps spent facing down enemy combatants together. Daniel did a comedic double take, shake of his head. In spite of all the numbers bandied about, one thought rang crystal clear in his head, ‘a man is only worth his word’. That phrase was uttered by his father when Danny had failed to complete a promised task. Instead, he had gone off to have a good time with his friends. Even now that phrase was what he heard if he failed to keep a promise. “A man is only worth his word.” A man’s worth could not be determined by his bank account. Sure, Raymond might be able to cash a check for millions of dollars, but that didn't make him more valuable as a man, as a friend, as a mate. Daniel smiled warmly at his lover and reached over and clasped his hand. “You, Raymond Cargill Adams, are worth more than millions to me.” Before the moment could fade, another kitchen timer alarm sounded. Over dinner Daniel stepped, with trepidation, into another potential minefield. “Raymond, now that everyone knows you’re an Adams and you're Jeff's brother by blood, what does that mean as far as the family fortune goes. I mean, I don't see you filing a lawsuit. But, I don't see them denying you a share of your father’s inheritance.” Raymond lay down his fork, dabbed at his lips with his napkin and met Daniel's curious gaze. “The Adams have been my family since shortly after my father died. Jeff's father is not my father. He was my sperm donor. Had he known my mother was pregnant with his son, my life would have surely been different. He is not at fault for my being a bastard. But, in truth, no one could have loved me more than my real father did.” With a wry grin he continued, “I can't imagine suing the Adams family any more than you can conceive of eight billion dollars. Believe me I know how difficult that can be. I work with that figure almost everyday and everyday it's a challenge. Fortunately, I most often deal in fractions of the total amount. “Suing the Adams’, I would sooner be forced to piss on my father's grave. If I know Joe and Jeff they’ve been arguing to see who gives me more. In a few days, Joe will call a family meeting during which I will be brought fully into the family fold by becoming Texas’ newest billionaire. The thought alone is a little intimidating. I don't really see much change in my future. I will still do the same job, because I honestly love it. The biggest change for me is to officially change my name to Raymond Cargill Adams. That is being expedited, even as we speak. I just have to appear before the judge and swear the change is not for nefarious reasons.” Raymond sincerely complimented Daniel on each dish. After he swallowed the last of his second helping of tiramisu, he opined, “I am glad you chose this menu as the first meal you ever cooked for us. I enjoyed two helpings of every dish. That was twice as much as I should have. But, it was just so good.” “Well, I’m glad you’re pleased, but garlic chicken is hardly romantic. I’d say it's rustic at best.” “It's not the menu that makes a meal romantic, it's the people, it's the occasion, it's… definitely not the food. But here, you went and prepared a delightful feast on this most romantic of occasions. Here on the day you helped conceive my child, on the eve of the first night we spend at your place, you have prepared our first dinner together. I am glad because this menu will forever be a favorite for both of us. I will never, again, have a wilted salad or garlic chicken or those lemon potatoes or tiramisu without remembering the man who so lovingly prepared it for me. I enjoyed this meal so much I can't wait to share it with you again. I certainly hope I don't have to wait for an anniversary. I could eat this every week… make that once a month. My waistline would reflect how much I love this meal if you served it more than once a month.” “Tsk, tsk, tsk, You are being loquacious. All that just to get out of helping with the dishes. Ok. You win.” In a falsetto that would make Scarlet cringe, “I am moved and flattered by your charm and eloquence, Sir. You may retire to the living room while I do the dishes. I won’t be long. You can watch that new fangled TV while you wait.” As Daniel stood to gather the dishes, Raymond scooted back his chair and pulled the big man into his lap. “You know that girly talk doesn't do a damn thing for me. On the other hand, give me a man that talks dirty to me while I Jack off and then cooks me meal fit for a king and I will gladly dance through the flaming gates of hell just to lie close to this sweet man.” Daniel melted into Raymond's soulful kiss. For a few moments, the rest of the world and the dirty dishes were forgotten. Eventually, they cleaned the kitchen together. MEANWHILE…. “Who’s John”? “Get dressed and I’ll show you.” They gathered their clothes about them and hustled back into the warm bedroom. Jeff’s face flushed red as he pointed to the portrait of the smaller cowboy, “That's “John”, John Grant. I told you, I used to come in here when my folks were out of town and fantasize about them having sex with each other and with me. That's where the “porch sex” fantasy came from.” Paul pulled his still blushing lover close and murmured, “I can't be jealous of a hundred year old ghost. Besides, I may come up with a few cowboy fantasies of my own.” He punctuated that remark with a quick kiss. “Now, let's get a shower. I need to talk to everyone here and I don't need your cum leaking out of my ass to distract me.” After a not so quick shower, during which some mutual washing, kissing and caressing went on, they dressed and went to meet their housemates. Paul insisted everyone gather in the family room. Once everyone was seated he began, “This morning, I was not at my best. I was emotionally withdrawn and feeling pretty sorry for myself. I was rude to all of you, collectively and individually. Some definitely more than others, but I am embarrassed by my behavior toward all of you. I want you to know that I am publicly apologizing for my pissy assed attitude. If I behave like a jerk again, I hope you all won't hesitate to call me on it. I know we are not family, but we have been through a lot and I know I speak for Jeff when I say, each of you matter to us more than just as a respected employee. I would be proud to acknowledge people of your caliber, any one of you, as blood kin. Thanks for listening.” Rosarita was the first to speak. “Paul, no one really expects you to be as perfect as Jeff thinks you are. He’s the only one you got buffaloed. We all have bad days and if your behavior today is as bad as it gets for you… well, everyone around you is pretty lucky. When I have a bad day, I try to share the wealth. I cuss and shout and throw things. The last thing I want to see is a smiling face when I’m in a bad mood.” Fred snickered and nodded his head in agreement. Rosarita blushed and continued, “That reminds me. You guys need a cook/ housekeeper/ nanny. I think you should consider Fred. I didn't tell him I was going to speak to you two, but I am. Now, I figure, is as good a time as any. Fred would be a great choice. He has formal training as a chef. He is the oldest of ten children and served as a built in babysitter since before he could do long division. He already gets along great with Maria and everyone here. You wouldn't have to worry about bringing in a stranger who might not fit in. He can cook and manage the household plus provide personal protection for the Princess. Also, if you hire him I could come visit during holidays and breaks.” As the last sentence was uttered, she stared into Fred’s eyes as if unsure she would be welcomed by the one she really wanted to visit. His warm smile reassured her. Paul shifted his glance from Rosarita to Fred and finally to Jeff. Jeff stood beside Paul. “Fred if that is something you are interested in getting more information about, hang around for a bit and we can discuss the duties and expectations and compensation. While we are on the subject of security detail. Sam and Dave and Fred, you are to consider yourselves as permanently assigned to Paul, Maria and myself as our personal security team. Nothing really changes as far as your position, seniority in the company or your responsibilities are concerned. You will receive a fifteen percent increase in pay effective immediately. Sam as senior team member, you will coordinate all scheduling of days off, vacation and sick leave so we have continuous coverage. You will continue to answer to Ilya and coordinate with Tink. Are there any questions”? No one was surprised when Fred held back as the others resumed their duties. In the ensuing discussion Fred confirmed all that Rosarita had shared. He grew up in a devout Mormon family, on a ranch, in Utah. His parents accepted that he refused to serve on a mission. He was close to finishing his degree when funds ran out. That meant that his parents found out he had a roommate sharing his one bedroom apartment. Worse yet, his roommate was a female who also shared his bed. He joined the Marines and once he decided not to reenlist a buddy suggested he contact AFT Security. The rest as they say is history. By the time the interview was over, Maria had a new “manny”. When Jeff called “Grandma” Mellie to say they were coming by to pick up Maria, Grandma insisted they plan on staying for supper. Once properly greeted, Jeff and Paul were led into Joe’s office where Ilya and Tink were already seated at the conference table. Joe explained. “What we are about to share is sensitive information. Normally I would have included Raymond and Daniel in this meeting, but Raymond is on a social call and Daniel is likewise engaged.” At this, Tink giggled unashamedly. Joe, grinned, cleared his throat and continued, “They will be briefed in the morning. We have learned that Deputy Jones, the man that refused to arrest Raymond's mother and whom Daniel fired, has suddenly acquired funds to hire a professional campaign staff in order to seek the office of Sheriff. Further, he has hired a local attorney, Sam McMurtry, to represent him in getting the county commissioners to authorize a special election. All indications are the special election is a done deal. McMurtry has been to visit the incarcerated mayor and apparently the mayor has agreed to resign “to demonstrate his concern for the city he holds dear in his heart”. This clears the way for the city to piggyback onto the county’s special election as an ostensibly cost saving measure. Now, the question is, who is their candidate for mayor?
  16. 39 likes
    TJ Chapter 5 Josh and I went into the house through the garage. Robert was in the living room waiting for us, along with a man with dark hair, wearing a black suit. As we approached he said, “Hello Josh. And you must be TJ. Both Robert and my daughter have told me quite a bit about you.” Robert must have seen the puzzlement on my face. “Teej, this is Patrick Landrum, my, well our, lawyer.” “It’s a pleasure to meet you, sir,” I responded while extending my hand. He gripped my hand firmly. “I hear you and my daughter are quite alike. At least, according to Alex.” I smiled. “Jenny is becoming one of my best friends. We do tend to finish each other’s sentences.” He turned to Robert and chuckled. “You have your work cut out for you then.” Robert smiled and nodded. “Don’t I know it. Let’s all have a seat and get this conversation out of the way.” Mr. Landrum took over. “I’ve done some research today. It appears Mel contacted CPS this morning claiming her son was in danger. She told them her ex-husband was not allowing her to see nor speak to her son. She said this was an unsafe household because Robert allowed teenage homosexuals to spend the night together, and that Robert had a history of child abandonment. Luckily, the case went before Judge Hebert. When he saw that the requested court order was to remove Josh from Robert’s home, he denied it. He then told the case-worker if anyone needed to be investigated for child abandonment, it was Mel.” Josh whispered to me, “Judge Hebert is Mike’s dad.” Okay, that made a little more sense now. Oh, by the way, I had to look up how to spell Hebert because down here, they pronounce it A-Bear. Mr. Landrum continued. “She has now filed for sole custody, claiming that she had wanted custody three years ago, but felt threatened and was ‘bullied’ into giving Robert. If this case went before Judge Hebert, he would recuse himself more than likely. That would put the case up for Judge Gough. Her track record is par for the coarse for Texas family courts; nine times out of ten, the ruling automatically favors the mother regardless of past circumstances. Hopefully I can get it knocked to mediation.” My anger had been stewing since he said the word homosexual. “How the hell does she know that there were teenage homosexuals spending the night together? Is she spying on us now?” Robert placed his hand on my shoulder. “Calm down Teej. That’s what I wondered too. I haven’t noticed anyone around the neighborhood, but I wasn’t looking for anyone. Yesterday was the first time I’ve talked to her in three years. I’m not sure where she went after the divorce. I honestly didn’t care. Her dad died when she was young and her mother didn’t handle it well. She was in and out of family and foster homes till she turned eighteen. I think that’s part of the reason she never liked you Teej. She was jealous you had someone there to take care of you. Anyways, she mentioned some aunts and uncles that would take care of her short term, but her mother never gave up parental rights and no one ever fought to keep her.” I will never admit this out loud to a single living soul. For about three-tenths of a second, I almost felt sorry for Mel. I shook my head and quickly squashed that line of thought. I reminded myself of every hateful thing she had ever said or did to me. When I thought about her spying on Sean and me, I was pissed again. “Is there a way to keep her from spying on us?” “Until we have proof that she is spying on y’all, not really. We don’t know if she’s working alone on this, or if someone is helping her. We lucked out this morning. Now, it’s my job to get this case kicked to mediation or thrown out completely. Don’t get your hopes up about the latter happening. This is Texas and the state favors the mother. However, there is a good chance of this going to mediation, since most custody cases do.” We talked for about another forty-five minutes. Mr. Landrum was just getting ready to leave when the doorbell rang. I looked at the time and smiled. I jumped up and ran to the door hoping to see my boyfriend. There were four faces waiting for me on the other side of the door. “Hey y’all, come in. Jenny, I guess you know your dad is here huh?” Sean, Jenny, Alex, and surprisingly, Kevin entered the house. Jenny went and hugged her dad while Sean pulled me into a hug. “How did practice go? Is everything okay?” “It went as well as can be expected. A few of the guys started saying some things, but once Coach said that I was still the starting quarterback and still team captain, and if they didn’t like it, they needed to rethink playing football this year, they quieted down. Well, at least vocally. I think I’ve made Kevin’s job a little harder this season.” Sean nodded towards Kevin, who just smiled. “If anyone on the defense’s side wants to get to your boyfriend, they’ll have to come through me. Well, at least my side of the offensive line. The other guard might be a problem.” I swear Sean glared at Kevin for like half a second. “Don’t worry about Smith, he’ll do his job if he wants to keep playing.” The concern must have shown on my face, because Sean kissed my cheek and said, “Don’t worry about me Teej, I’ll be fine.” Mr. Landrum walked into the foyer. “Hello Sean, Kevin, how are y’all doing?” Sean broke our hug and stepped over to shake hands with Jenny’s dad. “Hello Mr. Landrum, sir.” Robert came into the foyer and was surprised to see it full of people by the look on his face. “I didn’t know we were having a party. Y’all come on in.” He noticed Kevin and got a little apprehensive. “Kevin, I didn’t expect to see you.” I answered Robert’s unasked question. “It’s okay, Robert. He doesn’t like his cousin much right now either.” Kevin chuckled a little. “Yeah, I met TJ in Government today and then we had Physics together. Plus, I guess I kinda came out at practice today, so she probably isn’t going to like me sitting at the ‘gay table’ tomorrow at lunch.” Jenny scoffed. “Nobody cares what that bitch-faced whore thinks anyway.” Mr. Landrum looked at her sternly. “Jennifer Martha Landrum.” She honestly looked sorry for what she said. “Sorry, Daddy.” As we all entered the living room I walked up next to Kevin. “I didn’t think you were ready for everyone to know. What happened?” “When some of the other players started talking shit, before Coach said anything, I just couldn’t sit there and listen to those fuckheads. Oh sorry Mr. Kennedy, Mr. Landrum.” Mr. Landrum laughed. “It’s alright Kevin. You know who my daughter is, correct?” Robert spoke up. “I’m sure if you’ve been around TJ for longer than ten minutes, you know he has a mouth like a sailor.” “Hey, that’s not true. I don’t say shit like that all the time.” That earned me a slap on the back of the head from Robert. “Hey watch the head. You don’t want to give me a concussion, do you?” I felt Sean tense up next to me. Before I could ask him about it, Mr. Landrum announced, “I quit billing you for the hour ten minutes ago, Robert. It’s costing me money standing here. Jenny, don’t stay too late. You still need to take Alex home and get home yourself for dinner and homework.” “Y’all are welcome to hang out for a little while. If you need anything, I’ll be in my office. Y’all behave,” Robert announced on his way back from the front door. “What could we possibly do to misbehave? We’re just sitting here Dad,” Josh asked innocently. “Yeah Sean and Teej are sitting here. Alex and Jenny are sitting there. You and … never mind. That’s not going to happen.” Both Kevin and Josh turned tomato red. It was kinda cute. They were sitting next to each other, neither one relaxing. They kept failing when they tried to sneak glances at the other when they thought nobody was looking. I told Kevin we needed to find him a boyfriend, but I wasn’t sure about him dating my baby brother. Come on, this is Josh I’m talking about here. I don’t think God would even be good enough to deserve my brother. Besides, Kevin is like almost a foot taller than Josh and outweighs him by at least a hundred pounds! I think I agree with Robert. It’s not going to happen. (I had a feeling it so was going to happen). The six of us sat around talking until about 6:30 when Alex and Jenny left. Sean whispered in my ear. “Let’s go to your room for a bit. I think I need help with ummm the English assignment.” God, I so wanted to spend some alone time with Sean, but I didn’t want to leave Kevin hanging out with Josh and it would be rude to kick him out. (Which I would never do to a friend). Sean kissed my neck. He could sense my hesitation. His lips came back to my ear. “Don’t worry about Kevin. Josh will keep him entertained for a few minutes. Look at them; they’re getting along fine.” I looked over to where they were sitting. They had both relaxed finally and settled into a friendly conversation. They weren’t flirting, just talking about random shit. I stood up and offered my hand to Sean. “Sean needs me to help with his English assignment. We’ll be back in a few minutes.” Josh snickered and Kevin smirked. “Uh huh English assignment. Didn’t you tell me on the way over here you didn’t have any homework tonight, McNair?” “Shut it. So what if I want to make out with my boyfriend.” Sean paused when we got to the hallway. “Hey Wilson, why don’t you grow a pair and ask Josh out? You said he was your type on the way here.” Josh stared at Kevin with his mouth hanging slightly open. Kevin stammered, “I..I..I umm well screw you McNair. I was getting to it.” He looked expectantly at Josh, who just grinned in return. I grabbed my boyfriend’s hand and led him to my room. I dragged him in and closed the door behind us. “You did not just hook my baby brother up with that Neanderthal, did you? He’ll break Josh.” “Kevin is one of the nicest guys I know. He won’t break Josh’s heart. I promise. I told him I’d kick his ass into next week if he did.” “No, you don’t understand. Kevin will break him, physically. Look how massive he is and how small Joshy is.” Sean laughed loudly. “Really? Kevin is a gentle giant. I promise you, your baby brother will be safe. Now, come here and help me with this English assignment.” He pulled me towards him and pressed his lips to mine. Just as the kiss was getting good, there was a knock on my door. Robert’s voice carried into the room. “Knock it off you two. If this door isn’t open in thirty seconds, I will remove it from the hinges.” I pulled away enough to yell back. “I’m helping Sean with an English assignment.” “Uh huh. That’s why you have thirty seconds to finish up and get out here.” Believe me when I tell you, we made the absolute most of those thirty seconds. In fact, I opened the door still attached to his lips. Robert was standing there and just chuckled. “Besides, who’s entertaining y’alls friend in the living room?” Realization dawned on him. When he quickly headed to the living room, Sean and I followed. We walked in to find Kevin and Josh still sitting next to each other, talking. The only difference was, they were now holding hands. I couldn’t stop the laugh resulting from my mental image from escaping. Everyone looked at me like I had lost my mind. “All I’m saying is Chihuahua and Rottweiler.” Sean was the first to laugh, followed quickly by Robert. Josh looked confused for a second then glared at me while Kevin once again turned his favorite shade of red. Robert headed to the kitchen. “Sean and Kevin, y’all can stay for dinner if it’s okay with your parents. If not, I’m not kicking y’all out because y’all are always welcome here, but go on home and get some rest.” Kevin glanced at Sean and he looked almost scared. “Sean...” He started choking up and his eyes filled with tears. Robert went into assistant principal mode automatically. “What’s wrong Kevin? You know you can talk to me, right?” Kevin sat there and started wiping tears from his eyes. Sean went to him and sat on the arm of the loveseat and patted his shoulders. Josh never let go of his hand. That’s when I heard Robert swear under his breath. “That no-good mother fucker. Ronnie told you not to go home didn’t he?” Kevin nodded. I was completely lost. “Is there something I’m missing here?” Robert spoke first. “If Kevin came out today, he can’t go home. Do you need to stay here?” Sean answered for him. “I’ve already talked to my dad and he said Kevin can stay with us as long as he needs to.” I started getting mad at this point. “Will someone please tell me what the fuck is going on? Obviously, something is going on here and I’m the only one in the dark.” Kevin took a deep breath and sighed. “Crimes against homosexuals were not hate-crimes in Texas until 2001. Well, back in 1998, there was a guy who was beat up pretty bad outside of the clubs in Beaumont. The guy was seen leaving the gay club up there and later found unconscious in an alley. The guy never remembered who attacked him. There was some evidence found that led to my dad. He was charged with Assault Causing Bodily Injury which is a Class-A Misdemeanor. He got a $4,000 fine and two years’ probation. He left the guy for dead and that’s all his punishment was. Everyone in the county knew he beat the guy up just because he was gay. Uncle Ronnie didn’t talk to him for almost four years after that. “My dad’s never hit me. He’s not an abuser, he’s just a homophobic prick. Since I came out today and this being such a small town, it won’t take long for him to find out. So, it’s best if I don’t go home. Ever.” My heart ached for Kevin. He was the bravest person I knew. He risked everything he had to stand next to Sean in front of their team. I went over to him and pulled him into a hug. I whispered to him, “Don’t worry, we’ll help you through this. And you better take good care of my brother.” I grabbed Josh and pulled him into our hug. Sean joined in the group hug. Robert cleared his throat and I glanced over at him. “Feeling left out? Want to join in our gay hug orgy?” The group hug quickly broke up with Josh smacking my arm, playfully. Sean groaned. “How can you say things like that to the assistant principal?” Kevin smiled though and that was enough for me. “I don’t know Sean, Mr. Kennedy and TJ look alike, it might be hot.” Josh turned to Kevin. “Stop right there. We are going to get a few things clear right here and now. I’m not going to date someone who thinks my dad and brother are hot.” He turned to me and continued, “I know you don’t like me thinking Sean is hot either.” He turned one last time to Sean. “Sean, sorry to say, but I’m so over you. I mean I thought you were hot, but compared to him, you’re just cute.” “I’m not hot?” “You’re dating?” “Your dad and brother?” “When did you get so damn bossy?” The responses all come out at once. We all stopped talking and laughed. Robert shook his and turned back towards the kitchen. “Kevin, could you please come speak with me while I start dinner? You three go talk in TJ’s room, please.” Kevin gave us a confident nod and hugged Josh one last time. About ten minutes later, Kevin came back to my room. “Hey guys. Sean, if you’re almost ready, I don’t want to rush you, but I’m honestly tired and your dad should be home by now.” Josh looked a little concerned, but smiled nervously. “What did my dad talk to you about? I mean you don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to. I just wanted to make sure you’re okay.” Kevin pulled Josh into another hug. I swear they were more touchy-feely than Sean and me. “He told me he didn’t want me anywhere without an adult. I’m supposed to come here with Sean after practice till Mr. McNair gets home. He also said he would take care of all the paper work for the school.” “Did he say anything about us dating?” “Nothing at all. He said that this is a safe place and I’m welcome here anytime and to not be afraid to be myself. He also explained how you and TJ are brothers.” He looked over at Sean and me. “He didn’t give details, only that he was your biological father and had you just before he graduated high school. He said you can give the details if you want. I’ll listen, I’m sure it’s an interesting story, but I don’t need to know. When you’re comfortable, I’m here for you bro.” “Thanks. Sean knows the whole story and I don’t mind if he tells you.” Kevin smiled and then looked back at Josh. “I really would like to stay and talk some more, but I’m drained. Between practice and this home shit, it took a lot out of me.” Josh stood on his tiptoes and kissed his cheek. “It’s okay. I’ll see you in the morning at school. When are you going to take me on a date?” Kevin chuckled. “Well Mr. Kennedy said Sean and I were to be here Friday after practice. He wants us showered and dressed by seven. Evidently, we’re eating dinner with someone he wants us to meet.” I looked at Sean. “Shit, I forgot to tell you. Robert is introducing us to the lady he’s dating. Dinner is here Friday night. I guess you know that part now. Sorry, I forgot to invite you earlier.” “It’s okay babe. I’ll let it slide. I guess Kevin and I should head home. I love you.” He kissed me hard and deep right in front of Josh and Kevin. When I pulled away, breathless, I was shocked at what I saw. Kevin and Josh were kissing and it was a lot more than just a peck. There was some major tongue wrestling going on there. When they finally broke apart, I noticed that Kevin had to hold Josh up. My brother’s knees were like Jell-O. Sean and I got off the bed, surreptitiously adjusting ourselves. Josh seemed to have recovered the use of his legs, barely. As he stumbled towards the front door, supported by Kevin, I couldn’t resist what came out of my mouth. “So, Josh, how was your first kiss?” Josh giggled. “Fucking mind-blowing.” “Dude, you couldn’t stand up. So, I guess you have a thing for guys who are bigger than you.” Josh laughed. “Seriously Teej. That’s not hard to accomplish.” As we got to the front door, Robert called out. “Sean, I spoke with your dad. He’s home and said for you and Kevin to head that way. Kevin, I did call Ronnie and he agrees you’re safer either here or at Jacob and Sean’s. He said your dad already called him demanding to know where you were. Ronnie asked him why and your dad said, ‘So I can kick the gay out of him.’ Ronnie let your dad know he wasn’t to come anywhere near you and refused to let him know where you’re staying. Of course, this is Port Neches-Groves we’re talking about so both towns will know by tomorrow where you’re living. Jacob is going tomorrow morning to get a restraining order placed on your dad so he can’t come near any of y’all, the school, and any school related activity. I think that about covers it.” He walked up to Kevin hugged him in a fatherly fashion. “Don’t worry son. Between Jacob, Ronnie, and myself you’ll be taken care of.” He released the hug and looked to both Kevin and Sean. “If either of my sons get hurt, I know where to find y’all at any given time. I can and will make your lives hell. Don’t let my boys get hurt in any way.” Sean smirked while Kevin looked like a deer caught in headlights. Then Robert winked at them and laughed. “Relax, Kevin. I’m joking. My boys have you two wrapped around their little fingers. I know neither of y’all would hurt them. Y’all be careful going home and call when you get there.” Sean called me about ten minutes later to let me know that they made it to the house safely. We talked for a few minutes before Robert called me back for dinner. As I sat there with Josh and Robert, I realized how lucky I am. I may have lost my parents, but now I have a dad, who I can tell truly loves me, the most wonderful brother in the world, some very good friends who have my back, and the most amazing, loving, handsomest, amazing (I know I said it twice) boyfriend in the world.
  17. 38 likes
    Chapter 26 Liam pulled up to Alek’s house with his stomach fluttering. From force of habit, he peered nervously around the neighbourhood for anyone who might see him going inside, but quickly chastised himself. This wasn’t supposed to be necessary anymore, and he needed to get past this anxiety. He turned off the car and pocketed his keys as he stepped out into the cool evening air. Taking in a deep breath, he headed up the front steps and rang the doorbell. He smiled when he heard something fall to the floor with a clatter, followed by Alek’s muttered swears. Just as he was about to ring the bell again, the door swung open and Alek stood there looking as anxious as Liam felt. “You made it.” “I confirmed with you this morning I would still be coming.” “I just wasn’t….” Alek cleared his throat. “I’m glad you came. I have everything set up in the living room.” A delicious aroma met him as he cleared the entrance. “Something smells amazing,” he commented as he removed his jacket and handed it to Alek to hang in the closet. “I made solyanka. There are even some fresh rolls to go with it.” “I thought we were going to order in?” Liam asked quizzically, tilting his head to one side. “I wanted to make you something….” Alek cleared his throat again. The flush of color brightening his cheeks was adorable. “I wanted to do something special for you.” Before he could second guess himself Liam stepped forward, gripped a strong bicep, and placed a gentle kiss against Alek’s lips. “I’m sure it’ll be delicious. Thank you.” “You’re welcome.” Alek’s goofy grin told him he’d done the right thing. A few minutes later Liam was leaning against Alek’s shoulder, watching the opening scenes of The Hobbit. It wasn’t Alek’s favourite movie; he was more of an action or horror kind of guy, so the fact he chose it as their first selection was touching. Before the dwarves had eaten all of Bilbo’s food, Alek had his arm around Liam’s shoulders and he was tucked tightly against a strong chest. By the time Bilbo was battling the giants, Liam had his arm around Alek’s torso, his fingertips stroking lightly over t-shirt clad muscle. Under his ear he could hear the sound of Alek’s thudding heart. Every once in a while, Alek would place a kiss against his hair and tighten his hold for a few seconds, as if assuring himself that Liam was really there. It felt so good… so right. Liam absent-mindedly moved his hand lower, enjoying the feel of hard muscle twitching under his touch. When he reached the hem of Alek’s shirt he paused for only a second before moving underneath the fabric to the soft, warm skin below. “I don’t think you want to do that,” Alek said softly, his breathing shallow. “Why not?” Liam teased, deliberately stroking along the waistband of Alek’s jeans. “Don’t be a tease,” Alek chastised, although his voice held no objection. “Am I teasing you?” Another caress along heated skin had Alek inhaling sharply before Liam found himself on his back with Alek’s heavy weight pushing him into the cushions. “You know you’re teasing,” Alek replied, nipping at his jaw. “You want me to stop?” Liam asked, breathless. “No, but you might want to stop before this goes farther than you’re ready for.” “What if I want this? Want you?” Alek’s breath hitched and his hips pressed down, providing the friction Liam wanted. “You wanted to take things slow….” “I can’t change my mind?” The delicious weight moved away abruptly as Alek retreated to the far side of the couch, breathing heavily. Judging by the large bulge in Alek’s jeans, Liam wasn’t the only one affected by what they were doing. “Alek?” “I don’t want to ruin this.” “You won’t. I’m the one who’s asking.” Alek shook his head, meeting Liam’s gaze with his troubled one. “You might regret moving too quickly, and resent me. I can’t… I can’t handle you hating me again.” The fear in Alek’s eyes made Liam’s heart break. The man was clearly terrified to make a mistake with him. Sitting up, he moved slowly to Alek’s side, and lay his head on a broad shoulder. “Okay. We can slow down. I want you, but you’re right. We need to do things properly this time around.” Liam felt an arm pull him close. “I want you too,” Alek said softly. “I hope you don’t think I don’t.” “Don’t worry. I can see how much you want me,” Liam teased, trying to lighten the mood. Alek’s laugh was strained, but it was a laugh. Satisfied they were back on the right track, Liam sighed happily and turned his attention back to the movie. As soon as the closing credits started to roll, Alek stood and stretched his arms over his head, revealing a tantalizing strip of skin. Liam closed his eyes, trying to remember his promise to be good and take their time, even though his instincts were telling him to explore more of that skin. “I don’t know about you, but I’m starving. Are you ready for dinner?” Alek looked down at him expectantly. Knowing how nervous he was about preparing him dinner that didn’t come out of a box, Liam smiled and nodded enthusiastically. “I’ve been wanting to try whatever smells so damned good since I got here.” The bigger man reached down with a work-roughened hand and pulled Liam to his feet. “Come on. I have everything set up in the kitchen.” Eagerly, Liam followed behind, taking in the spectacular view of Alek’s well-muscled ass. The smell of food got stronger as they rounded the corner to the large open area that served as the kitchen and dining room. Alek had remodeled the home after he’d purchased it, and this was one of Liam’s favourite places in the house, with the exception of the master bedroom’s huge ensuite bath. “I’m getting hungrier by the second,” Liam enthused before noticing that the dining room table had been set, complete with silverware, wine glasses, and candles. “Wow,” was the only word his brain could come up with as he took everything in. “Sit,” Alek said, pulling out a chair. Liam dutifully sat. “I’ll be right back.” With a soft smile, Liam watched as Alek bustled around his kitchen, ladling bowls of soup and bringing them to the table before hurrying away again to grab a basket of fresh rolls. It was simple fare, but appeared hearty and smelled delicious. “This all looks great,” Liam commented, inhaling the mouth-watering steam wafting up from the bowl. “I know it’s not much,” Alek started before Liam cut him off with a finger to his lips. “Everything looks great,” he assured. “I’m sure it tastes just as good.” After a deep breath Alek nodded and smiled. “Dig in.” Liam tasted the first spoonful of soup and nearly moaned in enjoyment. He was a big fan of hot and sour soup, and this tasted like a version of one of his favourite dishes. “This is incredible, Alek. What did you say it was called again?” “Solyanka. It’s a Russian dish my mom used to make for us all the time. It’s not as good as hers, but I didn’t….” He cleared his throat. “I don’t have her recipe.” With a gentle smile, Liam reached across the table and grasped Alek’s hand. “This is one of the best things I’ve ever had. I can’t believe you can cook like this.” Alek’s returned smile appeared grateful. “I don’t really cook. This recipe took a lot of searching, and you don’t even want to know what this kitchen looked like before you got here. It looked like something exploded all over me and the counters.” Liam laughed, imagining the scene. “You did a great job cleaning,” he remarked, looking over into the other room. Alek grinned, and his eyes twinkled with mirth. “It’s amazing the places you will find flour, even if you’re fully clothed.” That comment had Liam laughing hysterically and Alek’s muttered ‘seriously, how does it get way the hell down there?’ had tears forming in Liam’s eyes as he tried to catch his breath. Dinner was fun and romantic, and if the rolls were a little tough, Liam would have rather died than admit it to the man who’d worked so hard to impress him. By the time he finished his second bowl of soup, he was stuffed. “You know,” he said as he patted his stomach, “now that I know you can cook, we’re going to have to do this more often.” Alek chuckled as he rose to clear the dishes. “You realize this is probably the only thing I’ve actually made successfully? Well… except for omelets. I can make a decent omelet.” “Then you’ll have to make me breakfast sometime,” Liam teased with a wink, before helping clear the table. “You don’t have to do that,” Alek protested when Liam approached with the wine glasses and bread basket. “Why don’t you go relax in the other room while I finish up here?” “You made dinner. The least I can do is help you clean up after.” “I wanted to do this for you.” “And you have. I’m really touched. Now pass me a towel.” With an exasperated sigh, Alek did as asked, and they made short work of the remaining mess. Liam enjoyed just standing beside the man, feeling his warmth radiating across the short distance between them. As they worked, they joked and teased about movies Alek had convinced Liam to watch over the months they’d dated, bumping shoulders and hips as they happily finished their chores. Once the kitchen was spotless and the candles extinguished, they made their way back to the living room for their next movie. “Alek?” “Yeah?” “Do you think we could maybe go for a walk before we watch the next movie? I’m so stuffed that I’m sleepy, and a walk might wake me up a bit.” He waited nervously, wondering how the man would feel about being out in the neighbourhood with him. He really should not have worried. “A walk? Sure. That sounds nice, actually. I’ve been cooped up in the house all day, so some fresh air would be great.” They donned their jackets and headed out in the cold air. It was early in the evening, and while darkness didn’t descend as quickly as it did in the dead of winter, it was still dark outside. The streetlights glimmered along the quiet road, lighting their path as they slowly walked along the sidewalk. “This is a beautiful neighbourhood,” Liam commented as he looked around at the houses they passed. It was an older section of town, but the homes were obviously well cared for. “I liked the area as soon as the realtor showed me the place.” “I remember you saying it needed a lot of work.” Alek nodded, and Liam was surprised when a warm hand engulfed his. He looked up, but Alek was concentrating on the path ahead of them with a small smile on his face “The people who owned it before me must have planned to renovate because the inside of the place was demoed. They tore into walls, and had most of the kitchen cabinets torn out.” “Oh wow. I hope the cabinets weren’t original to the building?” “No, I don’t think so. They looked like a cheap stock product they tried to fit into the space.” As they walked, Alek told him more about the renovations he’d completed, and what he still wanted to do. From a distance, Liam saw a figure round the corner, heading directly towards them. He tried to pull his hand free so Alek didn’t have to feel uncomfortable in front of one of his neighbours, but the hold was tightened. “There’s someone coming this way.” Liam whispered, and tried to pull away again. “I know,” Alek replied. “I see them.” Liam looked up to see that Alek’s smile was still in place. “Okay. If you’re sure.” Alek squeezed his hand again and then continued to talk about the house and ideas he still wanted to implement. The other walker, an older gentleman, smiled as he neared them. His smile of greeting faded for a moment as he took in their entwined fingers. For a brief moment Liam wondered if there would be trouble, but the gentleman’s face cleared and the smile reappeared as he passed with a nod. The entire time Alek’s own smile never wavered, and his grip on Liam’s hand was firm and comforting. Letting out the breath he’d been holding, Liam leaned into his boyfriend and wrapped an arm around him. “I think I’m ready now.”
  18. 38 likes
    I knew that I was in trouble; big trouble. I wasn’t even supposed to be outdoors, let alone on my own and trying to cross something that resembled an assault course. I was meant to be convalescing from a serious head injury, barely two weeks out of a life threatening coma. The doctors had only discharged me early on the proviso that I was to rest at home under supervision. This was hardly the rest that they had ordered; if anything, it was the complete opposite. It had stopped raining, but the undulating dirt trail was still muddy and covered in puddles that looked almost as deep as the tiny stream which it followed. It had crossed my mind that I may have been putting my life at risk, but there was no way that I would consider turning back. I had already decided that I would never willingly go back there, not ever! I would have preferred to be dead than set foot in that house again and suddenly that scenario didn’t seem like such a terrible prospect. The small creek was part of a nature trail that ran across the northern edge of the town before winding its way down to the lake. It was heavily wooded with a dirt path that ran alongside the stream and a number of unofficial shortcuts heading in different directions. If you knew which one to take, it was the quickest way of getting across town by foot, but the thick foliage and uneven ground made them difficult to navigate. I had already tripped over once before slipping as tried to negotiate a steep bank and falling on my backside. In my panic, I had taken the wrong route, so I wiped my muddied hands on my bright green shorts and jumped across a puddle before climbing back up the embankment to rejoin the main pathway. ‘If the doctors at the hospital could see me now they would go totally ape-shit’. My arms and legs were already aching and covered in mud and scratches. After setting such a gruelling pace, I was exhausted, but still too frightened to stop. It was unlikely that anyone would try to follow me by foot, but there was no room in my head for reasonable thought or common sense and I was certain that I was being chased. I could still see Don’s face in front of me, filled with hatred. He had scared me more than I would ever admit, and I was still shaking with fear and fighting back tears even half-an-hour later. I never wanted to see him again; I was absolutely sure of it. I had tried everything that I could to placate him, but he just wouldn’t leave me alone, he kept coming at me like a wild dog, again and again until I inevitably lashed out. He would probably use my words against me to prove how unruly I was when it was him who had goaded me into retaliating. I didn’t need to take all that abuse and I certainly didn’t deserve it. I should have left the moment he started shouting. The other thing that I regretted was not punching Daniel on the way out. It had actually flashed through my mind at the time as I pushed him out of the way, but I held back. I suppose that it wasn’t really me. I was never a fighter, I only pretended in England to keep the bullies at bay. I preferred loving to fighting and if I was going to land anything on a boy’s face it was always more likely to be a kiss than a punch. I couldn’t understand how this could make me such a bad person or why I should feel ashamed for wanting to love someone like Nathan, simply because he was a boy. The trail was usually popular with dog walkers and kids, but that morning, the poor weather and muddy conditions must have kept most of them away, and it was a while before I stumbled across anyone else. I saw two boys walking towards me in baseball caps then, as I got closer, one of them recognised me from school and stopped me to say hello. He was a friend of Daniel and was surprised to see me, assuming that I would still be in the hospital. He asked me if I was okay but I told him that I was in a hurry before walking away. Their eyes told me that I looked every bit as bad as I felt. I was obviously attracting attention straight away and it made me realise how futile it would be to stay local. I was sure to be found; Cobourg was a small community and Don knew everyone in it. If I stayed in that town I would be discovered within a few hours and handed back by the police, who were, after all, his buddies. There was no one who I could think of that I could turn to for help who would have been prepared to hide me and lie to Don or the police when they called. The only solution was to leave Cobourg for a place where they couldn’t find me and the obvious destination was Toronto. With over two-and-a-half million people, it was the largest city in Canada, and easily big enough for me to hide. It was seventy miles away but just over an hour by train, and I had cash and a bank card. All I had to do was make it to the station. I had heard plenty of horror stories about Toronto from some of the kids and even a few of the adults in town. Drugs, gangs, murders, robberies. Sure, it was the same with every big city, none more so than London, where I had lived in relative safety for most of my life. I wasn’t scared of a big city and foolishly considered myself streetwise, so Toronto seemed to be the best option and a place which I was sure they wouldn’t expect me to run to until it was too late. I wasn’t stupid, I had enough money in my account not to end up on the street. It would give me a chance to think things through and come up with a long term plan. A plan that would involve Nathan, because life without him wasn’t even an option anymore. That was the main reason why I couldn’t go back, no matter what. With a definite plan to follow and enough cash to implement it, I decided to head south to the train station which was less than a mile from the house. Following the creek meant that I couldn’t be spotted from the road, but it would lead me away from the centre of town so I would have to continue my journey in the open along the normal roads. It was a relief to swap the treacherous footpaths for the relative safety of the concrete sidewalk, but I felt hopelessly exposed and fearful of every car that I could see in the distance. I must have looked suspicious, and when I passed a middle-aged couple at a bus stop they stared at me as if I was something from outer space. I jogged most of the way to Division Street, which was the main road that ran through the centre of town to the beach. The train station was about halfway down and I could see the railway bridge in the distance, so I turned into one of the smaller streets that ran parallel. Avoiding the main road was a smart decision and for the first time since leaving the house, I allowed myself to relax a little as I walked along the quiet tree lined avenue with small houses and cars parked on either side. ‘I can clean myself up in the washroom at the station’. It seemed like a good plan. I would call Nathan once I was on the train, but my priority was to get out of town, before being spotted. I was determined to make Don regret every hateful word that he had hollered at me earlier that day, and this was the best way that I could think of doing it. ‘He’ll have to cancel his stupid little party tonight, that’s for sure’. I was trying to imagine what excuse he would give to the rest of the Cobourg mafia when I was plunged into a panic yet again by the sight of a police cruiser up ahead. I was sure that Don would have alerted them and they would be looking out for me. If I didn’t act fast, I was facing certain discovery and the embarrassment of being handed back within an hour of running away. There was no time to look for a place to hide, so I ran towards the closest house and jumped over a small wooden fence at the side of the garage landing in a muddy flower bed and crumpling whatever had been growing beneath me. There was more mud added to my already soiled clothing, more scratches to my legs and arms, and more tears as I watched the police car drive past, through the gaps in the fence. I had expected him to stop, certain that he would have seen me running away, so I closed my eyes, held my breath and tried to stop myself from shaking. I didn’t want to show myself too soon, in case he had stopped just out of sight. It felt as if I was stuck in a bad dream and couldn’t wake up. It was the end of the road for me; on the run and lying face down, sobbing in a flower bed at the side of a strange house. I didn’t think that it couldn’t get any worse, but it did. It felt as if I jumped a foot in the air and I was sure that my heart missed a beat or two as I heard a dog suddenly barking behind me. If I wasn’t already scared out of my wits then this certainly did it. I yelled at the top of my voice and curled up into a ball with my arms either side of my head, expecting to be mauled. “PERRY STAY!” It was a man’s voice coming from further away and although the dog was still barking, the expecting attack didn’t happen. “QUIET PERRY, BE QUIET!” I was still sobbing and shaking as I heard the man approaching behind me. Then I felt the dog’s wet nose on my leg and pulled it away before rolling onto my side to see the danger. It wasn’t what I expected. It was a small sheepdog and it didn’t look all that fierce as it obeyed its owner’s instructions and stopped barking to sit looking down at me with its tongue hanging out, panting in the humid conditions. “Who are you?” asked the owner; who was an old man with light grey hair. He looked very tall from the flower bed and understandably, I suppose, he wasn’t very happy. “Why were you hiding from the police?” He scowled at me and demanded an answer. “What have you done?” “I haven’t done anything,” I said and I stood up rubbing my leg. “You’ve destroyed my flowers for a start,” he said pointing towards them and I stepped warily onto the lawn, keeping my back against the garage wall. “I’m sorry, I’ll pay for new ones. I have money.” I reached into the pocket of my shorts and pulled out the notes that I had earlier shoved in there. I didn’t know how much was there but there were a few twenties and some fives, maybe fifty dollars. I would have happily given him all of it, knowing that I still had my debit card. “I’m calling the police,” he said. “NO!” I looked towards the fence with the intention of jumping it, and then at the dog, whose eyes were still fixed on me. “Did you just steal that money?” “What? No, it’s mine. I’m not a thief.” “Why were you running from the police then?” I shook my head. “It’s not what you think. I’m not running from the police.” “But you’re running from somebody.” “My uncle,” I mumbled. “He would have called the police and told them, but I’ve done nothing wrong.” “If you’ve done nothing wrong then you’ve got nothing to worry about then, have you?” he said, as he watched me brushing myself down. My legs were caked in mud and there was a cut just above my knee, which started to hurt the moment that I noticed it. My face was wet from tears and sweat but as I tried wiping it with my forearm, I smeared it with a layer of dirt. It seemed to amuse him briefly as he tried to contain a smile and remain angry, but I could see that this wasn’t an easy thing for him to do. My chances of getting away looked a lot better all of a sudden, but I was a real mess and there was still the dog to contend with. “Why are you running from your uncle?” he said. His voice was a lot calmer all of a sudden, but I wasn’t expecting that question and I didn’t try to answer it. “Look, I don’t mind paying for the damage to your flowers, but I have to go. I have to catch….” He nodded and there was another brief flicker of a smile as he let go of the dog’s collar. She walked over and started to lick my leg, making me flinch. “She won’t hurt you, she’s being friendly,” he said, but he must have noticed my hand shaking as I moved it slowly to stroke its head. “Why are so scared, boy? What kind of trouble are you in?” “I’m not scared,” I said but I pulled my hand back swiftly when the dog tried to lick it. “Perry, leave the poor boy alone.” “That’s an odd name for a girl,” I said, trying hard to smile. It was difficult to do and I don’t think that I pulled it off. “That’s where she comes from,” he said. “Port Perry. I got her from the animal rescue place. Nobody knew her name, so she became Perry.” It was a nice story but I wasn’t in the mood and I didn’t have time. I tried to smile hoping that he would allow me to leave and then tried to hand him some money for the damage. “I don’t want your money kid,” he said. “You’ll need it for your train fare.” “I didn’t steal it,” I said. “I’m not a thief.” “I know that,” he said looking into my eyes. I stared back at him with a little more confidence, trying to work him out. Then I patted the dog on the head again and tried to change the subject. “Does she round up sheep?” He laughed. “No, but she’s very smart. Smarter than you.” ‘Cheeky sod’. I ignored his insult. “Can I go now then?” He laughed. “If you want, but they won't let you on the train looking like that.” I followed his eyes to my muddied t-shirt, shorts, and legs. “You can use my bathroom to clean yourself up if you want?” I stood up straight and looked at him with suspicion. Once again it wasn’t what I was expecting to hear. I had just jumped into his garden, hiding from the police and destroyed his flowers, now he was offering me the use of his bathroom to clean up. He didn’t even know me. He smiled and took a few steps back. “It’s okay, you don’t have to,” he said. “I was just trying to help you, but I can understand you being cautious. It’s probably a good thing.” “Why do you wanna help me?” I said. “You don’t even know me.” “Do you have a name then?” He might have seen the panic on my face. “Yes,” I said. “London.” He laughed. “I should’ve seen that one coming. I’m guessing by your accent that’s where you come from?” “That’s right.” “And are you a stray like Perry was; they were gonna put her down, you know?” I glanced at the dog, whose eyes hadn’t left me. “I suppose you could say that.” “I thought so. It’s okay, I don’t need to know. I wouldn’t expect you to talk to a strange old man.” There was something different about this strange old man though, he was unusual but likeable. I studied his face. It was a lot friendlier than when I first saw him, but he had big bags under his eyes and slightly yellow skin. He didn’t look like a weirdo and I didn’t feel like I was in any danger of being molested by a guy who looked as if he was in his sixties either, so I decided to lower my defences a fraction. He was, after all, prepared to help, even if I couldn’t understand why. “I could do with washing my hands if you don’t mind?” He turned towards the back of his house and led me into his kitchen before pointing towards the bathroom. Then he threw me over a clean towel. “You can use this, it’s Perry’s towel.” I caught it and put it up to my face to smell it. “I’m joking with you kid. It’s clean and so is my bathroom; I want it left the same way. Understand?” I felt a little better about accepting his offer after he had laid down a few ground rules. It made me feel like I wasn’t taking advantage, even if I was. I shut and locked the door behind me, before studying my face in the mirror. ‘Shit. I look rough. No wonder everyone was staring at me’. I removed my shirt and washed my face arms and legs, then did what I could to clean my shorts. It wasn’t a big improvement but it made me feel a lot better. ‘This is so weird. I’m having a wash in a complete stranger’s bathroom. At least Don won’t be able to find me here. No one would ever find me here’. I started to panic again, as I conjured up an image of this guy forcing me into his basement at gun point. I had heard similar real-life stories on the news channels. Mostly on the American channels, but there was no reason why it couldn’t happen anywhere else. There was a loud knock on the door and for the second time, I almost jumped out of my skin. “Are you alright in there?” I was nearly hyper ventilating but other than that I was fine and I let him know, before throwing my shirt back on and taking a couple of deep breaths. The door creaked as I opened it slowly, just like they always seemed to do in the creepy horror movies that Daniel loved to watch. I was half-expecting to see ‘Freddy Kruger’ standing in front of me. There was no sign of the old man though, so I opened it all the way and stepped out into the kitchen. “I hope that you haven’t left it in a mess,” he said loudly from behind me, startling me for a third time. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you.” I hung on to the wall and swallowed hard. “Would you like a drink of something before you go, you look a little pale, or is that your usual colour?” ‘No, just when I’m petrified’. “I should be going,” I said. “Thanks anyway, for all your help and stuff.” “I’ve already poured you a Coke,” he said handing me a glass. It was cold and I was thirsty, so I gratefully accepted it and took a large gulp. “You can sit down if you want?” “It’s okay,” I said gasping as I stood next to his kitchen table, taking quick, large mouthfuls of the cold drink. “You were thirsty; do you want some more?” I was sure that he was trying to hold me up, but my body was craving more and I handed him back the glass and nodded. ‘What if he’s put something in it; like a drug to knock me out, like on the Bond films’? He filled it up again and this time I took a much smaller sip, swishing the fizzy liquid in my mouth like a wine taster, but it didn’t seem to be any different from usual. “So,” he said. “You’re off to Toronto I take it?” “I didn’t say that,” I replied. “But that’s where you’re going, isn’t it? It’s a popular destination with runaways.” “I’m not running away.” “I thought you said that you were running from your uncle?” I didn’t reply. “It’s okay kid,” he said. “I’m not gonna tell anyone, I’m just trying to help.” “I don’t need any help.” “You do; you just don’t know it yet.” I glared at him as I swallowed the last of my drink and wiped my mouth with my arm. “Thanks for letting me use your bathroom, mister.” “It’s Walter,” he said and held out his hand for me to shake. “It’s been nice meeting you…London.” I smiled. “It’s Robbie,” I said, shaking his hand. “So, you can smile after all,” he said. “It almost suits you.” I frowned at him. “I’ve got no reason to smile.” I put his glass down on the table and walked towards the back door. “Wait up kid,” he said. “Do you mind if I walk with you. I need to take Perry for a walk and I think that she likes you. Unless you’re too embarrassed to walk with an old man?” I was having trouble figuring him out. I didn’t really know too many old people and I wondered if they were all as eccentric as he was. I was still a little wary of him, but he didn’t seem threatening in any way. He was more of a nuisance, maybe he was just lonely. After, damaging his plants, using his facilities, and drinking his Coke, I didn’t have the heart to deny him the pleasure of my company, during the short walk to the station. If anything, I thought that walking with him may even help me evade detection as they would probably be searching for a boy on his own. “I don’t mind,” I said. “But I’m in a rush.” “No need to be; you’ve got plenty of time,” he said and I assumed that he was talking about the train times. It took him ten minutes to find his house keys, so when he began searching for the dog leash, I decided to leave without him. I had barely made it as far as the next house when he caught me up. “I’m quite fit for sixty-seven,” he said. “I hope you can keep up.” “Shouldn’t be a problem.” “Do you know people in Toronto, Robbie?” he said. “No.” “It’ll be the biggest mistake you ever made.” Once again, I was surprised, and I didn’t care for his opinion. “What do you mean…what do you know anyway?” “I know more than you think.” “You don’t know anything about me.” “Okay,” he said. “You’re right, I don’t. Run away to the big city, you never know you may find your fortune there…but you won’t, because you’re not even old enough to work legally.” I sneered at him. “I’ve got money…a lot of it, actually.” “Not for very long, if you go around saying that to complete strangers,” he said. “There are plenty of people who’ll be willing to take it off you.” “They can try,” I said putting on my toughest expression, but it only made him laugh. “Oh, yeah,” he said. “I can see that you’re no pushover kid. You’re gonna have everyone running scared of you, and with that accent, you’re gonna stick out a mile.” He started to laugh, which annoyed me even more. I frowned at him. “Laugh all you want,” I said. “I don’t give a shit!” ‘Interfering old git, I wish I’d left him behind’! We had made it barely ten yards before he started again. “Why are you so scared of your uncle?” he said. “I’m not scared of him.” “You looked pretty scared earlier. He must have done something bad. Do you live with him?” “Why are you asking me this, It’s none of your business.” “Is he your legal guardian?” “Yes.” “What about your parents are they both dead or something?” “Yes!” It was a familiar conversation but this was the point where the person would usually buckle and start feeling sorry for me. Most people didn’t know how to deal with that subject and were uncomfortable talking about it. It enabled me to play on their sympathy and use it to my advantage, but this guy was different. “That’s tough,” he said nonchalantly, and I glared at him. “So, what was the argument about?” “What are you some kind of social worker?” “Kind of,” he said. “You’re not as stupid as you look.” “What?” “Forget it. I’m retired now, so you don’t have to worry. I just do this as a hobby nowadays.” “Strange hobby, if you ask me?” “Why are you running Robbie?” “Why do you wanna know?” “I told you, it’s my hobby.” “I already told you, I had an argument with my uncle, he was being unreasonable.” He nodded. “Is that all? I mean kids don’t usually leave home because of an argument, even if he was being unreasonable, whatever that’s supposed to mean.” He was mocking me in a childish voice and I reacted. “It means he insulted me, he hurt me.” “Physically?” “No…not exactly but nearly. You wouldn’t understand.” “Why do you think that?” “Because you wouldn’t.” “Try me.” I wanted to shut him up or at least get some kind of a reaction from him, although, I wasn’t sure why I was even telling him any of this. “Fine, if you really want to know,” I said. “My uncle found out that I’m gay.” I watched for his reaction but his expression didn’t change and he didn’t even look at me. “And I’ve been seeing some boy, who is his son’s best friend.” Once again, there was no sign of shock. This guy was infuriatingly bland and impossible to read. “I’VE BEEN HAVING SEX WITH HIM,” I shouted. It was my best card and I was expecting at least some degree of indignation, especially from an old guy. A woman on the opposite side of the road heard me and looked over, but he didn’t flinch. “Aren’t you the lucky one,” he said. “Is he nice looking?” “WHAT?” “Is he nice looking; your boyfriend, is he hot?” I stopped to turn and stare at him. “Yes,” I said slowly. “Of course he’s nice. Are you….?” “Robbie, you’re a sweet boy, but hopelessly naïve. You don’t really believe that you’re the first person in this world to be attracted to the same sex, do you?” I shook my head but kept my eyes on him as he carried on walking. “I know that.” “Good, because that would be really stupid, wouldn’t it? You may be smarter than you look, but you didn’t invent gay. It’s been around forever, even longer than I have.” “Nothing’s that old.” He shot me a look, but I was only kidding and I smiled to let him know as I caught him up. Payback for the constant references to me looking stupid. We walked in silence for a while, but every so often I would turn to look at him and laugh to myself. ‘I run away from home and just happen to hide in a garden belonging to a gay, social worker. What are the chances of that happening'? I didn’t even know there were any other gay people in Cobourg, other than Nathan, myself, and half of Alex. Walter’s street ran up to, and then alongside the railway lines, before joining Division Street. I was expecting Walter to turn back at this point or continue around the block, but instead, he pointed to a decrepit looking old diner across the road. “I’m going to grab a coffee,” he said. “Do you wanna keep me company for a while?” “It looks closed.” “It’s better on the inside and they let me take Perry in there.” “I dunno,” I said. “I need to find out the train times.” Walter was starting to freak me out. First all the questions and now he was acting as if we were friends; like he had known me for years. ‘Maybe he’s just lonely or maybe I’m being really stupid. Is he trying to’? He may not have been your average senior citizen, but I knew that it wasn’t normal for an old man to want to hang around with a teenager. “Walter,” I said. “You’re not trying to…you know…I mean you’re not thinking that because I’m gay?” I think that I finally managed to rile him because he looked angry all of a sudden. “You think that I’m trying to hit on you?” “No, of course, not…well, it did cross my mind.” “Don’t insult me, Robbie, I’m not into little boys.” “I’m not a little boy,” I said. “I’m fifteen.” “Fifteen is a little boy in my book. You’re fifty years younger than me for God’s sake. You think that I’m doing all this to try and solicit you? If that’s what you think then the train to hell is in that direction.” He pointed down the road and turned his back on me. “Come on Perry, I got better things to do with my time than listening to insults.” “I’m sorry,” I said. “I didn’t mean to insult you. Don’t be angry at me. It was a mistake. I was just being cautious like you said.” I waited as he stopped, looked at his watch and then turned around slowly to smile at me. I got the feeling this was just a game for him, but I couldn’t help smiling back and this time I didn’t need to coax it. * * * * * “Why are you living in Cobourg?” I asked between sips of my strawberry milk shake. “There’s not a lot here.” “Why are you here?” “I don’t have a choice, if I did I would live in Toronto. It’s not so stuffy and old.” I smiled apologetically. “Sorry.” “It’s okay,” he said. “I am stuffy and old and I love it here. I lived in Toronto for thirty years.” “I knew it,” I said loudly. The half dozen or so other patrons in the tacky diner were all looking at us, so I smiled at them and lowered my voice to just above a whisper. “You moved here to retire, I bet?” He nodded and I laughed. “Yeah, everyone does, but when you were young, you lived in Toronto.” “It was different for me,” he said. “I worked there, with kids of your age, sometimes even younger. I didn’t particularly like what I had to deal with. It can be a tough place if you don’t know anyone. You’ll find out soon enough.” “I’m not stupid, I lived in London for years.” “Where, on the street?” “No, of course not. My mom had an apartment.” “Figures,” he said. “So where are you gonna stay tonight Robbie?” “I’ll find someplace. It’s better than staying here, there’s nothing here for me,” I said. “What about your boyfriend; he’s here.” “Yeah but.” “I suppose you’ll find someone else,” he said. “You shouldn’t have too much trouble in a place like Toronto.” “I don’t wanna find someone else,” I said. “Then why are you leaving? Does he even know that you’re running out on him?” “I’m not running out on him. I love him!” My voice had crept up in volume again as I became annoyed and I looked around the diner at my growing audience. ‘I guess I’m out here too’. “I don’t wanna call him yet, he’s grandad died yesterday,” I said. “Poor kid, first he loses his grandfather, and then his boyfriend. I feel sorry for him.” I sat in silence for a while as I contemplated his words, but I knew what he was doing. “This is why I hate social workers,” I said. “You think you know everything, but you don’t. You think I should go back and say sorry to my uncle. So that he can call me depraved and sick and stop me from having any contact with Nathan, or see him ever again.” “He can’t do that; you have rights like everyone else.” “No, I don’t. Not if I go back there, I won’t have any rights at all…I know it!” I sat back in my chair fiddling with the place matt and staring at the table. He glanced at his watch. “Well, it’s been a pleasure meeting you Robbie. I hope it goes well for you in Toronto,” he said. “Not that you’ll be going there any time today.” “I will,” I said. “My mind’s made up.” “You won’t.” “I definitely will.” “You definitely won’t. Unless you’re planning on walking.” “What do you mean?” “There are only two trains on a Saturday and the last one left five minutes ago,” he said. ‘Bastard! He deliberately held me up so that I missed the train’. “Sorry Robbie, but I couldn’t let you ruin your life.” ‘And he can read my fucking mind’. “I’ll go tomorrow instead,” I said, but I knew somehow that I wouldn’t and I think that he knew it too. Walter was, I had to admit, quite a wily old git. He knew exactly what he was doing and played me like a fiddle, extracting information from me that I wouldn’t normally reveal to anyone. He was extremely irritating but at the same time, impossible to ignore and as much as I didn’t want to admit it, he was probably right about Toronto. I sat back down and rubbed my sore eyes, relieved rather than disappointed at not being able to go to Toronto. It was an ill-conceived plan, born out of frustration, anger, and fear of going back to the house, but as my mind cleared, I began thinking of other less drastic options. There was one in particular that I had been considering for a while, someone who I was certain would be able to help me out if I asked and who wouldn’t give me away. “Sorry,” he said, but I wasn’t angry. He had won fair and square. “Whatever. I’m sorry if I insulted you about being old and stuff.” “That’s okay, I am old…and stuff,” he said. “You need to go home and talk to your uncle. Running away will only make your situation worse. I think you understand that now don’t you.” I nodded although I had no intention of going back to the house. “However, I also know that it’s not always that simple and from what you told me, you may need some help dealing with your uncle. You have more rights than you may realise and he will have to respect them whatever his personal views are.” “Yeah, right.” “He has no choice, Robbie. There are laws to protect you and people who will make sure that he does. He may not have physically harmed you but he did hurt you and I saw the result of that earlier when Perry found you cowering in the garden. Abuse isn’t just physical, Robbie.” He stared into my eyes and waited for a reply which I wasn’t going to give. I knew that what he was saying was right though; it made sense. “It was obvious to me from the beginning that you were running, but it’s not necessary for you to do that.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out a business card, which he then handed to me. “These people can help. They’re a local charity; I know them well and you can trust them. They will be able to advise you on your rights. “Thank you, Walter?” I took the card from him and studied it before he snatched it back. “Wait a minute,” he said as he reached into his pocket and pulled out a pen. ‘Old people are always so organised’. He scribbled something on the reverse and handed it back. “This is my home number. Call me tomorrow sometime just to let me know that you didn’t go to Toronto…or as a last resort if you’re ever in trouble and you’ve got nowhere else to turn.” “Thanks,” I said and smiled. “I better get Perry back for her dinner,” he said. “She gets a little testy when she’s hungry.” ‘Don’t we all’? I patted my little friend on the head as she dutifully followed her owner to the door, leaving me with the bill. “You don’t mind do you?” he said. “Think of it as reparation for my dahlias.” I had no idea what that meant, but I paid it anyway. It was the least that I could do after squashing his flowers.
  19. 38 likes
    If you lie down with dogs… I squeezed Liam’s hand so hard, I felt him wince. “So how bad are we talking on a scale from the couch to divorce?” Liam asked quietly. “I’d make sure the dog beds are clean and sterilized,” I said while I tried to release his hand, but he wouldn’t let me. “LIAM! DARLING! You’re finally here!” A very tall, too thin of a woman stalked toward us. She was very sterile, her hair pulled back so tight into a complex thing, that sat high on top of her head. Her costly dress limply hanging from her body as she was so thin she had no shape. In one hand she had a glass of champagne that never made it too far from her lips. Her jewelry although minimal was chunky and gaudy. I’d still lay a bet that it’s all real gold and gems though. And of course, we’re finally here this is what time you asked him to arrive. I quickly leaned forward and whispered into Dad’s ear, “Go and check those damn photo’s and let me know how bad it is for me.” I’m sure the photos are nothing less than spectacular, but they are of me and on display, for the whole world to see. Dad took Papi, Mom, and Lee and slowly made his way toward my photo’s. The lady finally reached us, “Hello Diane,” Liam said stiffly, and he held my hand tighter, “let me introduce you to my husband – Will Blundell-Sands, he’s a talented wood artist and carpenter.” Liam gently pulled me a bit closer to him. She leaned forward and air-kissed both of Liam’s cheeks, Blugh! God, I hate fake people. As she pulled back, her eyes ran over me. Ugh! I need a shower already, and I’ve been here two minutes. I’m sure not everyone in the art world is like this, but it would make me think twice before entering it. You’d certainly have to watch your back. I might not want to let Liam to far out of my sight, I’m not sure which, but one of us might get eaten alive here. “Is that so, we don’t get much call for that at this gallery, maybe further down south,” she said as if it were offensive to call what I do art. “Will, is it? Why don’t you have a look around at what Liam here has created? I need to introduce him to some significant people, they could help his career tremendously.” She said tapping her finger on her champagne glass impatiently like I was five years old and in the way. “I’ll catch up with you in a moment Diane,” Liam said, she turned on her heel and took her mouth to some other part of the gallery. Liam turned to me, “Please, I’m begging you don’t leave me alone with that woman. She’s a bully and scares the shit out of me. She’s like a pregnant Katherine on steroids.” I straightened his tie, and gently kissed his lips, “Baby, you’ve got this. You are your own person, this isn’t your world. Well it doesn’t have to be, but you are going to be very successful at this I can tell. Look around you, people love your pictures. They are smiling, actually looking at your work instead of standing around socializing. There are a lot of important people here, and they don’t want to hear from me. Stand your ground with this woman, politely of course. If she thinks she can push you around, she’ll keep doing it. You are the most charming man I know. Work that charm and people will love you regardless of her opinion. There will be critics here from magazines and newspapers, not to mention the bloggers, and I think I even saw a few celebrities toward the back. You, my husband, are going to knock it out of the park. If it all gets overwhelming, excuse yourself and come find me. I’ll be close by.” “You aren’t mad at me?” He said with worry written all over his face. “Baby, I love you. And you will definitely pay for the photos later. They’ve played the LGBT artist angle within an inch of its life. So meet these people, network, and enjoy this experience. This is your night.” I said smiling. He took a deep breath and blew out the air in a quick puff. “Oh, and stay away from any more champagne. I don’t want a picture of us getting it on in the closet in the newspaper.” Liam nodded his head and relaxed a little, “Now you go and knock their socks off. Show them you’re more than a high school kid from Kentucky. But an artist who’s serious about his work.” I patted his bum as he turned to walk away while he had the courage. He turned his head over his shoulder and winked at me. He’s got this, my famous photographer husband. I saw the bar and made my way to it. Please God, let me like scotch, I think I’m going to need it. And while we are at it, look after my husband. Oh and let the bartender be an idiot. I confidently walked to the bar and asked for a scotch on the rocks and winked at the bartender. “Coming right up,” he put ice in my glass and poured Glen Fiddich into it. Wow! Expensive stuff. “Is that you in that series up front.” The guy asked me, causing me to groan, “Yes! Unfortunately, hence the scotch,” I reached for the glass and tipped it toward him in thanks. “You look hot, I wouldn’t be too upset about it,” he said and winked back at me.” I took a little sip just to taste it, holy shit, that burns it took my breath away. I smiled and casually walked away from the bar so the bartender couldn’t tell I was a kid with his first spirited drink in his hand. I moved in the direction of the photos of me, holding my breath and clutching the glass in my hand like a lifeline. Seven, I count seven photo’s in this series. There are seven pictures of me larger than life. I stood in front of the first picture, I hadn’t seen this one before and don’t remember him taking it. The picture is six feet tall and four feet wide in sepia, giving it that extra country boy feel. I’m in my boxing gear – shorts no top, the shoes, gloves, you get the idea. My mouth guard popped out resting on my lips. My left gloved hand resting on the bag, my right crooked and by my hips, my feet still in the proper stance, although I look relaxed, my body twisted looking toward the camera but not directly into it. My hair is a sweaty mess, you can see every bead of sweat on my body. Liam had taken the photo from inside the barn facing out. To my right is Liam’s Mustang, with the tail lights facing the camera and C.C. sitting Scooby Doo fashion next to it watching me. My arms and chest looked big, he must have bulked them up somehow, you could also see my very defined six pack. All the muscles in my legs were on show. The photo is titled; “My Confidence.” This tugged at my heartstrings a little bit. The next photo is two foot by two foot and in black and white. Again with the bare chest, I’m sitting in the rocking chair in Noah’s room with him laying up against my chest with my hand on his back. I must have been feeding him a bottle in the middle of the night so Kat and Ollie could sleep. Noah and I had fallen asleep together, we really did look cute. This picture title is “My Strength.” I’m softening a little more, let's face it this photo ties my heartstrings in knots. It’s a beautiful picture of the two of us. I looked around to see if I could see Liam, but he was busy in conversation with a couple. I saw Dad and waved him over, I moved to the next photo. “What are you drinking there?” Dad asked. “Scotch, but I’ve only had a few sips, here take it. It’s already warmed my insides and done its job.” I chortled. Dad took the drink from me and sipped it. His face lit up in recognition of the flavor. “These pictures of you Will,” Dad blew out some air, “are breathtaking, Liam’s so talented.” “He is, do you know if these are for sale?” I asked him. “I’m not sure, do you want me to find out?” Dad asked. “Yes, I want this one of Noah and me. No-one else can have it, I don’t care what it costs. Also, don’t let the gallery people know you are buying it for me. I don’t trust that woman in charge at all.” I said to Dad. “Consider it done.” Dad walked off in search of someone to help him. The third photo was in full color but not bright and bold, kind of flat and moody. It’s me in my tuxedo from our wedding but with the background all fuzzy so you couldn’t really make it out. I was sitting in a chair at an angle almost in the pose of the statue of David with my head turned toward the camera, although I looked happy; my face was pensive. The picture is titled, “My Wisdom.” Fuck I love this man. I’m still gonna make him pay, but God, I love him. The fourth photo, I took a deep breath, this is the one that’s forcing him to sleep with the dogs. It’s a beautiful picture, but it’s of me on display. The photo is in a soft, rose-colored hue and taken from above. I’m asleep on my front in our bed, my head is on the pillow and facing, left. My arms are settled above my head but under the pillow. I have my left leg cocked up at my hip and my right one dead straight. The sheets, which are satin and show their slick shininess in the photo, is strategically placed around my waist. I know I’m naked under there. I. Will. Kill. Him. The picture is titled, “My Desire, My Passion.” Son of a bitch. Dad, Papi, Mom, and Lee took that moment to walk up to me. Dad put his hand on my shoulder, “You can relax, sort of. The instruction for this series is they are not to be sold. Except for the first one “My Confidence,” which can be bought as a print copy, no copyright or digital negative come with it. This series has been displayed to showcase what he can do. Apparently, some artists do it to try and drum up business. It was smart of Liam to do this.” “Uh-huh! I suppose. People keep staring at me looking at my own pictures. It feels narcissistic. But I haven’t seen any of these before.” I chortled. “It’s Liam’s way of sharing you with the world. Showing how proud he is to be with you. Take it as a compliment. He loves you.” “I know, I will. Have you read the titles, how am I supposed to stay mad at him. All I want to do is… Well, I’m not sharing that with you. But you know where I’m coming from.” I said with a quick laugh. “Um… yeah I do,” Dad said uncomfortably. I heard Papi, giggle behind us. The next photo the fifth one is from when we went hiking and camped for the night. We had made it to the top of a mountain, and I was being an idiot pretending to be Rocky at the top of the stairs, but it was on a ledge. The ridge overlooked a river below, it was serene and beautiful with the sunset in front of me, and my back to the camera with my arms punched up into the air. Titled, “My Spirit.” The sixth photo, it was another huge one six feet by four feet again. This time it was in full color, it was an action shot of me batting at one of our baseball games for school. The ball was stopped mid-air, and I was swinging the bat just inches from the ball. It was bright, the colors bold, it was good enough to be a professional sports shot. My husband, there is no end to his talent. God, I’m proud of him. The title, “My Love.” The last and final picture was only two foot by two foot, a simple portrait photo of me laughing, at God, knows what. The title: “My Everything.” Then underneath the dedication said, “For my Husband. I love you.” Well, that did it. My eyes were full of tears, my vision blurry. I quickly tried to wipe them away. Liam’s arm wrapped around the front of my waist and he kissed my neck, “Do I still have to sleep with our furbabies?” He whispered in my ear. I shook my head “No,” and sniffled. Liam turned me in his arm bringing me flush against him, face to face. He wiped my tears away, with my love smile on his face. “I’m so very proud of you Liam,” I put my hands either side of his face and gave him a quick, gentle kiss. “How are you holding up, Baby?” He smiled cheekily, “She tried to bulldoze me, but I knocked it on the head early.” Liam took hold of my hand in his and brought me to where our family had gathered. “Hey Momma, what do you think?” he said giving her his glass of champagne. “I think my son, has more talent than he ever let on,” Mom said with a big grin on her face, and tears in her eyes. Papi put his arm around her and pulled her in for a hug. “You’re Dad, he would be so proud right now, bragging to anyone who would listen,” Liam chuckled, “Yes he would, embarrassingly so,” and we all chuckled, “there are some people I want Will to meet, Lee I’d like you to come. It’s two gentlemen and their husband and wife that run different LGBT programs for kids in this city. Dad, Papi, Mom if you want to join us.” “You kids go on ahead, I’d like to take another look around,” Dad told us with a warm smile. Liam took Lee with his other hand and showed us to where the two couples were talking amongst themselves. As we approached they separated and made room for us three to join them. “Mr. and Mrs. Davenport, Mr. Schneider, Mr. Cohen, I’d like to introduce you to, my husband Will Blundell-Sands and our little brother, Lee Blundell-Sunderland.” Both couples smiled genuinely and shook my hand as well as Lee’s. Mrs. Davenport seemed smitten by Lee, “Wow, Lee aren’t you handsome. Why don’t you come with me and show me that beautiful series of your brother and you can tell me all about yourself.” Liam looked a little concerned as they walked away. “Don’t worry Liam, Shiela will take perfect care of him. Our son was a lot like your Lee, so I think the only danger he’s in is a dry, hoarse throat answering all her questions.” Mr. Davenport chuckled. “Your son?” I asked gently. “Yes, unfortunately, he’s no longer with us. He was a spirited boy and a zest for life. But there wasn’t as much support for gay kids back then. He didn’t handle it well, never let on he was struggling to cope. But… instead of letting grief take over, we started our foundation, with Roger here, Shiela’s brother – Mr. Cohen – and we run different programs throughout the city. Trying to make sure it doesn’t happen to another family.” Mr. Davenport said. “I’m very sorry, your family had to go through that,” I said sympathetically. “Thank you, son, that’s sweet of you. Liam here tells me you boys are thinking of doing something like it back in Kentucky.” Mr. Davenport stated. “We’ve talked about it yes, we have close friends we consider family, they run a shelter for LGBT kids as well as a youth center. It’s open to all kids though, they would never turn anyone away,” I said, “Lee our brother was rescued from a very abusive family, and we have another back home Patrick who was from an abusive foster family, but he now is the adopted son of our Uncle Ian. As well as Beau who walked in off of the street after his family turned their back on him for being gay. He made it to Kentucky from Arkansas looking for his Uncle, who happened to be one of our Coaches at school,” I laughed “He lives with them now.” “Sounds like you boys already have your hands in the pie so to speak.” Mr. Shneider said. “I guess so,” I looked at Liam, and he was smiling at me with such affection. “Have you boys thought about any type of programs you’d like to support?” Mr. Cohen asked. “Yes, actually we have a few in mind. The system is broken, the government tries, but it’s a band-aid on a bullet wound. Our ideas are a little more long-term solutions or a way to gain practical skills for the kids. Like running SAT prep courses, they are expensive, and a kid in the foster system or a shelter could never afford it. We’d like to find the money to support the salary of a person to teach it at all the shelters throughout the Lexington area and beyond if possible. Give them some extra help, the government helps them once they get into college we’d like to help them actually get into college.” “That’s an idea,” Mr. Cohen said, he seemed impressed. “He has more,” Liam said nudging my shoulder, to continue. “Please, tell us more,” Mr. Davenport asked genuinely interested. “Well, my next idea was inspired by our brother Lee. We were all talking about what to do in college, he’d never even considered college with his family background. Then he was at the shelter before he was adopted into our family. But he wants to be a florist. All I could think was I’d buy a damn florist shop so he could work there and learn until he could take over. And then the thought came to me about the other kids in the shelter. They don’t really have money or skills for the workforce. If we were to invest in some profitable small businesses around town like cafés, a hairdresser and such maybe something clerical for the foundation. The kids could earn money, learn practical skills then find jobs to help them through school and college. There’s also the aspect of building confidence and self-esteem. The jobs we’d provide would be relatively short term maybe three to six months or so, until they could find a job elsewhere with the skills they acquire and a reference from the business. With that and one from the Foundation, it should knock them to the head of the line of candidates for jobs offered to kids our age. Then we would hire another kid from the shelter or foster system that wanted to learn and earn money. That’s a general idea anyway, there would be a lot of research to make it doable. The net profits from those businesses could form the budgets for other programs as well as any donations we can drum up,” I panted, “my apologies I get long winded when I get an idea.” “They’re real-world solutions for some of the problems these kids face. I think it’s a useful business model for a Foundation, having it support itself as well as take in donations. What are you going to study in college?” “I’d like to study business and marketing, specifically non-profit,” I answered. Liam squeezed my hand, and I quickly smiled at him. He had a proud expression on his face. “You already know what you want to call your Foundation don’t you?” Mr. Davenport grinned cheekily. I could feel my cheeks warm up, “Yes sir, it would be named after the three of us. Liam, Lee and me. Our last names melded together somehow.” “Tell you what boys, why don’t you come down to my office tomorrow with your family around ten in the morning. We’ll take you through some of the programs we run here in town, show you around one of the shelters here.” Mr. Davenport handed Liam his card. “Thank you, sir, we’d appreciate you giving us your time,” Liam said taking the card. “We are all in this together to make it a better place for these kids. Their life is hard enough.” Mr. Davenport finished. We politely said goodbye and made our way back to Mom, Papi and Dad. They were talking with Lee and Shiela Davenport. “Hello again boys,” Mrs. Davenport said, “I was just telling your parents how impressed my husband is with you.” “Thank you Maam, your husband has graciously offered to show us around your Foundation and programs at a shelter tomorrow,” Liam said. “Congratulations, they don’t give their time easily you must have impressed them. I better get back so I can have them talk my ear off about how wonderful you boys are,” she turned to Lee and hugged him, “you have my email address, I expect regular updates of how you're doing in school and your life.” She patted his shoulder, smiled and went on her way. Lee looked happy. “Seems like things are winding dow…” I was cut off. “Liam! Darling!” Every piece of my skin crawled at that women’s voice, “Come into the office, so we can sort the night's offerings.” And she turned to walk toward the office. Liam released my hand and grabbed Dad’s elbow dragging him along, “You are so coming with.” “And who is this gentleman?” we heard her shrill voice ask. Followed by Liam’s stern, deep voice, “My accountant,” Dad looked back seeking rescue, all he found were four unsupportive waves in farewell. We took a look around at Liam’s other work, wow if baseball doesn’t work out for him. This would surely be what’s next for him. I overheard people talking positively about his photo’s, not that I understood any of the gobbly gook they were spouting. But they seemed genuinely impressed by his work. I can’t wait to see where this takes him.
  20. 37 likes
    Liam’s gone – Day 1. Liam left this morning for California, my heart went with him. Thank God, for Skype and a half decent internet connection. We’ve never been apart for a whole week before, I’m sure there’s a pool going to see how long I last before I fly out there. I wonder if I can get in on that? I let myself into Dad’s place, we are supposed to talk about the new lawyer, the FBI interview because they were dragging their feet and I still haven’t spoken to Liam about building him a studio. So I guess that’s off of the agenda. Dad’s office door was closed, so I knocked, I heard him grunt, so I opened the door. Holy crap! The sight is going to put my therapist's kid through college. There was Papi, chockablock up Dad, bent over the desk. I quickly backed out at the speed of light flinging the door shut behind me. I stood here stunned, scarred and shocked not knowing what to do first. To make it worse, I don’t think they knew I was even in the room because I got to hear the finale. Yuck! Parents don’t have sex, period. And don’t lecture me or I’ll get you to imagine your parents going at. Yeah! See! Gross! After a minute, Dad came out of his office and saw me. “Hey Son, I thought I heard someone out here, you want to come into the office?” Dad was trying to pretend nothing had happened. “Uh… No… No… For the love of God, No… What I want is to go home take three showers, bleach my eyes AND ears, then sit and have a nice long chat with my therapist…” I broke off and turned toward the front door. Papi came out of Dad’s office grinning from ear-to-ear, “Oh hey Will, learn anything?” he said flippantly and slapped me on the shoulder passing by me toward the kitchen. I looked at Dad, my eyebrows raised and he burst into nervous laughter. “I think I’ll go to California,” I mumbled and continued my way out. I heard Papi let out a victorious “Yes!” from the kitchen. I guarantee they're all betting on when I’ll cave. When I got home, Kat was doing laps of the living room with Noah in her arms trying to lull him to sleep. “Are you okay Will?” she asked me concerned. “NO!” I lowered my voice, “Sorry. No, I’m not, I walked in on Papi and Dad fucking,” “Language, Will, don’t you mean having sex,” she berated me protecting her son ears from my tongue. “Oh trust me, it was the other thing, I’m going to have a shower.” My whole body shuddered in remembrance. It’s gonna take a while to forget I had just witnessed. <>-<>-<> When I got out of the shower, I checked my phone, and there was a message from Papi. From: Papi Message: Do you need a ride to the airport? I can drop you off if you like? To: Papi, Dad Message: No I don’t thank you. I’m not going, I know you all have a bet of when I’ll cave and go to Liam. I won’t give you the satisfaction. From: Dad Message: We would never do such a thing From: Papi Message: Damn it! I freaking bet Liam is in on this bet. I’ll find out when his estimate is. I grabbed my keys wallet, and phone and went back downstairs. Kat was in the kitchen, putting cookies in the oven. “Man, please live with us forever Kat,” I said as I stole a cookie she had cooling on the bench. “Ow, ah, hot, hot,” I said tossing it from one hand to the other. “Serves you right, where are you off to?” She asked. “I’m going to see Derek and talk to him about Mr. Davenport we met at the gallery and take the dogs so they can get the extra attention they love from the kids at the shelter,” I explained. “I’m begging you take Ollie and Lee with you, they’re both bored and underfoot. I just sent them out to play some basketball or wash the cars, I don’t care as long as they aren’t in here in the way while I try and bake.” Kat sighed. Laughing my reply, “Sure,” I moved around to her and gave her a hug, “Will you make me a low-fat cheesecake.” “Fine, just take those two brats with you,” Kat chuckled. Opening the back door to leave, I turned back to Kat, “So when do you have on this bet I’ll go to California?” “Hmmm, what? I don’t know what you're talking about,” She turned her back to me trying to hide her smile, checking on the cookie tray she just put in the oven. I whistled out as I walked to my truck, Cash and C.C. were on me in a second. “Hey, boys,” I called out, to Lee and Oliver, “Move your ass, we’re going out,” I opened the tailgate of the truck, and the furbabies jumped in, and I secured the pups. The boys hopped in the truck. Ollie was in the passenger seat, and Lee was in the back belted up. “Hey Will, I transferred the cd’s you got me onto my phone can we listen to it,” Lee asked. “Yeah, just Bluetooth it like last time,” I said the volume was down low so what could it hurt. Gimme Head baby Gimme head like you did just last night, ah ah ah When the first three lines were spoken, I wasn’t sure if I heard it correctly, so I turned it up louder. You got me steamin at a hundred degrees Each time I see you I grow weak at the knees You sink me under, bring me undone With words you said, words you said but best of all, all those you gimme head You gimme head You gimme head You gimme head I turned the music down for a second, “What the hell, Lee, is this what we got you? Has Mom listened to this, she’s gonna kill me.” I chortled. “Oh don’t be a prude Will, it’s just a song. And “NO!” Mom hasn’t heard this, I’m not stupid,” he said laughing. “Yeah Will, don’t be a prude,” Ollie said in a high pitched voice and turned the volume up high and opened the window for the whole world to hear, dancing with the music and singing the chorus loudly with Lee. You gimme scratch marks down the length of my back (Owww!!) You gimme teeth marks in the side my neck You whisper sweet things, gimme beatings You wreck my bed (wreck my bed) but best of all, I love, you gimme head You gimme head You gimme head You gimme head So Ah say you'll never leave me And promise me you'll stay 'Cos now that I'm in heaven don't slip away ow! I like it You got me steamin' at a hundred degrees (one hundred) “Dude, I want a copy of this song, when we get back, yeah!” Ollie said to Lee, and looking at me playing the air guitar, with his rock face on. Fuck he makes me laugh. He’s even more of a big kid now he has the baby. We were all sitting in at the dinner table the other night, and we’d finished eating. Ollie had Noah, Liam was trying to take the baby, but Ollie wouldn’t give him up and turned it into a puppet show using his child as a ventriloquist doll, it was hilarious. Kat was in stitches, and I’m pretty sure I saw soda spurt out of Beau’s nose. That had to sting. When people started staring at us, I turned the volume down. “Prude,” Both Ollie and Lee yelled at the same time, then fist bumped. I just laughed at them. I freakin’ am now after what I witnessed this morning, my whole body shuddered. <>-<>-<> The security door buzzed and opened for us, the dogs took off into the common area to see the kids like they owned the place with Lee trailing behind. Ollie and I made our way to Derek’s office. “Hey boys, how are the holidays treating you?” Derek asked shaking our hands and giving us both a bro hug. “And you, how’s married life?” He asked me. I sighed, “When do you have?” “Huh!” Derek screwed up his face like he didn’t comprehend. “I know you all have a betting pool, to see when I cave and go to California. So when do you have?” I asked again. “Oh… That… Well, I have faith in you, I bet you’d stick it out.” Derek said. “Are you crazy? Have you met these two?” Ollie laughed, “I’m going to see what Lee’s up to.” He said and exited the office. “That was pretty stupid, but if you share your winnings with me. I promise not to cave.” I said to him. “Deal,” Derek said shaking my hand. It’s easy to make that bet on day one, who knows how I’ll be later in the week, “So what brings you by today? Could it be the call I got from a Mr. Davenport and Mr. Cohen on Friday?” he smiled. “That and the dogs wanted extra attention, I think they're in love with Jason.” I cackled. “Yeah, he’s a good kid,” Derek said wistfully, “Now, Mr. Davenport, told me a little about what your planning to do. Is that real, or were you just making conversation with him.” “It’s real, and I’d like to get it started before I even finish high school. I’m not sure we can set up the Foundation that quickly, but Liam and I are looking at a Café that’s for sale downtown, the one with that stupid name, ‘Turtle’ something or other. I’ll be talking to Dad about it sometime over the next couple of days, and have him request the books to see if it’s worth buying.” I said. “So what would happen with the café, if you buy it?” Derek asked skeptically. “Well, the plan is a little rough, but the plan is to employ the kids from shelters or the foster system. We’ll have some guidelines in place, as well as criteria of skills to teach them. Customer service, using the register, barista skills, serving, that type of thing but you know let them learn one thing at a time and move on to the next. So we’ll probably need your help at some point if you're interested in what we are doing. But the premise is, we provide a job, for three to six months and train a kid, giving them skills, try and instill a work ethic, basically build up their confidence, trust, and self-worth. The important pieces that have been taken away from them. Then between the four and six-month mark, we give them a reference from the café and the Foundation, help them with a resume and they can apply for other jobs around town using the skills they’ve been taught. They would naturally keep their job until they find another. Hopefully, this will put them above all other kids who’ve applied. Then we will employ another, and do the same again. They’ll get paid from the café, at the minimum wage, and any tips they receive are theirs. They won’t be working for nothing.” I explained. “And you get the profit?” Derek said a little bitter. “The net profit, will either go into expanding the business or banked to buy another small business to do the same thing. We hope to expand to different programs, one is employing a full-time person for your house to run a SAT prep course, and help kids focus on getting into college. Eventually, we would like to have four or five businesses with different jobs available not everyone wants to be a cook, a barista or server.” “How do propose to fund all of this Will?” Derek’s tone and attitude toward me were not what I had been expecting. “People come in here and promise the world all the time and never deliver.” I looked at my hands for a second trying to keep my composure, “Liam and I have money, this is something we both want to do,” I uttered quietly. “What happens when you get bored with all of this, and you want to get on with your life. What then Will, where does it leave these kids. You can’t pretend your way through with these kids. They need constant support and love Will, you’ll never understand what it’s like for them.” Derek said standing and tersely shaking his head. Ever feel like you’ve been punched in the gut and kicked in the balls at the same time. “I have to go, I’ll have Dad get in touch with you once we decide if the café is worth buying,” I stood and exited the room. I’m gutted, I never knew what Derek actually thought of me. But now I guess that’s crystal clear. I’ve never broken one promise I’ve made, even when Lee joined our family, I made sure to make time to keep coming back and helping the kids with baseball. I show up for every class my trainer runs in fitness and boxing. When I have spare time, I come down and bring the dogs just to hang out. I found Oliver and Lee, and let them know we were leaving. Lee asked to hang out for another hour or two, and he’d text me when he wanted to be picked up. I gathered the dogs and Oliver, the drive home was pretty quiet. I could feel Oliver keep looking at me, but I ignored him, now wasn’t the time for me to talk. I wanted to process what had just happened. When we got home I went straight to my workshop, I needed to hit things, saw things, do something productive. After about an hour, I was turning a piece of hickory for a new handle for one of my new chisels and Theo showed up at the door of my cave. I turned off the machine and waited for him to talk. “Will, you have to understand where Derek is coming from. He works so hard for these kids to trust and respect him so he can help them. One little setback can change everything for them. He’s worried if he gives them hope and then it’s taken away, he’ll never get them back. It’s hard for these kids to trust and respect any adult, the things some of them have been through is something we’ll never actually understand because we’ve been fortunate enough to have not experienced it.” Theo pleaded. “You can thank him then. I just got my first lesson on how it feels to be stripped of the trust, respect, and love from someone I considered family. I’m one step closer to understanding. I’ll be sure not to make the same mistake again.” I said bitterly turning my lathe back on and went back to turning my piece of hickory. I didn’t dare turn and face him because I would lose it. Theo moved so he would be in my line of vision. I turned the lathe off again. “What? What do you want from me, Theo?” I said through clenched teeth. “Will, come on…” Theo said sympathetically. “Don’t come on Will me, you say I don’t understand. Yet I have constant reminders all around me. Every time Lee takes off his shirt, and I see the scars that cover his body. I’m reminded how cruel and vicious someone was to that sweet, innocent boy. Every single time he flinches when we hug him, I’m reminded, that he was hurt and alone, and he had no-one there to protect him from it. Patrick, every time I see that nervous smile on his face. I’m reminded of what his foster family had done to him, and he is still that scared boy we met last year, waiting for someone to take everything away that he’s worked to overcome. Every time Beau makes a flippant comment about his old life, I’m reminded how lonely he must have been. I want to hug him for two days, so he knows that he’s loved and wanted here. So don’t stand there and tell me I don’t understand.” I yelled at Theo. “And as far as parents go, my mother may not have managed to put a hand on me, but she certainly managed to leave scars anyway. She tried to have me removed from my family with false documents, then tried to have Liam arrested for sexual assault of a minor, also done with false evidence. He would have been on the sex offenders register for life. What else, the restraining order against Liam to stay away from me, done without any actual authority she wasn’t my legal guardian. Not to mention trying to have me kidnapped at night by two thugs and send me to a convert camp. You realize what would have happened if they had gotten a hold of me. I’m sure you don’t give it a second thought. I think about it all of the time.” I could the back of my eyes stinging. “Your husband may think I’m nothing but a mouthy brat, wanting to throw money at a problem and walk away patting myself on the back. But I’m going to find kids to help. I will follow through with my plans. Unfortunately, there isn’t a shortage. All I want to do is help, if I can contribute to change one kid's life, it will be worth it. You can leave the way you came in, I’m not interested in anything Derek has to say. Once he realizes I was telling the truth, he can talk to Dad if he wants to be involved.” I turned my back on Theo and waited until I heard him leave. This day fucking sucks. I finally let the tears fall as I slumped against the wall to the floor. Pity party for one, please! To: Oliver Message: Can you please pick up Lee from the shelter. From: Oliver Message: Sure, no problem. Leaving in 5 mins. <>-<>-<> “Hey Babe, how’s everything back home? God, I miss you so much already,” Liam said. “I miss you too. I wish I’d have come with you,” I was laying down in bed, skyping on my phone with Liam, “how was the trip.” “Long,” he sighed, “I’m pretty sure every screaming baby they could find was on my flights. It took me so long to get my luggage I missed the shuttle to the hotel, so I had to wait another hour for the next bus,” “Aren’t you supposed to be at the Welcome Dinner?” I said looking at the time. “Um… no not for another hour Babe, time difference remember,” I smiled, “Oh, yeah,” “Sweet husband, are you okay, you seem sad?” Liam asked. I took a deep breath, “Yeah, I just miss you.” “You can always come here to me, we can make it a vacation and see the smoggy sights.” “About that, when do you have in the betting pool, I’ll cave and come to California?” “How do you know about that?” Liam asked surprised. “When?” “I bet you’d cave Wednesday morning,” Liam said sheepishly “Wednesday morning it is then, you better buy me something pretty with your winnings.” “You can count on it. I better go, I love you so much. Give Noah a big hug for me.” He said “I will. Love you baby, make sure you have an awesome time and learn a lot. No glory hole dates,” I said. Liam laughed, “Don’t worry unless I’m getting paid I’ll steer clear.” “Good boy, talk to tomorrow,” “Bye Honey,” Liam blew me a kiss and cut the connection. <>-<>-<> Day 2 – Without Liam I put my phone on silent and slept in. Had a shower, mowed the lawn, had another shower. Fed Noah and then had a sandwich. Had a nap, watched a movie, checked my phone and answered Liam’s texts. Put the meat on for dinner, went to feed the dogs. Only Cash came, he was fidgety, barking and running away. I followed his direction, C.C. was lying on the baseball diamond at the back edge. She was barely breathing and floppy. I ran to the house and grabbed my keys off of the hook, jumped in my truck and put her in the back seat and loaded Cash in. “Hold on baby girl, we’re gonna fix ya.” I threw my truck and around and drove as fast as I could off of the property. I drove like a maniac to our Vet. I flew in the driveway parking as close to the door as I could. Grabbed C.C. out the back and ran in with her, Cash following close behind. A lady behind the counter started, “You have to put a lead on your dog,” “Oh, okay in a minute. I found my pup in the field she’s barely breathing, and she’s all floppy, you have to help me.” I panicked. “Oh, dear, quick follow me.” Cash followed wherever this lady was taking me, whimpering the whole time. She shut us in a room, “You stay here, I’m going to get the Vet.” I laid C.C. on the table they had for the animals and stroked her coat gently, trying to calm, well, myself more than anything. I barely waited any time before the vet came in the room hurried. He threw a bunch of questions at me quickly. “Dog’s name?” “Hey there, C.C. we’re going to fix you up girl,” he said in a lulled tone, stroking over her body. “Where do you live?” “Is there a water body near by?” “What type of surroundings?” “Was she able to move, when you got to her?” “Do you know how long she’s been like this?” “How long since you saw her before you found her like this?” He turned to the clinic tech nurse lady and gave her a bunch of orders I did not understand. He turned his attention back to C.C. The tech came back with a bunch of vials and needles. “Okay?” “Will,” “Right, now I suspect she has been bitten by a snake. We’re going to do a couple of quick tests, and we have to get the anit-venom into her straight away. Unfortunately, you need to decide right now what you want me to do. This is costly, and at her stage, it’s only about a 30% chance of survival. Although she’s young and healthy so the odds maybe a little better.” “Do it, you have to save her,” I reached down and scratched Cash, he was leaning up against my leg. The vet nodded to the nurse, vet tech lady, and she waved someone else in the room. I barely took notice, they came in and took her away quickly. “Pop the other one up here, if they were together, I’d like to check him over.” The vet said patting the table and giving me a warm smile. “She’s in good hands, don’t worry. Let’s concentrate on this cute pup for a minute.” “His name is Cash, they’re the same age, and from the same litter,” I said distracted trying to see past him to where C.C. had disappeared and lifting Cash onto the table at the same time. The vet smirked, “You named your dogs Cash and Credit Card.” He felt all over Cash, his face still smiling. “Huh?” I felt my face blush when I realized what he said, “No, Johnny Cash and June Carter-Cash.” He chuckled, “That’s cute,” as he kept checking Cash. “Hmmm, is C.C. going to be okay? My husband’s away, and if I call him, he’ll panic and fly home. I don’t know what to do. Please tell me she’s going to be okay.” “This young man seems unharmed…” “Sorry to interrupt. Sir, we need you to move your truck. But if you give me your keys I’ll have the maintenance guy do it for you.” A young girl said politely. I handed them over, without a thought, “Thank you,” turning back to the vet my eyes begging him to continue. “Cash seems perfectly healthy, keep an eye on him tonight, if he starts to paralyze or change of behavior call our after hours and come as soon as possible. Although it’s unlikely, I think he’ll be okay. C.C. seems to have been the unlucky one.” He looked at me sympathetically, “Have a seat in the waiting room. I’ll be out shortly with some news, then you can decide whether to call your husband.” He pat my forearm. “Oh…Okay, thanks.” I easily returned to the waiting room. Can this week get any shittier? I don’t even have my phone on me, so I can’t even let Liam know what’s happened. Slumping in the seat, Cash sat between my legs, resting his head on my lap. I held his collar because the leads were still in the car. We keep a pair in there in case we take them somewhere and need them. Usually, we don’t they are pretty good dogs. A body sat in the seat next to me, handing my keys and petting Cash on the head, “They’re pretty good here, C.C. will be all right.” Why do I recognize that voice? Shit! My head snapped to my left. “What the hell are you doing here?” I snarled. “I work here now, no school would take me after I was expelled. My parents threw me out, I was able to get a job here. I’ll get my GED and go from there.” Stephen said. “Why would you think I care, after what you did to Liam?” “I didn’t do anything to Liam, I promise you. I’ve apologized to him, you have no idea how sorry I am.” He said remorsefully. I glared at him for a second, and he continued, “I was scared of Gator and Trent. Gator lived in the trailer park where I used to live with my parents. If any of them found out I was gay, I would have been beaten to a pulp. After we were all arrested, I come clean, and they kicked me to the curb. The best thing they ever did.” Stephen claimed. “I live at the shelter for now, until I earn enough to get my own place.” Wow, who knew. Stranger things have happened I guess. “I heard you and Liam got married, Congratulations,” Stephen said. “Yeah, we did,” I answered coldly, concentrating on petting Cash’s fur. “Oh, I grabbed the leads that were in the side pocket. Thought you might need them.” Stephen handed them to me. “Thanks,” I snapped a lead to Cash’s collar. Stephen sat with me in silence while I waited, “What do you do here?” I asked in need of a distraction from what is going on. “Uh, I mostly clean, help move animals from one place to another, it frees up the vets and tech’s to actually help the animals.” He said. “Why a veterinary clinic?” “I always wanted to be a vet, this way I can watch and learn, and eventually I’ll be able to work my way through college,” Stephen said looking at his hands. “Why Liam?” I said through gritted teeth, “What did he ever do to you?” “I honestly couldn’t tell you, Will, they never told me much. I was their errand boy and suck their dick for protection guy, so I didn’t get beaten up.” He was ashamed. “Vivid, thanks. Did it ever occur to you to come to us? There’s safety in numbers. We would never have judged you and would have accepted you and kept you safe. We may have even been able to help.” I scowled at him. “Now as it stands, four lives ruined. Two assholes are in jail, good riddance. Your life is ruined, you’ve set yourself back, what probably five years. Liam may have lost his dream to play major league baseball. Did you know he already had scouts watching him?” “No, I didn’t, I’m truly sorry Will. I couldn’t see past what was happening to me,” He said looking down at his feet. “Yeah, I guess we’re all a little guilty of that,” “It’s not an excuse though, and I’ll take my punishment without complaint.” He said. The vet came up to where I was sitting, “Will, we’ve given C.C. the antivenom, there’s nothing left to do but wait. We’ll know more by morning, I’ve left instructions, any change in her status and the night guys watching her will call you immediately. Why don’t go home and try to relax? We’ll take good care of her and do the best we can.” “I’ll stay and watch over her, you won’t have to pay me,” Stephen told the vet. “Okay,” he said to Stephen, “Go home, call your husband, I’m sure that will help.” The vet squeezed my shoulder and indicated for Stephen to follow. Stephen stood, “I’ll make sure she’s okay, I promise Will. I’ll call you the minute I know anything.” “You don’t have to do that, especially if you're not getting paid.” I fidgeted in my seat, being nice to him is unsettling. “It’s the least I can do.” He said and sauntered off in the direction of the vet. I went home with a heavy heart, a whimpering dog, and an empty leash. What the hell am I supposed to tell Liam? There’s no way I’m flying out in the morning and leaving C.C. by herself, I’d camp by her little doggy cage if they’d let me.
  21. 37 likes
    Derrick and I never worked up the enthusiasm for taking a year away from Hawaii. Instead, we slipped into a prolonged period of listlessness. First, we waited for Christmas, and when that was past we had the excuse of Cass and Khala’s graduation in April. Truth was, we were both mildly depressed, feeling indifferent about anything other than sitting around the pool all day. We became very attached to one another, almost clingy, causing a kind of co-dependent situation where we supported each other’s laziness. And we weren’t exercising enough which was beginning to tell on our respective waistlines. Physically, I was recovering well. Mentally, not so much. I hated my scars and had arranged to have one of the best plastic surgeons in the US fly over to Hawaii to try and reduce their visibility. I was waiting on that too. Looming also was Cass and Khala’s departure for the mainland. They’d both been accepted into UC Davis, Cass in Veterinary Medicine and Khala in a masters program in Psychology. We were going to miss Cass something awful, and we’d grown to very much enjoy Khala’s frequent visits to the house. The clinic was running well. I’d only drummed up enough courage to visit it once since getting shot. It was all I could do not to have a full-blown panic attack when I was there. As Don had said, however, my presence there wasn’t required. The foundation had it set up and running like a well oiled machine with locum doctors from the mainland rotating through on a two and three month cycle. Our ‘target’ population was being well served, and the lab/diagnostic centre was running beautifully. Our statistics in preventative treatment were outstanding. One evening we’d just finished our warmed up pizza dinner (we really hadn’t felt like cooking much in that period) and I cast my eyes around critically our downstairs living space. “This place looks like crap,” I said. “Huh?” “Look at it,” I said, sweeping my hand around. “Everything looks old and tired. We haven’t updated anything since the place was built nearly eight years ago.” “So you want to redecorate?” “Definitely.” “Did you have something in mind?” “How about a country theme? Maple and chintz?” I wish you could have seen the look on Derrick’s face. “Oh....kay....” “Ha! Got you. I’m actually thinking Hawaiian. Similar to what we’ve got now but updated and with better quality stuff. There are some excellent furniture designers on the island. What do you think?” “I like. Come, let’s sit on the couch and we can talk. I’ve been thinking about a couple of things too.” We got into our favorite position. I noticed that Derrick had brought his phone over with him. He started kissing my neck again, and of course his hand began to drift south. “Derrick, that’s not fair. You know I’ll agree to anything once your hand reaches its destination.” “Okay, first off, why don’t you call a decorator tomorrow and have him come out to the house? I think the guy that helped us put this place together originally is still in business.” “Mmmmm.” “Gabriel, my love,” said Derrick in his ‘I’m going to ask for something now’ tone that I knew so well. “Yes, my sweetest?” “I’d like to buy a new car.” “Sounds good, what did you have in mind?” “A...benny.” “A benny? What kind of car is that?” “No. A Bentley....” “What! Let me get this straight. Derrick, ‘Mr. not extravagant Deacon,’ just said he wants to buy a Bentley? Who are you and what did you do with my husband?” “Very funny, but I’m serious.” “I’m not sure I even know anything about Bentleys. Aren’t they big and luxurious? Like what the Queen of England rides in?” “Some are, yes, but I’m looking at their SUV. It’s called a ‘Bentayga.’ It’s really beautiful. Here let me bring up the Bentley website and I’ll show you.” With that he ceased rubbing my belly and grabbed his phone. See, there it is. What do you think?” “It looks gorgeous. But wait a minute. What’s that one? The convertible?” He clicked on the picture. “Oh, it says it’s a Continental .... Do you like it?” “Well, I mean, if we’re being extravagant, maybe you could get the SUV, and I could get the convertible.” “Does this mean ‘Mr. independent Gabriel Nichol,’ is willing to let his Solara go?” I snuggled in closer to Derrick. “I think it’s time....” We spent the next half hour looking at photos and specs of the cars we liked. We decided to check out the Bentley dealer over on Kapiolani Boulevard the next morning. It was the first time in ages that we’d become ‘enthused’ about anything. We discussed the merits of Bentleys versus other luxury cars such as the Rolls Royce, the Lamborghini and the Ferrari, but we kept coming back to the Bentleys. Derrick was right, the Bentleys just seemed to suit us. They seemed to have just the right blend of luxury and conservatism. They’d be noticeable, yes, but they didn’t scream ‘Look at me!’ the way the others did. After we’d looked at car pictures to our satisfaction, I snuggled back against Derrick and he started kissing my neck and rubbing my belly again. “Gabriel, my darling?” he said in his ‘ask’ tone again. “Yes, my sweetest?” (I really thought I had perfected that sweet as sugar response with just the right touch of sarcasm.) “I got a call earlier today from a guy who told me about a plane that’s for sale. I’m thinking of upgrading from the Cessna 206.” “Sounds good. With Gramps and Grams spending more time on Maui it might be nice to have something a bit bigger to run over there and back.” “Yes, and Cass and Khala will be in Davis, and it would be nice to run over to the mainland occasionally too.” I was about to agree, when realization struck. “You’re not talking about a propeller plane, you’re talking about a jet. Am I right?” “Yes. See, here’s the thing. The Gulfstream G650 was introduced at the Paris Air Show back in 2013 and they’ve started delivering them to customers this year. Well, one was ordered by some technology guy, but his company has tanked, and he can’t take delivery of it now. So that plane, which has just rolled out of the factory, has become available. The marketing guy from Gulfstream said he’d give me first dibs if I want it.” I turned and took a serious look at him. “Derrick, what’s up? First a Bentley and now a zillion dollar plane? Oh my God! You’re having a midlife crisis! My husband is having a midlife crisis! Oh my God!” “Very funny, Dr. Nichol. Maybe I am having a midlife crisis. So what? I can afford to have the mother of all midlife crises if I want. And the plane is not a zillion dollars, it’s only 65 million.” “Oh, well then.... And, yes, Mr. Deacon, you can have a midlife crisis if you want. I’m sorry for teasing you. Go ahead. Tell me about this plane.” “Well, I just happen to have a few photos of that too.” He reached for his phone again. Derrick explained that the G650 was larger than the G550 that I was used to. It also had a longer range. And larger windows. This particular plane was done in cream leather with subtle wood trim. There was a gorgeously appointed bathroom in the back, then a private sleeping area. Mid-plane it was configured like the G550 with seats and tables. At the front it had a well appointed galley, another lavatory and a crew rest area. It certainly had the WOW! factor going for it. Derrick explained that he’d be the principal pilot but that he’d hire two other pilots. Plus he’d hire two cabin attendants so there’d always be one on board. He was planning on setting up a limited liability company so we could charter it out when we weren’t using it for ourselves. “Holy shit, Derrick, that would be amazing. Between the Bentleys and the plane we’d really be making some serious changes to our lifestyle. Talk about being spoiled!” “Yeah, but all my life it’s been ‘don’t be extravagant!’ I think it’s time I let loose a little, don’t you? When I was frightened about losing you, I thought that life is too short to always be reining ourselves in. Maybe now is a good time to kick up our heels a bit. We had a taste of that lifestyle on our cruise last summer, and I must say I did enjoy that. Whadda ya say?” “I say we’re going from depressed to manic. That’s what I say. But that’s not so bad. Unless, of course, you want to take the plane to Vegas and gamble away millions. Now that would not be good.” “Nothing extreme like that.” “Well, okay, then. Let’s have a little fun!” Derrick’s hand reached its final destination and that put an end to any serious discussion for that evening. We had a ton of fun with our lovemaking that night alternately moaning and laughing and crying out in pleasure. The next morning at breakfast Cass said dryly, “We heard you guys last night.” Khala blushed and looked everywhere but directly at us. Derrick and giggled like schoolgirls. “What has gotten into you two?” demanded Cass. “Your dad’s having a midlife crisis,” I said. “Khala, I come from a certified crazy family. The sooner you get your PhD, the sooner you can help these lunatics. At least they shaved this morning, so things are looking up.” With a new spring in our steps we jumped in Derrick’s seven year old Lexus SUV and headed into town to check out Bentleys. On the way into town I phoned our design consultant, and he said he’d come out to the house later that afternoon to talk about what we’d like. It’s Hawaii, so we were dressed pretty casually. Derrick parked his car in front of the showroom and we entered into The World of Bentleys. We headed toward a burnished gold SUV and started looking at it. I opened the driver’s door and looked at the interior. It was pretty luxurious. The salesman rushed over looking perturbed. “May I help you gentlemen?” he said in a rather condescending tone. (I guess the seven year old Lexus and our casual dress didn’t scream ‘Money!’) “Is this model for sale? I mean right now...to buy right away?” asked Derrick. “Yes...um...certainly,” the salesman replied with a forced smile. “That white convertible over there,” said Derrick pointing to the Continental GT model, “Is that available too? Gabe, shall we look at the convertible? I’m Derrick, this is Gabe,” he added. “Um...I’m Clarence Drinkwater,” replied the salesman, introducing himself and handing us his card. He looked confused, but he was polite. “Any of the cars in our showroom are currently available.” We’d reached the convertible and I began drooling. It was beyond beautiful. It was truly a breathtaking car. “Oh, I want this,” I said “Clarence,” said Derrick, “We’ll take that SUV and this convertible. How soon can we have them?” “Um...” was all Clarence seemed capable of saying. “According to my research,” said Derrick, “These cars retail for about a quarter of a million each. Am I right, Clarence?” “Um....yes...that’s fairly close. They’re just a little over that, nearer to 270.... With tax and prep you’re looking at just over 300. “How about this then, Clarence,” said Derrick. “We’ll wire six hundred grand to the dealership’s bank, then we can pay the balance with our Amex card. How does that sound?” “Um....” Clarence looked a little pale. “Clarence, maybe you should get your business manager so we can get that money wired. Oh, and will you take my Lexus in trade?” “Um...of course, sir. Why don’t you gentlemen follow me to the manager’s office and you can sort out the banking details with him. Meanwhile, I’ll get started on the paperwork. Do you gentlemen have your drivers’ licences with you?” Using the manager’s speaker phone Derrick had the banking details quickly sorted out with his account manager. It was an internal USA money transfer and the dealership’s bank was credited almost instantly. While we waited for the cars to be registered in our names, and for them to be ready to drive away, Derrick and I walked to the Ala Moana Center for lunch. Our security guys, following at a discrete distance, were shaking their heads at our impulsiveness—something they definitely weren’t used to seeing. Once we were seated in a restaurant, I said to Derrick, “Did we just fucking do that?” Then we did the schoolgirl giggle thing again. After lunch, we strolled through the shopping center and impulsively bought ourselves decent watches. Philippe Patek. I mean, why the hell not? Since we were on a roll.... Once we got home with our new cars we had to come clean to Mom and Dad who, in their Buddhist beliefs, believed that material goods did not buy happiness. In fact, quite the opposite. So we were surprised when they admired our cars and told us we’d done the right thing by splurging on something special for ourselves. Huh? We were a little later than expected getting home, so the designer was there waiting for us. I’d outlined what I wanted when I’d talked to him on the phone, and he’d taken the extra time he had to sketch out an idea for us. He’s quite a good artist and had even used colored pencils, so what he showed us seemed almost real. “Yes!” I exclaimed when I saw his drawing. “Derrick, look. This is exactly what I was talking about!” “Yeah, I really like it. It’s got lots of color but it looks comfortable too. I say we go for it.” The decorator explained that he’d be buying all the wood pieces from a local artisan so we’d be supporting the local economy. Can’t ask for more than that. Later, when we made love there was something new and fresh and exciting in it. We didn’t hold back, so chances are Cass and Khala got a good earful that night too. As we were ‘recovering’ and cuddling Derrick said, “Gabe, my darling....” “Yes, my sweetest?” “Um... Do you really, really want to get your scars fixed? I think they’re kinda sexy, and you know, you’ve really earned them....” I thought about that for about a minute and realized that Derrick was right. The scars were part of me now; part of my history. Then I thought about all the patients I’d seen who had terrible, disfiguring, and sometimes disabling, injuries and how graciously many had come to accept their new selves. When I looked at it that way, to hate my scars was really against everything I’d been taught, and believed in. “Yeah, thanks for bringing that up. I’m going to wear these scars proudly. They’ll fade a lot in a couple of years anyway. But I’m still going to get that plastic surgeon to come to Hawaii and do some work on a couple of patients who need it a lot more than I.” “Love you, Gabe.” “Love you, too, D.” Derrick was up early the next morning talking to the Gulfstream representative; arranging for us to see the new plane. I was still sleeping soundly when he poked his head in the bedroom door and asked if I’d like to fly to Los Angeles tomorrow to view the plane. I mumbled, “Grrrrr,” which Derrick took as a positive response. That woke me up, so I decided I’d drop by the clinic before they got started, just to say hi; I knew Jordan was working that morning and thought it would be nice to see him, Bernie and the other staff again. When I arrived in my new Bentley, Bernie gave a low whistle of approval. “Man,” he said, “You wear that thing well!” Jordan, of course arrived a few minutes late. He burst into the staff room demanding who’s ‘sweet ride’ that was in the parking lot. When he saw me, he exclaimed, “Gabe! No! Really!” We all chatted pleasantly for a few minutes with me promising to let Bernie and Jordan test drive the car later. Then Jordan asked, “Gabe, I know you didn’t come in to work today, but we could really use your help for a couple of hours this morning. It’s always busy, and the patients will have a long wait. It’s like that every morning....” “I’ll keep an extra good eye on you,” added Bernie. I thought, ‘Why the hell not?’ and agreed to work for two hours. I guess because it happened so spontaneously, I didn’t have time to get nervous or upset. I slipped into ‘doctor’ role as if I hadn’t even been away. There was nothing too exciting that morning. Just the regular aches, pains, earaches, STD’s, probable diabetes, and one pregnancy. I ended up working for three hours and loved every second of it. I left the clinic with a promise to return soon on a drop in basis. They were glad to have me whenever I could appear. There was always a waiting room full of patients, especially in the morning, so an extra pair of hands was welcome. It would take some pressure off the other doctors too, and it wasn’t like I was cutting into anybody’s revenue because we all worked for a salary (rather than a per-patient billing). On the way home I swung by the Bentley dealership. Clarence greeted me like an old friend. “What can I do for you today, Dr. Nichol?” “A friend of mine, Dr. Jordan Applebaum, is going to come by in the next day or two. I want you to give him any car he wants—I’ll pay for it. Anything in the showroom, or anything he’d like to special order. Can you set that up? I’ll leave a deposit, then come by and settle any balance owing. Can you do that for me?” It took ten minutes for me to have the money transferred. I called Jordan as I drove home using the fancy Bluetooth feature in the car. “Gabe, that’s too much! You can’t do that.” “I can, and I did, Jordan. You saved my life. I want to do something...as a thank you gift.” In the end he agreed to take the car. I’d learned a lot from MacKenzie in convincing people to accept things. He said he’d ask Kelly to meet him at the dealership after work. Later he phoned me and said they’d selected a model similar to mine, the Continental, but not in a convertible because it would be more of a ‘family’ car with Alfy in tow. There was one they liked in the showroom and were able to drive it home that evening. Both he and Kelly thanked me profusely, and I could hear the child-like excitement in their voices. I was only glad that I could give them some small token of my gratitude for Jordan’s expert care. If he hadn’t been there that morning I might not be telling this story right now. Derrick had been busy most of the day arranging to buy the G650. The Dea-Con leasing guys got involved because there’s quite a lot to do with setting up ‘parking’ and landing rights at various airports. The limited liability company. The insurance. Plus they had access to pilots and flight attendants looking for work. Then, he had to arrange a time to go to Savannah to get certified to fly it. The ‘project’ seemed to energize him the same way that going back to work had done for me. We took Derrick’s new car out to the airport the next morning and, on the way there, Derrick phoned Don to fill him in on what we were planning. And to tell him the good news about me going back to work. Don had some good news of his own. It wasn’t ‘official’ get, but Marco had been accepted into a post-doc program at Hawaii Observatories. We were ecstatic when we heard that. We liked them both so much and looked forward to having them close by. The new plane was waiting for us when we arrived at John Wayne International, just south of Los Angeles. It was really something. Just walking in I could tell how much more spacious it was than the G550. Very tastefully finished and I loved the way the rear couch folded down into a queen sized bed in its own private area. After I toured the plane there wasn’t much for me to do, so I retreated back to the G550 to read and relax and let Derrick get on with business. We ended up spending the night at a nice resort in Newport Beach. Derrick was so excited about the G650 he couldn’t settle down to sleep. He ‘entertained’ me for hours talking about the plane’s features, most of which I didn’t understand. I don’t think he even noticed that I slept through most of his narrative, but I enjoyed being cuddled next to him and hearing the soothing sound of his voice. Once back at home life settled into a comfortable routine for the next couple of weeks. I worked two or three mornings a week, and Derrick was occupied with the G650 details. We rarely saw Cass and Khala who were occupied fully by their last semester of school. Cass, however, did take a few minutes to pull us aside and tell us he was glad to have his dads back. Apparently, the family had been pretty worried about our ‘depressions’ and would have staged an ‘intervention’ had we not pulled ourselves together. I gave my Solara to one of Khala’s cousins. I cried when it pulled out of our driveway for the last time.
  22. 37 likes
    *Tyler* I pull my jacket closer to me, and scoot to the edge of my seat. My anxiety has been on high this whole game. I see Ryder get tackled again, and I let out a wince. “Sweetie, it’s okay.” Mrs. K says beside me. I let out a little laugh, “I know, it’s just I hate seeing him get tackled!” “Dude, man up!” Jaxson says. “Shut up!” I counter. “Why can’t he just pass the ball to Jeremy?” Jaxson asks Mrs. G. “Well, baby, if they do that nonstop the other team will catch on.” I love watching Ryder play football. He smiles every time he looks up and sees us in the stands. He seems like a different person – he’s more confident on that field, he holds himself full of pride, almost cocky, which in all honesty is so hot. It is a change from the sweet shy guy that I love. I watch as Ryder throws the ball to Jeremy this time, and Jeremy catches it with ease. Jaxson starts losing it, cheering so loud for Jeremy. We watch as Jeremy runs into the end zone for the touchdown. I only know what that is because Ryder spent all day yesterday coaching me on the terms of football. It I got it right, he would take off a piece of clothing; if I got it wrong, he would put it back on. Let’s just say I learned A LOT! My cheeks blush from thinking about what we did yesterday. We are up by four touchdowns. Ryder said if they won tonight, that they would have a little over a week and they would play for the state championship. I lean back, and look at Mrs. K, who is smiling. “You smiling because of the touchdown, or about how Coach has that smirk on his face?” She laughs. “You caught me watching my handsome man.” I can’t help but smile, they are so in love. I hope Ryder and I have that same love. I watched how they teased each other while they were cooking the other night. You wouldn’t believe that Coach was in the kitchen as much as he is. If it’s not football, he talks about grilling, or art. Which sadly, Jaxson said was stupid, only making Coach shake his head. “So when is Ryder supposed to meet Wilder?” I ask. Her smile falters a little. “Well, we are bringing Wilder home tomorrow. We wanted to set a meet with them, but Ryder has been so preoccupied with football that either he or Coach were always busy. “ I feel a bit guilty. “You should have told me. I would have brought him home. She laughs. “Honey, it’s fine. It did Ryder good to get out of the house. It’s been nice seeing him so happy lately.” “Really?” “Yes, there has been a change in him. He doesn’t seem so scared or weighed down.” This makes me smile more. “Ughh, can you stop with the mushy crap. I feel like I am going to be sick!” Jaxson says, making these gagging noises and acting like he is going to shove his fingers down his throat. I roll my eyes. “You are just jealous ‘cause your fling of the week is over,” I jab. He cuts me a dirty look. “Jerk.” “Just how fast do you work through girlfriends, Jaxson?” Mrs. K asks. “It was a boyfriend, and I don’t know, he just couldn’t handle my amazing personality.” I laugh so hard at this. “You mean he couldn’t handle your mood swings.” This causes Jaxson to hit me. “Boys, stop!” Mrs. K says. “Tyler, that wasn’t nice, and Jaxson, you don’t just hit people!” she scolds. “He was being an ass,” he says, and starts to pout. I know she’s going to cave, and she does. She pulls him in for a hug, and I just shake my head. I go back to watching my boyfriend on the field. I see him on the sidelines, and his butt looks so good in that football uniform. The buzzer goes off, signaling the end of the game. “Come on, boys. Let’s go meet them by the locker room before they go in and congratulate them,” Mrs. K says. We walk onto the other side of the stands and they start to come in. I see Coach, Ryder, and Jeremy approach us. I see Coach lean in and give Mrs. K a kiss. Jaxson runs up to Jeremy and hugs him. I go in for a hug, but Ryder turns it in to a bro hug. “What’s that about?” I ask, confused. “Just giving you a hug. So did you see that last touchdown?” he asks, breaking the hug. “Yeah, I saw…what was up with that hug?” He shrugs his shoulder. “Well, what did you think of the game?” he says, avoiding the question. Then it hits me like a ton of bricks, straight to the stomach. “Oh my god…you aren’t out, are you?” “Tye…” he says, grabbing my arm. “No, Ryder.” I pull my arm away. “You aren’t out to the team, are you?” “Tyler, it’s just complicated,” he says, shifting his weight onto the other foot. “No, it’s not. You say you love me, but when it comes to actually being open about it, you’d rather not. Maybe you need to decide what you want, Ryder. I love you, but I won’t go back into the closet for you.” He hesitates. “I gotta go shower.” I let out a sigh. “Whatever, man.” He grabs my hands. “I do love you, Tyler. I don’t have an issue coming out. I didn’t think it was going to be a big deal.” “I can’t even express how I feel about you when you are Mr. Football.” “I know. I’m sorry. I will fix it, I promise,” he says. “Just go shower, Ryder. You don’t want to miss the bus,” I tell him. I feel a twinge of guilt. He was supposed to ride back with us, but I feel like this would be better. I don’t want to fight about this tonight. I’m hurt that he pulled away from me like that. My ex was like that, and it sucks to be a secret. I can’t blame him - I know it’s hard, but I wish he would have given me a heads up first, just like a, ‘Hey, I’m not out to the whole team.’ Oh…ok…. Call me tomorrow, please, Tyler? I love you,” he says sadly. “I love you too, Ryder, I’ll text you tomorrow.” I watch him walk away, his head hanging. I feel bad, but at the same time, I am hurt that he responded like that. He could have just told me so I would have had some kind of heads up about this. *Ryder* I kick off my shoes at the door, and check my phone for the millionth time since 5:30 a.m.. I know I hurt Tyler last night, and I should have told him, but I didn’t. He didn’t text me at all last night, and I don’t want to keep texting him. I couldn’t sleep, so I went for a run, and now, I have no idea what to do. It’s only seven. I hear someone in the kitchen, and I go check who it is. “Hey, Mom.” “Hey,” she says, looking up from her coffee cup to me. “You okay?” I go into the kitchen and grab a cup from the cabinets to pour some juice. She lets out a sigh. “Couldn’t sleep well last night.” I finish pouring the juice and sit next to her. “Why?” She takes another sip of her coffee. She looks tired. I rarely see my mom in pajamas - she’s always awake and dressed for the day. “I want everything to work out with Wilder. I hope he likes it here, and I hope you and he get along. Why were you up so early this morning?” “You heard me?” She nods her head. “Yes, I have been up since five. Ryder, how do you feel about us adopting another kid?” I don’t answer her just yet. I have thought a lot about it, but I don’t know how I feel about it. “I mean, I don’t know, really. It’s going to be different,” I mumble. “Are you worried that we will neglect you?” she asks, putting her hand on my arm. “I can’t say I haven’t thought about it. Does that make me a bad person?” I ask. “Because I have tortured myself over this, to the point I made myself sick, and I feel guilty for being selfish.” “No, sweetie, it doesn’t make you a bad person. That makes you human, I promise you we will not neglect or forget about you at all. I think we have more than enough love to go around this house to have another kid here. I wish we could have had time for you to meet him before we bring him home.” She pauses. “Honey, is everything okay with you and Tyler?” I can see the concern on her face. I run my hands through my hair. “No, I messed up, Mom.” She pulls me into a hug. “What happened? Tyler opted to sit in the back of the SUV last night, and I know I heard him crying.” I feel the heat of shame wash over me. “He went to hug me last night, and I pulled away and turned it into a bro hug.” “Oh, sweetie….” “Mom, I feel like an asshole! I should have told him I wasn’t out to the team, and he would have been okay with it, but I told him I loved him, and then turned around and denied what we have!” I tell her, getting upset. I can’t believe I really did this to him. I start to feel the tightening in my chest. My mom snaps her fingers in front of my face. “Ryder, ground yourself!” I reach out and grab her. “I’m okay,” I say shakily. She pulls me into a hug. “Baby, you need to go lay down. Get some rest. You do not need to overwork yourself into a panic attack. Give Tyler some space. He’s probably hurt, but he’s a smart person, okay? Yes, what you did wasn’t okay, and you know that, but don’t keep obsessing over it. You are going to cause yourself to go into a panic attack, and that’s not ok. I know you will fix it, because that’s the kind of person you are - the kind of person we raised. So stop beating yourself up.” I nod and she hugs me tighter. “I think I am going to go lay down. I am so exhausted.” “Okay, sweetie. I am just going to make some breakfast for everyone. I will leave you some food in the microwave. We might be gone by the time you get up.” I nod my head, and hug her again. “Thanks, Mom.” I walk up to my room and shut the door. I lean against it and let out a sigh. I don’t know what I should do, or how I make this up to him. I know my mom is right. I don’t need to obsess over this. I did what I did, now I just need to make it up to him. I take off my shirt and shorts, pushing my compression boxers down with it. I started sleeping naked after Tyler and I took a shower together and laid in bed naked. I don’t know, he loves the way I look, and it’s boosted my self-confidence. I don’t even know how I slept with boxers on, ever. I crawl into bed and pull the sheets over me. * Waking up, I feel like I have a huge hangover, like the morning after I drank. My head is pounding as I get out of bed. I make my way over to my shorts and grab my phone. I have a few text messages from Callen asking if I wanted to go for a run, and one from Jaxson. I read the one from Jaxson, and it says, “He’s moping around. This is stupid. Talk to him.” I roll my eyes. Leave it to Jaxson to just throw it out there like that. I reply back, “I don’t know what to say I messed up.” Jax: no shit you messed up…fix it. Me: you are not helping, did you read the part I said I don’t know what to say??? Jax: no I read it…I just think you’re dumb, he’s your boyfriend make it up to him suck his dick. Me: JAXSON! Jax: don’t act like you don’t, yall aren’t quiet as you think you are. Me: we are not talking about this! Jax: sissy. Me: Is he okay though, he isn’t like harming himself? Jax: you mean is he popping pills? Me: yes… Jax: don’t think so, I’ve hid all the pills. Me: do you think he might? Jax: Idk. He’s just really sad. Me: I don’t know what to do… Jax: talk to him. make it right, I don’t know what you did but he loves you, and I’ve never seen him this sad. Me: I am going to. Jax: good. My stomach grumbles and I look at the time. It’s noon. Damn, I didn’t think I would nap that long. I pull on some boxers and head downstairs. Walking into the kitchen, I remember my mom telling me she would leave some food in the microwave for me. Walking over, I check the microwave, and there is some bacon and toast. I don’t even heat it up, I just start eating it. I put the dirty plate in the sink and grab a bottle of water from the fridge. I wonder how much time before they get back with this kid. Hell, I don’t even know if Jeremy is home. I walk over to his room, and knock on the door. I open it to find an empty room. I have no idea where he even went. I haven’t seen him since the locker room last night, he sat with some of his friends on the bus ride home. He took his Jeep home while I rode with Coach. I close his door and make my way to my room. I pick up the shorts where I left them on the floor and toss them into my dirty clothes basket. My phone goes off, and I make my way to it. I grab it and it’s Mom. “Hello?” “Hey sweetie, you finally got up?” she says. I nod my head, I have no idea why, knowing she can’t even see me. “Yeah, I was kind of tired.” I hear my dad in the background talking. “Yes, I can understand, you looked exhausted this morning. We should be home soon we needed to stop at a store and grab a few things. Did you need anything?” I walk to my dresser and pick up my deodorant. “Yeah, I need more deodorant,” I tell her. “Okay, but do you need any socks, boxers, shirts or anything?” she asks. “No, I am good for awhile.” She hesitates. “Okay sweetie, I will see you in a little bit.” “Ok, see you soon.” I tell her goodbye and hang up. I pull open a drawer and grab a pair of clean shorts. Sliding them on, I adjust myself and the legs of my boxers. I grab my phone again, and decide to text Tyler. Me: Hey. Tye: hey… Me: can you talk? He doesn’t answer me back right away, so I sit on my bed and put my head in my hands, I can’t help the nervous bouncing of my leg. I feel worse than I did this morning. My phone buzzes, and I see it’s Tyler trying to FaceTime me. I answer it. As the screen loads, I can see that I in fact look like crap. I have dark circles under my eyes. His screen finally connects and I see him. “Hey.” He gives me a small smile. “Hey.” I can’t see any details really because his room is so dark, and the only thing illuminating his face is the phone screen. “I’m sorry,” I say, feeling my skin turn hot. “Ryder…” he starts to say, but I cut him off. “I know I am the worst boyfriend in the world. I should have said something to you about it. I am not ashamed to be your boyfriend ‘cause you are so fucking perfect to me. I know I fucked up and I betrayed your trust. I really do love you, Tyler…. I love you so much, it hurts to just think about the fact you might not want to be with me anymore.” I have to take a deep breath ‘cause I am on the verge of crying. “Rye, I still want to be with you. Yeah, you hurt me, but it’s something I can get over. It just took me by surprise is all. I love you, babe, and I still want to be with you, no matter what. I’m sorry you thought I wanted to break up with you.” I smile and lean back onto my bed. “I miss you.” “I miss you, too. You should come over.” I let out a loud sigh. “I would, but I have to do some studying, and they are bringing that kid here today.” He gives me a scowl. “The kid has a name. It’s Wilder, and they are bringing him home. Why are you so against this?” I don’t know what to tell him - it’s just the fact I am jealous and nervous at the same time. “What if he hates me?” I watch as Tyler laughs, I love how he laughs - his eyes crinkle and I want to kiss his red lips. “No one could hate you, Ryder. Stop stressing it, and give him a chance. Besides, what if he’s the next football legend?” I puff out my chest, and beat it with my free hand. “No one is the next legend besides me!” This has Tyler laughing so hard. “I love you, goofball.” “I love you, too. I am going to go, babe. I need to study. I have a huge test on Monday.” “They don’t let the football star be excused?” “Ha! I wish, maybe we can get lunch tomorrow?” I ask. He nods his head. “That sounds good, babe. I am going to go have some alone time. Seeing you shirtless has got me…aroused,” he says, blushing. “Can I see?” I ask. He flips the camera view, and sure enough his gym shorts are tented. “Told you.” He flips the camera back to his face, and I lick my lips. “Too bad I am not there.” “You are terrible! Go study!” “You better moan my name!” I say. “Bye, love you,” he says, smiling and blushing. “Love you, too. You should send me pics!” He shakes his head and disconnects. As much as I want some alone time like he’s about to do, I really do need to study for my test. I roll over to the foot of my bed and grab my history book out of my book bag, my note cards, and a pen. I settle down on my bed so I can start making flash cards for the vocabulary words. My phone vibrates, and I see it’s a picture message from Tyler. I open it up, and it’s him in his boxers. I can see the outline of his dick perfectly, he is so hard. I snap a picture of my history book. I caption it, saying I wish I was there instead and hit send. I barely put down the phone and it buzzes again. Checking the phone, I blush. This time, it is a picture of his hand in his boxers, gripping himself. “Wish you were here, too.” I start feeling a little daring and lie on my back and flex, showing off my abs and my bulge. I take the picture and hit send. I take another one with my hand rubbing my abs, and I send it, as well, with a text saying, I am getting so horny. He sends a text back, telling me how sexy I am. A few seconds later, he sends a picture with his dick out of his boxers. It’s flat against his stomach and I can see a little precum. Dang it, why does he tease me like this? I send him a picture back with my hands in my boxers. He sends a text, saying holy fuck, I want to be grabbing that. I hear the door open downstairs. I text I have to go - family is home. I turn over to hide my hard on in case my mom comes in my room, and I move down to my book and try to focus on the words, instead on my hard on. I hear a knock on my door, I yell for them to come in. I don’t turn around to see who it is. I already know it’s my mom. I can smell her perfume. It’s a soft vanilla. “Hey, baby.” “Hey Mom,” I say, writing down a vocabulary word. She comes and pats me on the leg to move over, and I do. “What are you doing?” I look at her and she smiles. “Just some studying. I have this test Monday.” She pats my leg. “Think you can take a break and come meet Wilder?” I turn over, now that my hard on has gone away, and I pull my legs to me, sitting criss cross. “How is he doing?” She give a little laugh, “He’s scared. He doesn’t talk much. He actually isn’t a huge talker at all.” I don’t get it. “Why isn’t he?” My mom just shrugs her shoulders. “He just doesn’t talk much. He was evaluated and he’s able to talk, he just chooses not to talk a lot. He might not have been able to talk a lot at his house without being punished. We don’t really know.” “That’s weird,” I say. “Ryder, he talks. He says yes ma’am, no ma’am. Now come on, let’s go get you two introduced to each other.” I get off the bed, and grab my tank top from yesterday. “Hey where is Jeremy?” My mom stops at the door. “He’s downstairs. He was with us.” I don’t say anything, I just follow her down stairs and into the living room. I see a scrawny kid with a tan complexion sitting next to Coach. The kid is pressed right up against him, and he looks over and meets my eyes. I don’t know if he’s just scared or what, but his green eyes with a hint of hazel don’t keep contact with mine. They dart to my mom and to the door, and then back to the floor. Jeremy comes in the room from the kitchen, carrying a few bottles of water. “What’s up, Rye?” he says, and nudges me as he passes. “Nothing, studying,” I say, moving into the living room. I look at Wilder, who still won’t look at me, and he seems so small. “Wilder,” my mom says next to me. His eyes snap up to her. “This is Ryder. I guess he is your big brother now, as well as Jeremy.” I walk over and put my hand out for him to fist bump and he looks at me and leans into Coach more. “What’s up, buddy?” “It’s okay, Wilder, Ryder won’t hurt you,” Coach says, placing a hand on his back, and I can see him tense up at the touch. It’s okay, buddy, we are here. Nothing is going to happen to you.” Wilder extends his fist to bump me, and draws his arm back into his lap. I don’t know what to do. He won’t talk to me, so I say that I am going to go back up to my room and study. I look back and see Coach talking to him. I have never had anyone ever be scared of me. It was normally the opposite reaction - I was normally nervous and scared to meet other people. My mom follows me into my room. “Ryder, I know that wasn’t the best of meetings, just give him time to adjust.” I let out a sigh. “Mom, I get it, he’s scared of everything. You can see the wild look in his eyes like he wants to run. Do you really think he was ready?” I know, I feel like I am being a bit harsh, but someone needed to ask the hard questions. Her eyebrows scrunch down as if she is trying to understand what I meant. “Ryder Kessler! You know a few some odd years ago, do you know who acted just like that? You! Young man, you had that same scared look on your face as that little boy down there has on his! I don’t know where you learned to not have compassion for others, but it damn sure wasn’t from me or your father. What if we would have left you in the Russian orphanage instead of bringing you here? Giving you this nice life where you haven’t had to want or need anything since the day we brought you home! You want to know what would have happened? You would probably be dead! Most orphans don’t last long in that country! All of us in this house have catered to your needs and not one of us has ever felt it was a burden or uncomfortable for us. I don’t know what has gotten into you, but it ends now!” The look on her face tells me how upset she is. “Mom….” “Ryder, just not right now. I am disappointed in you. Please just study. I will have Jeremy bring you up a plate for dinner. I don’t think I want your presence at the table tonight with your attitude.” She slams my door as she leaves. I feel embarrassed - I don’t know why I let my jealousy get the best of me. I have never been jealous before, so this is a whole new feeling for me. She’s right, I should be the more sympathetic one. Out of everyone, I know how it feels to be the new person. I know I am exhausted and sore, plus I am still pissed at myself for last night, but it doesn’t give me the right to take it out on Wilder. I go after her. “Mom, I’m sorry. You are right, I am being a jerk. I am sorry I have disappointed you, I am just exhausted, sore, and angry with myself from last night. I know it’s not an excuse to be how I was. I am very grateful for everything that you and dad have done for me. Please forgive me, I love you!” “Ryder, I didn’t mean to say I’m disappointed in you, just your attitude. I know you are stressed out and tired. You are right, it’s not an excuse, but at least you are aware of what you were doing. You know you can still talk to us. I know, being a teenager, no one wants to talk to their parents, but we have never judged you yet, and never will. Just, please give Wilder a chance. I love you, baby. Now I am going to go back downstairs, and I will have Jeremy bring up dinner when it’s done. I know how you are about studying.” I walk over and give her a hug, and she hugs me back. I finally break the hug. She smooths my hair down, cupping my face, and kisses me on the forehead. “I gotta study now. I need to pass this test to keep my GPA up.” “You will, sweetie,” she says, I watch her go down the stairs and I head back to my room. I shut the door and lean against it, letting out a sigh of relief. I feel a little better, but I still feel guilty as hell. I take off my shirt and flop on my bed, and open my text book up. I hate history - it’s boring and cannot hold my attention span for long. Give me any other subject and I don’t even have to study, I just retain the information. I grab my phone and open up Instagram. I never really use it, let alone post anything, but I follow people just to see what their life is like. I hear a tapping on my window, and I look over and see Tyler outside my window. I move to the window and open it up. “What are you doing?” He gives me this goofy grin and removes my screen. “I wanted to see you.” “You know we have a front door!” I tell him, moving out of the way so he can come in. He tosses his shoes over my bed, “I know, but what fun is that?” He finally gets in and settles down on my bed. “You are ridiculous!” I tell him and give him a kiss. “Only when it comes to you,” he says, lifting his butt up and moving my phone from underneath him. I lay beside him, and he puts his arm around me. “I missed you.” He kisses the side of my head. “I miss you. I didn’t know you had an Instagram,” he says, scrolling through it. “Eh…I don’t post anything, I just follow people,” I tell him. He stops on one picture with a shirtless guy who has a nice set of abs, and his boxers are showing. “Yeah, I know why you have Instagram now! Who is Case Nikson?” he asks, teasing me because I liked the picture. “I don’t know, just some social media model or something. He’s cute. But you are hot!” I say, and take my phone out of his hand and straddle him. “Oh, am I?” he asks, licking his lips. I lean down and give him a passionate kiss. I break it off and wrap my arms under his, and lay on his chest. “I’m sorry for last night,” I say, breathing in his cologne. He is running his hands along my back, causing me to shiver. It feels good to be held by him. “It’s okay. I was hurt, but next time just give me a heads up, babe.” “I know, and that hurts me to know that I hurt you so much. How long are you staying?” I ask. “Not long. I have to pick up Jaxson from a friend’s here soon.” “Speaking of him, please read the texts between me and him!” I say, pushing my phone in his face. He takes a few minutes, and then bursts out laughing. “Jaxson, my man!” I slap him on the chest. “You think it’s funny!” He laughs again. “Well, I mean, he isn’t wrong,” he says, waggling his eyebrows. I move off of him. “Well, if memory serves me correct, you already took care of yourself!” His jaw drops. “You are such a brat!” “But you love me,” I say, leaning in and giving him a squeeze, causing him to jump a little. “I do love you, but doing that would cause more attention to be needed!” “I would love to, but you need to go pick up Jaxson, and I need to study some more, since someone interrupted me!” He shakes his head. “Yeah, you’re right.” He gets up and kisses me and gives me a squeeze back, and I instantly get hard. He laughs and heads out the window. “That’s not fair!” “All is fair in love and war, babe,” he says. I watch him climb down to make sure he makes it safe, and close my window. I go back to studying and eventually, Jeremy brings me a plate of food. We talk for a little bit while I eat. I ask him what he thinks of Wilder, and he seems to think once he comes out of his shell, he will fit right in with us. I hope he’s right. He tells me to get to studying after a while. I jolt awake causing my book to fall off the bed. I hear the clap of thunder again, and my heart starts racing. I bolt out of my room, across the hall to Jeremy’s. I open the door and walk to his bed. The flash of lightning lights up his room, and I see his bed is empty. The nauseous feeling in my stomach grows. I make my way downstairs, and the big clap of thunder makes me jump. I can hear the rain pounding on the windows. I cross my arms over my bare stomach to try and stop from shaking, as I make it into the living room. Another flash of lightning and I see Wilder on the couch. I lean over and turn on the lamp on the side table. I look over at Wilder, who has his knees drawn up to his chest, and he’s crying. “Are you okay?” He shakes his head violently, no. I sit on the couch on the other end so I don’t freak him out. “What’s wrong, buddy?” He keeps looking around as if trying to figure out what way to run if he needs to, I know this because I used to do the same, but that habit stopped ages ago. “I don’t like that storm,” he whispers, looking towards the window, I see another tremor pass through him. It shocks me to actually hear his voice. He has a thick accent that I have no idea where it’s from, and it sounds as if he’s older than I thought. “I don’t like it, either. I actually am terrified of them.” “I am, too; I feel so scared,” he says, still shaking again. “Wilder, how old are you, and where are you from originally?” I ask, trying to take his mind off the storm and figure him out. He looks at me, his hazel green eyes studying me. “I am from Norway. I was moved here by family, but they were bad people and were taken to jail, because of the drugs. I am 13, how old are you?” “I knew that they were into drugs, but I thought they were Mexican. I am 15, almost 16,” I tell him. Looking at him, he seems so fragile. I want to give him a hug to comfort him so bad, but I don’t want to push the limits. I don’t know how comfortable he would be if I was to reach over and give him a hug. Another flash of lightning streaks the sky outside the window, and the thunder that follows shakes the windows. We both jump. I feel my heart speeding up. I crack my knuckles to try to shake the nervousness off. “Not Mexican, they just got caught up with a bunch of drug people that were. The police were everywhere,” he says, looking around as if he was being watched. “Hey, buddy, you know you are safe, right?” He nods his head. “Ryder, I was in that room. They told me it’s mine, but I woke up from the thunder and the rain. I didn’t want to be alone, but no one was in here when I came. “I get it, man. I was scared, too. I still get scared,” I tell him. He looks at me for the first time directly in my eyes, “You get scared?” Nodding my head, “Yeah, I hate thunderstorms. I never can sleep during them. Hence the reason I am up.” It’s honestly because I was going to go sleep with Jeremy because of the storm, I heard the wind howling through the window, and it had me terrified. I hear the wind howling again, and goosebumps run down my arm. I see Wilder tremble. I look out the window in time to see another lightning flash, and the lights flicker. I don’t have time to react before he lunges at me and wraps his arms around me. I can feel his tiny frame shaking. “I’m sorry,” he mutters into my chest. I wrap my arms around him. “It’s okay, I used to do the same to Jeremy when I was first adopted. Honestly, I was going to go sleep with him, but he isn’t in his room.” I know he is crying. I can feel the tears on my chest. I just hold him tight as his body shakes. I wonder if this is how Jeremy felt when I would cling to him. I feel like I want to protect him from the entire world, that I will do anything to make sure he doesn’t get hurt. Eventually, his shaking stops and I feel his breathing go into a regular pace. He must have finally fallen asleep. I don’t want to wake him, but my leg is going numb. “Wilder, come on, buddy. I got to move you so I can get repositioned.” He mumbles, but I know he is still asleep. I push him forward just a little, so I can slip out from under him easily as possible. The couch is big enough for both of us to sleep on. I love sleeping on this leather couch. It’s comfortable. I know that for a fact since Tyler and I have fallen asleep on it on multiple occasions, and since Wilder is considerably smaller than either of us it shouldn’t be an issue. Wilder wakes up just a little, enough to look around the room, and I can see the fear overcome him, and it breaks my heart. “Hey buddy, I am right here. I was just turning off the light and grabbing the blanket.” “Don’t leave, please,” he whispers, rubbing his eyes. “I’m not.” I reassure him and sit back on the couch, I stretch out, and Wilder moves so I can get comfortable. I barely stop moving, and he moves into the crook of my arm, and snuggles into my side. There is just enough space between me and the back of the couch for him. I tell him to turn off the light, and he does quickly. I pull the blanket that we keep on the back of the couch down to cover us. “Thank you.” Wilder murmurs into my chest. I squeeze him tighter. “It’s okay, Wilder, I got you. No one is going to hurt you,” I whisper to him before I doze off to the sound of the rain hitting the roof.
  23. 37 likes
    Mr & Mr Blundell-Sands go to Washington Liam pulled his Mustang into our driveway, down by the barn; Lee, Patty, Shane, and Cory are playing basketball. His face twisted in confusion, “Uh… I don’t want to sound like an idiot, but has that basketball hoop always been there?” He pointed with his hand rested on the steering wheel as he edged closer. Lee and Paddy stopped the game and opened the barn doors for Liam as we slowly approached. We leaned forward to look up at the hoop through the windscreen as we drove underneath and parked next to Seb’s Camaro. I chortled, “I have no idea,” I paused thinking about it, “I honestly don’t know, it doesn’t look new, and it’s not like we are really into basketball to take any notice, I guess.” Liam chuckled, “Well that’s embarrassing!” he leaned over and kissed me. Shane opened Liam’s door, and Cory mine before Liam even had a chance to cut the engine. “Wow! Is this car yours Liam!” Shane exclaimed excitedly sticking his head through the opening to have a look, “Do you own the Camaro too.” “If you let me out I’ll let you sit in it and have a look around the car,” Liam told him laughing. Shane moved back looking embarrassed, letting Liam out from his seat. “Cory, Dude, move your ass so I can get out.” I laughed and grabbed our bag from the back seat. “Yeah, sorry,” Cory chuckled and stepped back, he looked around the rest of the barn, “Whoa!” “What?” I asked looking for something spectacular. “The gym, and boxing equipment,” Cory said lightly jabbing his finger repeatedly where the gym was set up. “I have to get Dad and Uncle Tracy.” Before I could even say anything, the kid was gone. I walked around the Mustang, and I could hear Shane, “Oh wow,” “Check this out!” “This is so cool,” as I reached Liam, Shane hopped out, “Can you take me for a drive later – Please!” he begged. Liam threw back his head laughing, “Sure I can, as long as your Uncles are okay with it.” “And the Camaro too!” Shane asked his whole face lit up like a damn Christmas. “You’ll have to talk to Seb about that; it’s his car,” Liam said shaking his head. “I’m going to ask now, how cool is this!” And he was gone, running back to the house. Liam looked over to Lee and Paddy who were standing in the same spot dumbfounded by the enthusiastic behavior of Cory and Shane. “What the hell was that, it’s just a car,” Pat said scratching his head. “Watch your mouth Paddy, she deserves every bit of excitement and joy given by her existence. She’s gorgeous,” Liam run his hand across the roof gently, “Aren’t you baby?” Liam said to his car. “Dear God,” Pat chortled, turning his head away and rolling his eyes. I could see the look on Liam’s face, I hope Pat can run fast. “Uh… Pat?” I said, “Yeah?” “Run!” I laughed. Liam leaped from his spot toward Pat. Pat went screaming from the barn, Liam in pursuit while Lee and I stood watching the chase as Cory, his Dad’s and Uncle’s walked lazily into the barn. Alex whistled at the cars, “These two are beauties,” Lee and I cracked up laughing. Jase threw his thumb over his shoulder indicating behind him, “What’s that all about?” I started laughing again, “Pat, insulted the Mustang.” Jase’s brow furrowed and only said “Oh!” as he turned to watch the chicken run outside the barn. “Dad, Uncle Tracy, check out the gym stuff,” Cory said as he went closer. “Is it alright if I touch it Will?” putting his hand out to the free-weight rack. “Yeah bud, don’t pick up anything too heavy you can’t lift, you’ll do damage to yourself,” I said. “Who’s is the boxing gear?” Alex asked. “Mine. Paddy and I go to the boxing gym one day a week now, and we all do Jiu Jitsu another,” I said fiddling with the handle on our bag. Alex face morphed into an expression of admiration. That made me feel good. “Daddy, can we get a gym like this at home?” Cory asked his Dad with a hopeful tone, and Callen looked like he wanted to hurt me. “Umm… Cory this is costly setup. The only reason we could afford it was because our house got trashed and we had money left over from the insurance payout. Instead of replacing some of the things we didn’t really need we bought this instead. Well this and the kitchen,” Poor Cory looked deflated, his shoulders dropped, and his face turned to a frown. Callen’s converted to relief. “Oh my God, that kitchen,” Tracy said, his eyes rolling into the back of his head, “I want to take her home with me. Do you guys even use her? Maybe I should take her back with me and show her how she should be utilized.” Tracy laughed. “Good luck, we all cook, and Kat loves to bake. You might lose a limb trying. It comes in handy because we are always cooking for six or more.” I smiled. “Just don’t let Will cook, you’ll end up with all gross healthy food,” Lee rolled his eyes. I knocked him gently with my elbow. “Hmm… No more sugar filled pancakes for Lee – Check.” I said not-so-seriously. Liam came into the barn holding Pat by the scruff of the neck and dragged him over to the Mustang. “What do you say?” Liam said. “I’m sorry I hurt your feelings,” Pat muttered to the Mustang while looking around to see who was watching him. “And?” Liam said. “You’re as beautiful as you are fast,” Pat sighed. “And?” “You’re not just a car, but a classic,” Pat said folding his arms across his chest. While the rest of us stood snickering at him. “There you go, I hope you’ve learned your lesson,” Liam said slapping him on the back. He turned to me smiling, “So, what’s going on in here?” “Nothing just talking about the gym, I’m going to go and chuck this in the washer,” I said to him, showing him our bag and kissing him as I walked by; and passed a sleepy Seb with keys in his hand and Shane bouncing around like a Jack Russell. I smirked at Seb, and he returned it with flipping me the bird. Nice! <>-<>-<> Our extended family started showing up as the morning wore on. By the time eleven am came around, we were all sitting in our entertainment area. It’s starting to look nicer out here, Liam paved the area with earthy colored tones and has organized some custom weather proof sails to cover the area. It’s starting to feel more and more like home here, regardless of what all those assholes tried to take from us. With every change to the property or house, it becomes more of a home. Our home! I was lazily lying in an outdoor reclining chair, Liam walked past me with baby Noah in his arms. Liam was looking at Noah as if he had the world in his arms. “Hey Baby, come sit with me,” I said patting between my legs. He smiled and gently sat down and scooted his back to my front, repositioning Noah, so they’d be comfortable. I rest my chin on Liam’s shoulder looking at Noah. Kat walked past us slowly taking a photo on her phone. “Aww! Look at you three. When are you going to have a tiny human?” Kat said giggling. “How long do you think it will take us to get pregnant Will?” Liam asked chuckling while he entertained the gurgling baby in his arms. “Well… You usually last about forty-five seconds; so not long,” I said with a straight face and immediately took a sip of my drink. This created a few laughs among the others. Liam finally caught on to what I said, “Dick,” he chortled and knocked our left knees together. “Good burn Will,” Coach Campbell said, earning him a “Gibbs” from his husband. “Don’t encourage him, Sweetheart. He’s a handful now.” Coach Ferrige admonished him. Papi, Dad, and Mom threw their heads back laughing. I kissed Liam’s neck and whispered, “I love you, Honey, I’ll give you ten babies.” “Yeah! You will,” Liam turned his head and kissed me on the lips, then rested his head back on my shoulder. While everyone was still eating lunch, I popped into my workshop and grabbed the gifts I had bought for everyone. I’d gotten the girls a nice thin chain necklace with a single opal that matched our promise rings and for the guys a set of opal cufflinks. I gave Benny his present as well as Haley, theirs was a little different. I heard a little boy squeal. “Daddy, Poppy, look what I got,” Benny squealed as he ran to his Dad’s to show them his Batman pajama’s that matched Liam’s. “Liam, look, look, we have the same.” He held it up, to show Liam. “Huh! That’s so cool, squirt. We’ll wear them tonight, yeah?” Liam high fived Benny, while the short stack nodded his head. “Thank you, Will,” Haley tapped me on the hip, showing me her bunny rabbit onsie. She had the cutest smile on her face while she inspected it. “Can I wear this tonight?” “Of course you can jelly bean!” I picked her up and gave her a hug and put her on my hip. She is the cutest little girl. I just want to smush her little cheeks, she’s so adorable. I then went and sat between Callen and Alex, putting Haley on my lap. “Hey guys,” I said. “Howz it goin’ Cuz,” Alex said smiling, “you and Liam look good with babies and toddlers,” I rolled my eyes at him, “Everyone looks good with babies and toddlers, don’t go putting stuff in Liam’s head. No discussion of kids until we are out of college. And then if our fur babies are still alive we’ll talk about it.” I said laughing. I pulled an envelope from my pocket and gave it to Callen. “What is it,” Callen said shaking the envelope. “You know how Liam got tickets to the race next weekend, well Dad spoke with the office and exchanged the tickets for eight so all of you can go. But Kat and Oliver have agreed to watch Benny and Hayley if you wish. If you decide to do that, I hope you’d consider taking Lee and Pat with you. But that’s entirely up to you.” I gave them a small smile. “How come you aren’t going?” Callen asked. “They’ve told Liam he has to be in Washington this weekend for his gallery opening for the following week. Apparently, there’s a lot more to it than just showing up.” I laughed, “I hope you don’t mind the re-gift, but I thought you would enjoy it. There’s also accommodation for the night for all of you.” “I don’t mind,” Alex said snatching the envelope from Callen, he opened it and looked at the tickets, “I don’t mind at all, these are fantastic seats.” Alex grinned. “That’s great, thanks, Will, and definitely not necessary,” Callen said. “You’ve helped us, unselfishly so. Sacrificing your own time and you’ll never know how grateful I am.” I told him. “Let me know when the FBI contacts you for your interview. I want to make sure someone goes with you.” “Thanks, Callen, I’d appreciate it. The whole situation has me tied in knots.” I could feel my stomach twist just talking about it. Changing the subject, “What are the chances you will leave the squirt and this little Jelly Bean behind forever. We’ll take real good care of them, I promise.” Haley giggled when I kissed the top of her head. “Suck it, Will. They’re my munchkins.” Tracy cuffed me in the back of the head. Bastard! “Not a chicken, Uncle Tracy,” Haley said shaking her head. <>-<>-<> The rest of the day went quickly, it was nice and laid back. The family had a few drinks and a couple of laughs, Liam and me sat together most of the time. Dad was right about being married; you feel much more connected to your other half if that’s possible. Everything feels better, much more intimate somehow. I’m not talking about sex, but the little things; like Liam’s hand on the small of my back as he leads me into a room, or when he holds my hand, even a quick kiss on the cheek. I can’t articulate it well enough, everything is simply better. Those who say marriage doesn’t matter, are fooling themselves I think. I know it’s only been twenty-four hours, but I feel what I feel. I am hiding away in the office from all our visitor’s to get a quiet moment. Don’t get me wrong I love having everyone here and my cousin’s family staying with us. But it’s nice to have a moment to myself, we’ve had a hectic couple of weeks. Dinner was over, and everyone was chatting over coffee, so I managed to escape. I thought I would check our accounts and pay our bills, so I knew where we were for the next couple of weeks because of going to Washington and Liam going to California for his workshop. Our personal bills have been neglected in all the excitement in the lead up to the wedding. It wasn’t anywhere near as bad as I thought it would be. There was also extra in our checking account, and nearly pooped my pants when I saw how much. I pulled out my phone to call Dad landline for the house, he answered on the second ring. “Hello Son, miss me already. I only left you a few hours ago,” Dad chuckled. “I always miss you Dad, but I have a couple of questions about some extra money in our account,” I stated. “Oh! Well, it’s the remainder of the money left from the wedding account. Since you’re not taking a honeymoon yet, I’ve put it into your account in case you change your mind over the summer. And going to Washington and Liam to California, you’ll have extra.” Dad said. “Thanks Dad, but our allowance from the trust is pretty good, and we’re managing quite well. We actually have pretty healthy savings at the moment, we don’t spend much day-to-day. I think we’ll save any big trip for the summer before college. I just rang to ask Mom if she wants to come to Washington is she around?” “I’ll get her. I love you Son,” Dad said to me affectionately. “Love you too, Dad,” I stated with a smile. Then Mom got on the phone. “Hello Will, is everything okay?” She asked sounding worried. “Of course it is. I was about to confirm our bookings for next week. I was wondering if you would like to come with us? I know your temporary work assignment is finished, and I thought you would want to be there for Liam’s gallery opening, and we could all do some sight-seeing. You know to learn a little,” I asked her with a chuckle. “I would like to go Will, but are you sure you boys want me tagging along?” She asked cautiously, “I mean I can come for the opening, but then I can leave you to it. I mean you just got married Will, don’t you boys want to be alone.” “Mom, Liam would love it, and you and I can get into trouble together while Liam is busy. We both enjoy your company. I thought you might like a change of pace is all, and to be honest and selfish if I have to do some sight-seeing, I’d rather do it with you because I know you’ll enjoy it and we won’t have to rush through.” Plus I know Liam’s, Dad’s, birthday was while we were away and they would be able to spend the day together alone without either one feeling guilty for not being with the other. I wouldn’t dare say that though, I just know if it were me I would want that. “Okay then, I’m in. As long as you’re sure.” Mom said, and I could hear the smile in her voice. “I’m sure because I’m selfish and I want you to come. We can keep each other company and politely make fun while we people watch at the gallery.” I laughed, and Mom joined me. “Sounds like fun,” Mom said. “Great I’ll make the arrangements and send you the itinerary. We’ll be flying, I’ll have the car pick you up first for the airport, then come get us.” I informed Mom. “Fine, have a good night Will,” Mom said, “And Will?” “Yeah, Mom?” “Thank you, and I love you, my sweet boy,” I could hear her voice croak a little. “I love you too, Mom, I can’t wait. We are going to have so much fun together. Good night,” I said happily. Yay! Mom’s coming with us. <>-<>-<> It’s finally Wednesday, and we’re leaving for Washington. I’ve been up since the crack of dawn trying to get everything ready to go for our trip to Washington. Making sure our bags are packed, and our tuxes are ready to go. Our travel information packed, so I don’t forget it. I managed to get Liam’s lazy ass out of bed so I could change all the bedding as Alex and Tracy are going to be staying in our room for the rest of the week. They’ve all decided to go to the race, Benny and Haley were staying with Dad and Papi while they go and they would be taking Paddy and Lee with them. The four boys were excited and driving my cousin crazy. Which of course gives me endless joy and I get to laugh at him. “Babe, calm down. Come and sit, I’ve made you a sandwich. Relax and eat, everything is done and ready. You’ve packed, the bedroom is done, and the bathroom is clean. The car won’t be here for at least forty-five minutes. Please for me.” Liam said to me as I walked into the kitchen. I sighed and sat down. Tracy and Jase were laughing at me. I rolled my eyes at them. Benny brought his plate over to me and sat on my lap, and we ate our sandwiches in silence, listening to the conversations around us. Liam was sitting at the table with baby Noah in his arms, he loves that little boy. Sometimes I think he forgets the baby isn’t his. “Liam, I need to feed Noah!” Katherine was standing next to him trying to take her baby from him. “Back off lady, we’re having a cuddle. I won’t get to see him for a whole week, besides he’s still asleep.” Liam practically growled at her. Kat looked at me, raising an eyebrow, “Will?” “You look lovely today Kat,” I started snickering, I knew she wanted my help, but I was the one who would have to put up with Liam. It’s a very long flight to have him sulking next to me the whole time. So basically it was self-preservation. Kat huffed and stomped off. I’m going to pay for that at a later date. Poor Ollie was shoved into the room, expected to recover his baby from Liam. All he did was stand next to Liam and make little noises about how cute his son was. There was no getting Noah out of Liam’s vice like grip. I fear that now we’re married, the more time we spend around Noah, the more, I’ll get hounded about having babies, or adopting. I won’t be caving on this one though. We aren’t having kids so they can spend more time with a nanny than with us. I want to enjoy having kids, not pawn them off onto others. Once the car arrived, Liam finally handed Noah over to Oliver. He went over to Katherine and gave her a hug while he smirked over her shoulder at me. When Liam pulled back, he left a big lip-smacking kiss on her cheek and thanked her for letting him cuddle with Noah. All of this was in aid of him getting his own way in the future of course. He’s such a cheeky shit! But he’s my cheeky shit, and dear god do I love that man. We gave the dogs a pet, hugged everyone else. Benny walked us to the car, he climbed into the backseat giving Mom a big hug. “Why thank you, Master Benny,” Mom said while she was hugging him. He giggled, “Bye Aunt Kit,” Benny crawled back out of the car and ran to his Poppy yelling a goodbye over his shoulder to us. We didn’t get a hug, but he did wave as we drove away. I quickly rang Dad and Papi letting them know we were leaving for the airport and that my phone would be turned off until we landed in Washington and I would call them when we landed. <>-<>-<> We walked through the doors of a pretty swanky hotel. Even though we are dressed in dress pants and button down shirts, I still feel underdressed. I looked at Liam, and he pulled a face at me as if to say we better not touch anything. Mom looked right at home, she was at reception checking us in. The woman fits in anywhere. The bellboy had taken our luggage from the cab and disappeared. Another man was hovering nearby, waiting to take us to our room. The lady at reception gave him the keys to our room and asked us to follow him. He took us to the twelfth floor where our suite is. I changed the booking from the competition and paid the difference to get us a two bedroom suite. I nearly died when they told me the difference to be paid, I dread to think what the full price is. But it’s worth it for my husband – I I love saying that, my husband – this is Liam’s time to shine his very talented ass off to the world. And what a stellar ass it is. The suite is A-ma-Zing. The common room is huge colored in dark tones of brown and burgundy, it had leather sofa’s, very comfy leather sofas. An enormous flat screen, a proper coffee machine to make espresso or cappuccinos. A dining room table for six, in a French polish and chairs covered in a beautiful silky like material. Both bedrooms had their own en-suite, which is twice as big as the one at home, with a Jacuzzi bath and a walk-in shower. There’s a toilet and a bidet. I’m pretty sure the sheets are Egyptian cotton with a high thread count. The bed was made with blankets and covered by a duvet, not like other motels with their bed covers. I walked back out to the common room, Mom was tipping the two gentlemen who brought our luggage and took us up to our room. “Mom, I think I’m too scared to touch anything. I’m going to have to sleep on the floor.” I chortled. “Just treat it like you were at home sweet boy. It’s just a room, granted the furnishings are a little lavish. You’ll be fine.” Mom said patting my cheek. “Do you boys want to freshen up and go and do something or do you want to have a little nap.” Liam checked his phone for the time, “How about a quick nap, then freshen up and go find somewhere to eat. Something not fancy, I bet the food here is all that fancy crap they overcharge for. Maybe we can find somewhere around the college.” “Whatever suits you boys, I’ll eat just about anything. Okay set your alarms for two hours, that should be enough to have a nap and shower,” Mom said as she was sweeping out of the room. Liam grabbed my hand and practically dragged me into our bedroom. He stood me next to the bed and pulled down the covers. Then pointed at me and said “Naked,” while he was pulling his clothes off in a frantic hurry. “You don’t have to ask me twice,” I thought to myself. Before I pulled my pants down, I gave Liam a smirk. He cocked his head and furrowed his brow. I dropped my pants, and Liam dropped to his knees, holding my hips, with his nose buried in my crotch. “Ohmygod,” He muttered quickly, “Dude, you are killing me with these jocks.” Resting his forehead against my thigh, while I looked down and cheekily grinned at him. I had bought a couple of jocks online before the wedding but knew they wouldn’t arrive before hand, they had arrived yesterday. So I saved them, to surprise Liam with at different times. This one has sparkling bright blue sequins with “Liam’s” written on it in a white pearl sequins. “Where did you get this? Forget it, don’t answer. I don’t care.” He pulled the cloth out with his finger on the side and stuck his tongue in the gap he’d made and licked over my balls and then up and down my painfully erect shaft. “Ahh, Liam, don’t tease,” I moaned. “You started it.” He said flatly and then stood and pushed me onto the bed and climbed between my legs as he forced me to move toward the head of the bed. My first mistake, as I was to one side of the bed. Liam slowly removed the jock from my waist, then leaned over me taking my hands with him. He proceeded to tie my hands around the pillar on the bed with my jock. Now I can’t move my hands the crafty shit. “And now you will pay, don’t you dare cum until I tell you.” He said and kissed my lips gently, licking my lips softly with his tongue. When I stuck my tongue out to meet his, he pulled back. Uh-oh, I’m in trouble, and definitely the right kind. I watched, wiggled and fidgeted, letting out moan after moan as Liam ever so slowly explored my body with his tongue. When he found a sensitive area he would nibble, lick, tease and play until he lost interest and went looking for another. By the time he reached my hips, I was begging for him finish me off. I was bucking and thrusting trying to get my cock near any part of him for some kind of friction. Liam sat up leaning back on his knees holding me down by the hips. “Fuck, you’re beautiful. I love you so much.” Liam said ogling my entire body up and down with his eyes. “Baby, please I’m begging you. Get inside me, I can’t take anymore,” I whined. “As you wish,” Liam pulled my knees up to my chest, pulled my cheeks apart and dove in with his tongue. “Ungh… Ngghhhhh… You are going to pay for this… oh… fuck… Baby, please, get inside me now.” I am in so much torturous pain, I need to cum so badly. I am right on the edge with no way to go over. I closed my eyes and rocked my pelvis upwards hard trying to chase that release. “Please Baby, I’m begging you…” “The noises you make Babe… fuck you turn me on…” Liam pulled away, and I whimpered. All of a sudden his cock popped into me, lubed and ready. I wrapped my legs around his waist and pulled him into me fast and hard, letting out a growl at the quick shot of pain. Liam laid over the top of me and pulled his hips back, and thrust back into me hard and fast while kissing me, swallowing my screams of pleasure. Suddenly my vision went like diamond blasts, and my entire body felt like it exploded. I’m not sure what happened after that. The next thing I remember my hands are free with Liam wrapped around me, kissing my neck and gently running his hand through my hair. My heart was pounding in my chest, and my body was kind of shaky. “What the hell happened?” my voice was gravelly as I croaked out my words. “You kind of passed out for a second… scared the crap out of me.” Liam mumbled into my neck. “I love you, Baby,” I said as I turned in his arms, “did you get to finish,” how embarrassing. Liam chuckled “I'm all right,” and rubbed my back lovingly. <>-<>-<> Liam took my hand, while we waited for the doorman to flag us a cab. Mom had found a place for us to have dinner, with everyday food. She wouldn’t tell us where or what it was, but she seemed excited. She’d told us to dress casual smart, no need for a suit. Mom is in a lovely dress with a light, flowing cardigan, Liam and I are dressed in 501’s and dressy button-down shirts and our polished boots. The cab ride took about twenty minutes, we arrived in front of a building decorated in a rainbow of colors. Three of us stood out the front looking at the bright, colorful surroundings. “I asked the concierge for a fun place to take my son and son-in-law for dinner, he made us reservations here,” Mom said smiling, “he said the food is outstanding and not fancy, just regular fair. He promised we wouldn't be disappointed. So what do you think?” “I think it’s going to be all sorts of crazy fun, by the look on the outside Mom, let’s go in,” I said leaning in and kissed her cheek. Once we were seated, we were told about Drag bingo, and karaoke following. Awesome! Mom ordered our drinks for us while we perused the menu. She called me her son-in-law. I’d never thought about it before, but that’s who I am. I’m somebody's son-in-law, and how great is it that we love each other and get along. I won’t have the gripes other people have about their in-laws. Poor Liam, he got stuck with my mother. The woman who has done nothing but try to hurt him. I could feel my eyes sting and my face fall. Liam must have noticed. He put his hand out and rubbed my back, “Are you, okay Babe?” Liam murmured to me. I nodded my head, “Yeah… I’m just going to to the restroom, back in a tick.” I quickly made my way to the bathroom and went straight to the hand basin and washed my face. I leaned against the wall drying my face and willing my emotions down. What a fucking place for them to surface. Man, I’m going to ruin this night if I don’t calm down. I leaned over and put my hands on my knees with my head down trying to catch my breath. My head was swirling and unbalanced, it was getting harder to breathe. What the hell is happening to me? I could feel the panic rising throughout my body. I felt a hand on my back rubbing it up and down gently with their other hand resting on my head lightly. An unrecognizable deep voice saying, “Everything’s going to be okay, take deep breaths. In,” they inhaled deeply, "and out,” and they exhaled. They did this with me for a couple of minutes. Then the door opened, and I recognized Liam’s voice and gait. “What the hell?” He roared. “He’s having a panic attack, do you know him?” The deep voice asked. “Yeah! He’s my husband,” Liam said worriedly, “Baby are you okay?” As soon as I heard his voice, my entire body started to slowly calm down. “We need to get his breathing under control before he can talk I’d say. Has this happened before?” The voice asked, and Liam was silent. “Do you know what would have brought this on? Sorry, I’m not prying, I’m a doctor.” The man said removing his hand from head and back. “Oh, only recently. We’ve had a really traumatic year, Will especially. We’ve been seeing a psychologist, I thought things were getting better,” Liam said running his fingers through my hair. “Babe, how are you doing?” My breathing had slowed down, and my head was returning to normal, I stood up straight, leaning on the wall feeling foolish. I could feel my face wet with tears. “Just embarrassed is all, I’m feeling a little foolish,” I stated. “Nothing to be ashamed about Honey, wash your face, and you’ll feel a bit better. Maybe we should go back to the Motel,” Liam said. “No, I want to stay, this place is cool, and I don’t want to be responsible for ruining the evening. It’s just a minor hiccup, I promise. I was just overthinking things.” I said as I rewashed my face leaning over the basin. “Don’t overdo tonight, relax and enjoy the evening. If I can overstep my bounds, ring your psychologist in the morning. Give me a call if you’re unable to contact your doctor,” Deep voice said handing his card to Liam, “I’ll organize someone for you. This shouldn’t be blown off, mental health is too important.” I’d just realized the man was dressed in drag, “Thank you for your help, and you look all sorts of fabulous in that outfit.” I chuckled weakly. She answered me this time, with a bop of her finger to my nose, “Why, thank you Darling, and may I say, there must be men and women weeping where you come from. You boys are absolute stud muffins and a gorgeous couple… not to mention the manty dropping accent. Must tinkle and get back out there. Toodles.” And she walked into a stall with a wave of her fingers. Liam walked me back to the table, his arm wrapped around my waist. When we sat, Mom inquired if everything was okay, looking between us. Liam looked at me smiling his love smile and said to his Mom, “Everything’s fine, Will made a friend in the bathroom, and they were chatting.” While he swept his hand over my hair and down settling on my neck. He always knows how to soothe my nerves. Our drinks had been served, I picked mine up and took a sip and smiled at Mom. I knew she wasn’t buying it, but she let it go. I finally looked around the place. It is all lights and decorations, with pictures and posters everywhere. Signs all over the restaurant, indicating different areas. A stage for Karaoke, disco balls over the dance floor. The place was pretty packed already, the ambiance was a feeling of excitement and fun. Now that I’d calmed down, I could try to enjoy the evening and not let the panic attack ruin it. I knew the shaky feeling I was having would dissipate and I’d be okay. “This place is one hundred and fifty percent cool Mom, it’s going to be a great night,” I said squeezing Liam’s thigh and leaning over to give him a quick kiss. “I love you,” I whispered to Liam as I quickly touched our foreheads together. He smiled and gave me another quick kiss. “I’m glad you like it, it certainly isn’t boring, stuffy or pretentious.” Mom said laughing. A fun night with folks in drag, what a way to get my mind to forget all the crap rolling around up there. Just what the doctor ordered.
  24. 37 likes
    It’s Time “What are we doing here Liam?” Lee asked as he leaned into the side of Liam for comfort. "Well kiddo, after the attack, I'm kind of scared. I feel like I have no control over me, I'm worried every minute of every day that someone else is going to finish the job those guys started. I need to regain my confidence. If I had have done this when Dad wanted me to months ago, there's every chance that attack would have turned out differently. Will had me do a self-defence class which helped some, but once they had the upper hand, I no longer had control. Will has already signed you up for a self-defense class for the next four weeks on a Thursday night, so I'll be taking you to those." Liam said and put his arm around Lee's shoulder, "It would kill us if anybody hurt you the way they did to me. We love you kiddo, being gay isn't always easy, and we just want you prepared. Not that we think anything will ever happen, but it can't hurt to know how to handle yourself." “Oh okay,” Lee said timidly. "I'm not trying to scare you, Lee," Liam said looking into his eyes, "But right now I hate how vulnerable I feel. What happened to me isn't the norm, you know that. It was the work of one crazy person with a strong personality taking advantage of weaker personalities. If you know how to take care of yourself, people are less likely to give you any crap. Look around, most of these kids are smaller builds like yourself. I guarantee every one of them could kick my ass, probably even Will’s. But if you saw them on the street you’d have no idea that they were capable. Now I don’t want to do this by myself, I thought it would be something we could learn together, I bet it would be fun.” “I’ll guarantee it will be fun,” a deep voice came upon us, “how are you folks doing? Are you here to sign up for classes,” "What do you say, Lee, shall we do this?" Liam asked jostling into the side of him trying to encourage him. “You promise you’ll do this with me?” Lee asked, “What about Will, is he going to do it too?” “Well Babe, you want to do it with us?” Liam asked. “I have my hands full with boxing you are already complaining about my size now, besides aren’t you supposed to be doing this together?” I asked them. “Please Will,” Liam said pushing out his bottom lip. “Please Will,” Lee followed suit. “Yeah, Please Will,” The instructor did the same. “Fine, you better sign Paddy up too. Might as well make it a family effort.” I said. “If you guys are signing up as a family, we have a family package to make it easier for parents to afford.” The instructor said. "Why don't you guys go and watch the class and I'll take care of the rest," I said to them, Liam smiled, and he took Lee to the seating around the mat’s so they could watch the class in progress. "Okay, just come to the desk, and we'll get you some paperwork. Did I hear you say you box?” "Yeah! I only do it for the training. I got outed at school and was getting bullied; I was also a lot smaller then. It was a way to regain my confidence feel like I had a bit more control." I said. “You got that big from boxing?” He asked raising his eyebrow at me. I chuckled, “Dude, I’m starting to get paranoid about my size now. Don’t you start in on me too. No, it isn't just from boxing. Liam does weights, and we have a small gym at home, I go out just to spend time with him, and this is the result. I’ve slowed down some trying to get a bit smaller.” “Sorry I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable,” he said. "You didn't, but the family has been on my back about it." I laughed. "So we are all under eighteen, Lee and Paddy are foster kids, but to us, they're our brothers. Liam and I will be paying for all four of us." I said pulling out my wallet. “No that’s fine," He handed me a bunch of papers, "You'll have to have your parents sign the paperwork, same for Lee and Paddy, their guardians will need to sign. It's just for insurance purposes. You know we can probably get some kind of assistance from the government for tuition for them. It won't be much, but it will help.” "Um… no thanks, they are family. We can afford it ourselves, and I'd rather leave the funds for a kid who can't." I said to him. “If you’re sure,” He said I nodded my head, "Here is a list of where you can get your gear from, these two top places will give you a discount if you give them our card." He said pointing to the information sheet, "Bring these back signed on Wednesday night and we'll see you then. Oh the young fella with the broken arm will need doctors clearance to start classes." "Thanks very much, appreciate it," I said folding the paperwork in my hand. <>-<>-<> Mr. Wright was explaining the fascinating world of DNA to the class – I'm not being sarcastic. Anyway, I could hear my name being called. “WILL!” “WILL!” It was getting closer and louder, accompanied by the sound of feet slapping on the floor. Oliver suddenly comes bursting through the door. “Will… Uncle Bill… Kat… Labor… Baby…” Oliver said as he bent over with his hands on his knees trying to catch his breath. “Oliver is everything okay?” Uncle Ian asked him. Ollie looked up at Uncle Ian slowly and shook his head, "I'm going to be a…" This was when he collapsed into the nearest chair. The poor girl sitting in it quickly vacated for him. Ollie put his head in his hands, and his realization hit him hard, "Ohmygodi’mgoingtobeadad!” Uncle Ian chuckled, “Yes you are son,” he waved me over from my seat, “give me your keys Ollie,” Oliver handed them over without thinking. I quickly text Liam as to what was going on. “Will is going to take you to the hospital, okay?” Poor Ollie stood up and started walking out the door like a zombie. I caught up with him and pulled his arm quickly and started running toward my truck. Liam met us at the truck; I gave him Ollie's keys to follow me and leave his truck at the hospital for him. I could feel Oliver get more and more agitated as we got closer to the hospital. His leg was bouncing a mile a minute on the ball of his foot and chewing his thumb down to his knuckle. I put my hand on his leg to stop it from bouncing it was distracting me from driving. He looked at me with his worried face. Poor soul. "Ollie, Dude, you need to take a breath, okay. Kat is going to need you to be calm; no doubt she is scared and more freaked out than you. Kat had a relatively easy pregnancy. I honestly think it was worse for us than her," I tried to joke, but now apparently isn't the time, "everything is going to be fine, she needs you so settle down as best you can okay.” Ollie looked at me with tears in his eyes and nodded, I reached over and squeezed his shoulder letting him know I was there. I pulled into the emergency entrance the truck had barely come to a stop and Ollie was out and gone through the doors. I had to chuckle. This must be so scary for them; he's doing a shit load better than I would be I think. I moved up to the five minute drop off/pick up parking spot to wait for Liam who had just gone up to give Ollie's truck keys to Papi. Liam finally jumped in the truck, “Papi said he’s happy we’re going back to school,” "Beats hanging around the waiting room, it could be hours yet," I said. “He’ll ring if anything happens before school lets out. I’m excited about the baby coming.” Liam said bouncing in his seat as he belted up. I laughed at him and leaned over kissing him. "I love you, Baby," I told him He smiled, “Love you too, now mush, let’s get back to school.” “M’Kay,” I chuckled. <>-<>-<> After school, Paddy and Beau hopped into the truck with us. We then picked up Lee and went straight to the hospital. The coaches reached the hospital the same time as us along with Uncle Ian, and we all rode the elevator up together. Liam bounced out of the elevator and straight over to Papi and Dad to see where Kat was at. I saw his shoulders dropped as I dawdled over. "She isn't even fully dilated yet, poop; I want the baby to come." Liam sulked. “Has he been like this all day?” Papi asked. "Yep pretty much!" I chortled, and Papi clucked his tongue. I looked at the waiting room, and Kat's parents were in the corner having a disagreement with Seb, Beau was by his side rubbing his back. “You can’t be serious, what kind of life could have with him?” Kat’s mother spat. Now I was never very fond of this woman, but now I wouldn’t mind smacking some sense into her. Coach went to walk over there to defend Beau, as well as Dad. Liam and I spotted Sasha on her way over there, so we grabbed one each and stopped them. "Don't… Let Sasha handle it; she's a firecracker." Liam said. Sasha bounced over to where the foursome stood with all the PEP of a cheerleader and pushed Seb and Beau out of the way gently and stepped into the faces of Kat’s parents. Who took a step backward away from her. “Hi!” she said loud enough for anyone close by to hear, while she aggressively shook their hands. Whether they wanted to or not. “I don’t know if you remember me, I’m Ollie’s sister Sasha.” “Sasha,” Her father called to her in a warning tone. "Just a minute Daddy," she called back innocently putting her finger up to say in a moment. "If you can't be here for your child, who is giving birth to your first grandchild, I suggest you leave. You have already broken her heart once; we won't stand by and watch it again. As for Seb and Beau how about you spend time getting to know them as a couple before you judge anything. They are so much in love and good for each other." Sasha said. "You're a child; you don't know what you're talking about." Kat's father admonished her. She chuckled, "Well I maybe a child, but I still know better than you about your children. The ones you turned your back on. They are kind and considerate to others; they aren't malicious or mean-spirited, both are really wonderful people. I don't know where they learned their behavior because so far I haven't seen any of those qualities come from either of you. Now as I said if you can't be happy for either of them, maybe you should go." Sasha sauntered off and sat down next to Paddy, who put his arm around her and kissed her temple. "Babe, let's go down and see if they'll take my cast off, it's supposed to come off tomorrow anyway, and it's itchy, and I want it off," Liam said dragging me away as Dad smiled. <>-<>-<> It had taken about three hours before we finished getting his cast off, with waiting, an x-ray and then they finally took it off. We were sitting in the waiting room with the rest of the family and Kat and Ollie's parents. I was sitting with Liam, and I was snuggled up with him, and Lee was asleep with his head on Liam's lap. Seb was sitting next to me, Beau asleep with his head on Seb’s lap as he ran his fingers gently through his hair. Family and friends are carrying on conversations around us in low rumbling tones. The younger kids are playing or texting on their phones. I kissed Liam’s neck and whispered, “I love you,” in his ear and snuggled deeper into his side. He pulled me tighter with the arm around me and rested his head on top of mine. I'm not sure how long we were asleep, but Ollie came through the doors holding his new beautiful baby. Liam gently roused Lee and me, "Baby is here guys." He muttered. Everyone gathered around cooing at the new addition. Oliver had a grin that took up half his face, and tears in his eyes. “Please welcome, our new son, Noah William-John Petrovelli.” He said proudly. He let us all get an eyeful of the baby while he held him for about five minutes to make sure we all got a look. “I have to go back in, Grandparents are allowed now, and the rest when they move her out of the birthing suite. Sorry." Ollie's Mom took the baby and walked through the doors, and his Father stayed behind. “We’ll watch the kids, you go,” Liam said to Ollies Dad. "Thanks, kiddo," he said slapping a hand on Liam's shoulder. “Hey Ollie,” I grabbed him before he went back in. “Yeah?” He said excitedly. “Congratulations Bud,” I smiled. “Thanks, I hope you don’t mind us naming Noah after you two and your Dad’s,” He grinned. "We're honored, thank you so much, Ollie," I said my eyes stinging from overwhelming feelings and Ollie disappeared back through the doors. Liam pulled me into a hug, “Wow, how ‘bout that Babe, a boy and just like us he’ll know where his name came from.” I hugged Liam tightly. We sat back down to wait until we could see Katherine. About five minutes later Ollie popped his head back through the doors. “Aunty Kit, are you coming? Bring the two old guys with ya!” And then he was gone again. I leaned close to Liam, and I thought I was quiet when I said, “I wonder which two old farts he was talking about. There’s plenty to choose from.” Liam snickered. OUCH!! We were both rubbing the back of our heads. "Thanks, Coach," Papi said. “My pleasure Bill, I’ve been dying to do that for three years,” Coach Campbell laughed while he poked his tongue out at us. <>-<>-<> We've finished our junior year – Finally. It's been a roller-coaster ride from the beginning till end. It's only three days until the wedding, everything has been organized and is ready to go. Kat, Ollie, and Noah have settled into a routine nicely, but they are still exhausted, thankfully there's no school. He’s such a happy baby, which is good for us. I've cut my boxing training down to one day a week and train or exercise at home. The four of us have been doing Jiu Jitsu on Wednesdays, Liam watches he's not allowed yet. But he's been going to rehab twice a week, he tells me it's going well, but I'm not sure. When he comes home from rehab, he always seems a little down. I wish I knew how to help him, but I've no idea how to help. What do you do when someone feels their dream is washing away in front of them. I'm hoping it's just impatience on his part and everything will be okay. I’m going to bring it up this week when we see the psychologist. Oh yeah! After everything that’s happened this year we are now going to see a psychologist, I may have had a little meltdown. Not big but enough to upset Liam and make him worry. I rolled over to look at the love of my life; he's so beautiful. When he's sleeping, he looks angelic and relaxed. I can't help but watch him sleep. His long eyelashes resting against his cheek, his mouth in a permanent up turn as if he finds something slightly amusing. I took my finger and ran it down from his forehead to the tip of his nose as he does to me. His mouth curved into a big smile, while his eyes remained closed. "Good morning, sweet boy," I said to him. “Mmm… lay with me, Babe." Liam pulled me on top of him as he rolled onto his back, "that's much better," he moaned as he grinds his hips into mine. “If you want some of that we better be quick we have the psychologist this morning,” I sighed. “Do we have to?” Liam said morosely. “Yes Baby, we do, unfortunately. It’s been a rollercoaster for ten months straight. Even she doesn’t know how we’ve made it through this far without one or both of us breaking down.” I said sadly, I didn’t have a breakdown; just a momentary pity party. Ten minutes tops, I swear. "Yeah!" Liam murmured, "I never want to find you in that state again, it broke my heart. Seeing you on the floor of your workshop curled up like that Babe. You're carrying around this guilt that doesn't belong to you. That's what she said, and I also believe that. Eventually it will sink into your thick noggin, that you aren’t the cause of anything that has happened to us.” Liam gave a half chuckle, “Do you think it would help you if we had individual sessions?” I shook my head no, “If we had individual sessions, I would spend the entire time talking about you and how I can help you. And vice versa, if we do it together we’re forced to focus on ourselves too. Then at least we know what the other is feeling and going through, we can work through it all together. If she suggests individual sessions, I promise I'll go with it." "That's my sweet boy; I love you so much." Liam pulled my lips to him, giving me a scorching hot kiss while he grabbed the lube from nightstand. He put some on his fingers behind my back and then reached down for the crease of my butt. He tormented the outside of my tender hole, teasing and gently pushing a finger inside. Liam kisses became intimate, erotic pressure. His tongue is seeking mine and exploring my mouth. He increased to two fingers and hit my prostate causing me to cry out into his mouth with pleasure; I rested my forehead against his shoulder. Liam brushed against my prostate slowly and gently; then he would change to quick and forceful. My breaths becoming quicker into a pant. I couldn't help but rock my cock against him, back and forth, God I need to cum. “Baby, I need to cum,” I panted at Liam, he rolled me over so I was underneath him and put a generous amount of lube on his cock and stroked it so I could see. "Lift up Babe," I lifted my hips and Liam put a pillow under me, then took my legs and lifted them up and out to chest. He moved between my legs and very slowly and gently entered me. When he had filled me completely, he pulled my legs around him and blanketed my body with his so he could kiss me. Liam's gentle movements were about love and not just a quickie in the morning. He rocked into me slowly, in and out with a steadied pace. My orgasm slowly building until it hit a peak and exploded like a volcano. Liam followed quickly behind groaning loudly in pleasure; calling out my name as I could feel him fill me up with his love. We kissed as we calm down, then he pulled me from the bed and took me to the shower. Liam washed me, every move calculated as his touch more of a caress, kissing me wherever he cleaned exploring my body. I did the same with him, we dried each other’s hair and wrapped towels around our waist. Once in the room, we dressed each other with more kissing. What a nice way to start the morning, I feel loved, cared for and wanted. “We are running late now, but thank you for loving me this morning.” I cupped the side of his face with one hand and kissed him quickly. “All my selfish pleasure Babe, I love you,” Liam grinned, gently knocking our foreheads together quickly. He took me by the hand and led me into the day. <>-<>-<> Kat, Ollie and baby Noah, had gone to see Kat’s parents. Their relationship was on the mend but far from okay. Seb had taken Beau on a picnic date so Liam and I were free to do our domestic chores without worrying if we’d wake the baby. Liam got out the ride on mower, and I put on the crooner's station through the stereo loudly and got on with it. I put a load of laundry on, vacuumed the downstairs, put another load on and vacuumed the upstairs, put on our sheets, remade our bed and then towels and dusted. I made the bed then changed the shower head to a removable head with a hose. Once I was done, and it was in place it was time to test it. I was putting conditioner in my hair, Liam came into the bathroom and collapse in laughter. “It’s not nice to laugh at your boyfriend when he’s naked ya know," I said with a straight face. “Oh my God, Babe, you look ridiculous. Where is my phone?” Liam left the room and returned ten seconds later and took a photo. “Hey, no fair, instead of making fun of me and making more of a mess in the bathroom with your grassy clothes you could help me dry the dogs and then get in here. And just so you know this saved me about 20 mins washing the dogs in the shower.” I said to him while he grabbed a towel and I let C.C. out of the shower. Of course, the first thing she did was shake water everywhere, Liam wasn't quite quick enough to get the towel on top of her. Once the dogs were towel dried Liam undressed and hopped in with me, the dogs laid on the towels air drying from their shower with me. I shampooed his hair while he soaped himself up. Once we hopped out of the shower, there was a loud bang on the bedroom door. A deep voice yelled through the door, “Hurry up in there, you’ve got guests.” Liam mouthed to me, “Who’s that?” I shrugged my shoulders; the wedding is three days away maybe someone has come early and wanted to see us. Geez, I hope not. All this time and Liam still has no idea, for the surprise to be ruined now would devastating for me. We quickly dried and put towels around our waist and left the bathroom. There on our bed sitting with his legs crossed smiling like the cat that got the canary was Benny. The dogs jumped up on the bed and pushed Benny on his back while they sniffed their new friend. “Off, off,” he giggled, “They wet,” then laughing, “They wet.” “Cash, C.C. – “Off!” I commanded and they jumped down and went to their bed. “Benny,” Liam called to him in shock, “What are you doing here?” “He came for a visit, of course,” The deep voice said from the side. It was Tracy, my cousin Alex’s fiancé. “Okay Munchkin, you’ve seen them now let’s wait downstairs while they get dressed. Come on, chop, chop.” Benny rolled his eyes and jumped off of the bed like it was a trampoline, giggling the entire time as he jumped over to Tracy, the dogs intrigue by their newest friend and followed him out the door. "Don't dilly-dally now ladies, Callen has a something for you, and it's time sensitive. I suggest you wear something fancy like a suit.” Tracy said as he shut the door, exiting the room. <>-<>-<> "What the fuck Callen? I didn't ever want to come back here again." I snarled at Callen. “Just… Shut up and watch Dickhead!” He retorted. We're sitting out front of my Mother's house, waiting apparently. Within a minute of Callen giving me an affectionate, yet derogatory new English nickname an car parked in the driveway up to the garage doors. Ten seconds later a marked state trooper car parked kerbside to her front doors. All Officers exited the vehicles and made their way to the front door. A man I've never seen before opened the door. Must be my Mom’s husband. One of the detectives handed him some paperwork, and they made their way into the house. Numerous other vans, cars and SUV's parked around us. All from the county in one form or another. Even Theo turned up with another gentleman in an expensive suit and went inside. People were coming and going from the house, their hands full of computers, gadgets, and files. The man who answered the door was still standing outside the house, the color drained from his face and looking confused and distressed. The two original uniformed troopers came back out of the house with my mother in handcuffs. What the hell is going on. She couldn't see us; we were in a rental with dark windows, so I felt safe. The officers put her in the back of their squad car and drove off. Theo exited the house with the same gentleman he entered with, and sent a thumbs up sign, seemingly toward Callen. “Alrighty, boys, phase two," Callen said firing up the rental and off we drove like he stole it. I held on very tight to the fuck me dead handle above my head. Poor Liam was in the back being thrown this way and that for the first few corners. “You wanna slow down Callen, geez, are you trying to get us killed?” I screeched. "We only have twenty-five minutes left to get where we need, so hang on and shut up. When we get there get out of the car immediately and follow me, I'll be running. Keep up. I’ve called in a lot of favors for this, and I'll be damned if your flabby little asses are going to ruin it." Callen said laughing. “What is happening?” I asked. "You'll see!" Callen said in a sing-song voice as he pulled in front of the courthouse. "Okay boys let's go," Callen grabbed his briefcase, and we were off. As we reached the top of the stairs, we slowed to a fast walk and joined by Dad, Papi, Lee, and Tracy holding Benny.” I looked at Dad, and he shrugged his shoulders, then Papi, he did the same. We entered the courtroom and Callen showed us all where to sit and told us to wait. “I wish I knew what the hell was going on Liam?” I whispered in his ear. "It must be good for Callen to be this excited," Liam said and squeezed my thigh gently. "I hope it isn't to do with my Mother because I don't want to see her," and I don't want to see her, I'm done. Not last Friday but the one before she turned up at the boxing gym in a van with black out windows and the number plate removed. She thinks I'm stupid apparently. I called the cops after seeing her through the windscreen. Mother had two big burly guys with her; they were there to snatch me and take me to one of those convert camps – because that's how it works. I guess they didn't count on Patrick being with me. She was released, no charges pending, her parents are good friends with the Deputy Sherriff. So no I don't want to see her, I don't want to talk to her. I don't even want to know what happens to her now. “Let’s just wait and see Babe,” Liam said. The gavel banged, and a happy family walked out of the courtroom. Callen stood and went to the bench they had vacated. “Blundell, Sunderland and Van de Veice.” A man called out. Callen indicated for Dad, Papi, and Lee to join him. I watched in pure excitement as the judge shuffled paperwork around and wrote things down, I grabbed Liam's hand and held on tight. I reckon I had the biggest grin on my face as I realized what was happening. Liam bumped my shoulder and mouthed "Love you," and smiled. Then we turned our focus turned back to the proceedings in front of us. I think that's what they call it. Too much was happening and I missed most of it but I heard Lee say, "Yes your Honour," and Callen gave him a gentle pat on the back. Lee smiled and looked up at him, while he held Papi’s hand. "Congratulations to you and your family young Master Blundell-Sands." The judge said and banged his gavel. As my family made their way from the bench, Callen stayed. Theo rushed in from the back of the courtroom and handed a bunch of paperwork to Callen. Callen gave that paperwork to the gentleman who called the cases and he then took it to the judge. “Your Honor, this next case is of utmost urgency. You have the signed papers in front of you as well as victim reports. The Fathers are petitioning for a speedy outcome, your Honor.” The judge took about five minutes reading through the paperwork; he nodded his head occasionally. He looked at Callen, "Are the petitioners here in the courtroom?" “Yes, your honor,” Callen said. “Excuse my back, your honor,” Callen turned to me and called me forward as well as Bill. “Please approach the bench Counsellor, all of you,” the judge said sternly. The judge covered the microphone and mostly spoke with Callen about of bunch legal mumbo jumbo I did not understand. “Am I reading this right?” the judge asked, "you must have called in every favor and now owe a few to get this in front of me today Councillor. “Yes, your honor, the need for the urgency is also in the statement from the Father, John Wallace Blundell," Callen said ignoring the judge's statement. "And you Mr. Sunderland, you're happy for this to go through quickly?" the judge asked Papi. “I couldn’t want anything more in my life at this point your honor,” Papi replied. "What about you Master Blundell, you do realize once you're married you are no longer considered a minor? If you wait the three days, it will cease to matter who your parents are legally speaking. Not to mention you are eighteen in mere months," The judge said to me. “It matters to me your honor, it always has,” I choked out. “What if this is declined?” He said. "I really hope you don't, but he'll always be my Papi to me, your honor, I have two fathers with or without paperwork," I replied. “Okay gentlemen step back…” we turned to go back to our bench, “Master Blundell,” I turned back to the judge's bench, he covered his microphone again. “Congratulations on your nuptials for the weekend.” The judge said and winked at me. “Thank you, your honor," I grinned and swiftly walked back to the bench. The judge wrote and signed what was needed, and we waited. "Mr. Sunderland, Master Blundell-Sunderland, Congratulations on extending your family today. It's not very often a case comes along like these two. I must say it’s days like today behind the bench that restore my faith in the good in people. Enjoy your new family gentlemen." The gavel banged, and that was it, I legally have a brother, and the most unexpected thing happened. Papi is legally my Dad and we have paperwork to prove it. I don't know how they did it, but it's done. We were shuffled out of the courtroom; I don't even remember walking out. <>-<>-<> We were all seated in a private room at the back of a Chinese restaurant for a celebratory dinner, the entire extended family. I was sitting between Papi and Liam. Lee was between Dad and Papi. Pitchers of beer and soda on the tables, the first course on plates in the middle for people to take what they wanted. There was a lull in the conversation as mouths were filled. "Okay, not that I'm not grateful because there are no words to express how I feel today. I fear I'll fall apart if I let myself feel all of the emotions warring around my body and in my head at the moment. But how the eff… did you pull this off?” I asked. “Will, language,” Mom said with a grin. Liam cleared his throat, “I called Callen,” he said sheepishly. "Then I called your Dad, who gave me all the information and evidence he had to do with dealings from your Mother. Then I called a private investigator; it only took two days for me to uncover a lot of information, most of it white collar crime. I called the FBI, because of the attempted kidnapping, but also the Sherriff's department here couldn't be trusted after they released her when she tried to snatch you. The FBI then called the IRS. Then your Dad put me in touch with Theo here.” Callen said. "When I spoke with the FBI agent he agreed to drop any charges of crimes against you if she signed the papers to sever parental rights. Your Mother is looking at about 50 years in a federal prison for all her other crimes if she is convicted and serves them consecutively, or fifteen plus if they’re served concurrently. So I hope you don't mind we shaved a few off. Between my contacts and Callen’s company’s relationship with the courthouse staff, we managed to get you and Lee in front of the judge today, so the anniversary of your new family is the same." Theo chuckled. "Thank you so much; I don't know what to say. Callen, you put yourself out there for me, us, today. Please let me know if I can ever repay you. There are no words, except Thank you from the bottom of my heart, thank you.” I stood and went to him, he stood up and hugged me, “I’m so sorry I was a brat to you,” I whispered in his ear. Callen pulled back and gently tapped my face with his hand a couple of times, “Totally worth it Kiddo, just to see that smile on your face.” I then hugged Theo thanking him also. Liam shook their hands with thanks as he stood in place from his seat. “UGH! I think I’m going to be in therapy forever,” I said with a chuckle. "You'll get your thank you the right way when we get home," I whispered to Liam when I returned to my chair. He grinned and kissed my cheek. Oh boy, will he ever get the best thank you I can deliver. The rest of dinner was lively and full of happiness and giddy excitement. Callen told me I still had to speak with the FBI because there was still a lot to deal with, that had to do with the family company my grandfather owned, and some things had my name on them. I panicked a little at that, but he has assured me I’m not in any trouble. He also said he would organize someone from his firm to come with me. By the time the coffees were being served, my exhaustion hit. Benny was asleep resting on my chest. I had my eyes closed and we were nestled into Liam’s side at the table. I was on cloud nine, and there I planned to stay for as long as possible.
  25. 36 likes
    Amasis was staring at the destruction in disbelief. Colin came up behind Amasis and put his hands on Amasis’ shoulders. “It’s not gone. It’s just secured.” I came up also and took Amasis’ hand. “We need to go.” I said calmly and led him further toward the SUVs. That was another thing Amasis wasn’t ready for. Amir came up and got behind Amasis. “I told you about these chariots that didn’t need horses.” He waved at one of the vehicles. Amasis nodded. “You did, son.” Amasis said in a near whisper. “I heard what you said.” He touched his own chest. “It’s so unbelievable.” I nodded. “I can’t know how you’re feeling. I can imagine, but no one can know how this effecting you.” I waved at the SUVs. “For a while…until you adjust.” I said and hurried forward. “And you will adjust. You’re very smart.” I touched the nearest SUV. “It’s a machine. It’s not magic, but it will get us out of here.” I looked at Colin. “Are we going back to Cairo?” Colin shook his head. “No, we’d be in danger there.” He looked at Stan. “Is there anything on the satellite images?” Stan was shaking his head. “I’m waiting for another pass. It will be overhead in a few minutes.” He said again walking and looking at the laptop at the same time. “Where will we go?” I waved at Amasis. “He doesn’t have a passport!” Colin nodded. “We’re going to Israel.” “Why Israel?” “We’re allies.” Colin said. “There’s an embassy in Tel Aviv. We’re going there.” He looked at Amasis. “It’s a little travel to get there, it will take several hours.” He looked at Mark and Chuck. “Someone needs to call Rufus. Talk with him and have him call Senator Cook or Congresswoman Chance or both. Have them call Israel and get us cleared to cross the border there.” Chuck nodded and pulled out his satellite phone. “I got it.” He dialed. Amasis was listening and trying to understand our quick conversations and all that was happening. “It really is…happening.” I nodded. “It’s really happening.” Stan let out one of his victory shouts. “Yes!” He said smiling. “Okay, it looks like they survived.” He counted. “Yes, they all live.” Colin nodded and shrugged. “I guess that’s good.” He smiled at me. “Yes, Colin. Life good. Death bad.” I said bringing him into a kiss. Colin smiled. “Which means we need to go because they are alive.” I looked again Amasis and waved at the SUV. “There will be many instances where you won’t understand what’s going on. That’s fine, but you trust us, don’t you?” Amasis nodded. “I do.” This was all too new for Amasis, but I got him to sit in front on the passenger side. Everything was fascinating to him; from the comfortable seat to when Colin started the SUV and the engine came to life, startling Amasis and the air conditioning came on once it started. We liked music and the SUV’s stereo came on, too. Colin touched his ear. “Can you hear me, Alex?” He nodded at the voice in his ear. “Let Rufus know we’ll be entering Israel through the border at Nizzana. We’re going through the desert. It’s a rocky path we’re taking, so we’ll go carefully.” I sat right behind Colin. Stan sat in the middle seat and plugged the power cord into the socket. Mark beside on his other side. Stan patted the computer. “There you go, buddy. Power.” He said to the computer. I didn’t have to see Mark roll his eyes to know he did it. Amasis said from the passenger side. “This has been…” he looked at his surroundings. “This is a chariot?” Colin nodded as we started to move. “It is.” Amasis had no idea what to expect, but he was trying to accept it. “This music…” he said looking at the dashboard. “…is from invisible musicians?” He held his hands up to the vent. “Cool air is breathed by this chariot!?” He waved. “We’re moving with no horses and I don’t see anything pulling it!” Colin shrugged. “But we’re moving. It will be a few hours’ ride. So, sit back and relax.” He looked in the rearview mirror at me. “Do you know what day is coming?” I hadn’t thought of it, but I remembered. “I do. We missed Thanksgiving. Where are we going now? We haven’t found The Others.” Colin nodded. “We found out about The Others. We’re coming back, but for now, we need to go back to the United States.” His emerald eyes in the mirror told me what he meant. “We need to go home.” “The plane in Cairo?” I asked. “I had them go back after we got here.” Colin said a shrugged. “I didn’t know how long we’d be here.” Going was…it wasn’t difficult, but it was slow. The ballooned tires helped as we went. Stan worked out a route using the satellite imaging. We were a caravan of three SUVs and two cargo vans, also with those balloon tires. It was because of this length of time that was a good thing. The border station on the Egyptian side was first. We arrived from a southwest direction of the town. What pleased me were the military vehicles waiting with US flags. Border guards from both sides were there waiting with the military from the United States. We went through the passport checks and there was a question about Amasis and Amir, but a man in a suit came up and presented papers from a briefcase that told of political refugee status and Amasis and Amir were allowed in to be in the custody of the US Embassy. I grinned as we were then escorted by the military all the way to Tel Aviv. Amasis was looking the whole way once we got to Nizzana. I watched as Amasis got sadder and sadder. When we got to the fertile areas of En Sharuhen he wasn’t even looking anymore. I think it was just too much, too soon. Once at the embassy, there were some things to go over before we got to a hotel making it late in the afternoon. We got a suite with connecting rooms for Amasis and Colin and me. Now Amasis was very despondent. He did grab the walls of the elevator when the door shut and began to move, but seeing we weren’t upset he settled down. I went in after we checked in to check on him. He was looking out the window at the beach below. The hotel was a luxury hotel on the beach and we were on an upper floor. He stood with his arms behind his back as he just stared. I walked over to him and he didn’t move. It was a few minutes before he said anything. “This is not my world.” He said softly and sadly. I thought how best to answer. “It’s not mine either.” I said which caused him to look at me surprised. I shrugged. “What the world is, is the world. It doesn’t belong to anyone. It simply is.” I turned to look at him. “Should we have left you? Sealed you in your wonderful city? Or should we have just killed you?” He gave a shaking nod. “I don’t know. Maybe.” He waved at what he saw below the people and the cars that drove on the street he could see and the city lit for the evening. “I don’t know any of this.” He said sadly. “Since we left my city, I haven’t really understood anything.” I nodded. “It’s all new.” I said. “You need time. It will become familiar eventually.” He walked away and sat on the bed. His eyes widened as he bounced on the mattress. “Even this!” He patted the bed. “What’s this stuffed with? It’s very springy.” I smiled as I came in and sat by him. “There are air pockets in it. Foam filled and made to make sleep more comfortable.” I smiled. “Humans are very resourceful and finding ways to be comfortable. When we got in the vehicle…the horseless chariot…we as people found a way to make even that travel more comfortable. We came up with ways to entertain ourselves and make travel more comfortable by making it cooler or warmer as needed. You experienced that the first time today.” Amasis nodded. “Enclosed and even the ride itself had no real jolts.” “I don’t want you feeling overwhelmed by this world. Gabriella had the same problem when we rescued her.” I said. “Technology changed a lot recently. Colin, as long as he has been alive, progressed on the edge of society, so it was easier for him.” “I shouldn’t exist!” I nodded. “No, you shouldn’t, but here you are!” I smiled. “Most of them shouldn’t be here. Burke, Alex, Willie, Gabriella and Colin should be dead by now. Relationships that are relationships now, should never be. Mom and Willie, Gabriella and Alex, George and Burke and certainly not Colin and me, but Colin and I are married. My mother is married to a man that should have died of old age when she was a baby. Gabriella should have died of old age or been an old lady when Alex was born. George and Burke should never have even met…” I touched his arm. “You should just be a boring notation in history books I have read at school. We shouldn’t know each other at all, let alone be friends! I have a good friend who was a pharaoh of Egypt! That’s something in itself. Not many can claim that.” Amasis nodded smiling. “And you? You didn’t say you shouldn’t be here.” I grinned. “I was born in it this world. There was no adjustment for me.” Amasis looked startled. “You were born in this world? How old are you?” “I was born only thirty some season cycles ago.” Now, Amasis’ eyes widened. “You’re barely older than Amir!” I nodded. “That’s right.” How did I make this easy? I couldn’t. “You can choose ways to look at this. It can defeat you, or you can look at it as a challenge. You have lived longer than any human being I ever heard of.” I shrugged. “Some might view that as a curse, others see it as a blessing. The advantage here is; you have people here that are the same as you. We won’t necessarily die on you. We can and probably will, but it’s not certain when.” I smiled at him. “Soon, we’ll be taking another kind of chariot.” Amasis looked wary at me. “Oh? What’s special about this one?” I chuckled. “It flies.” Amasis looked at me wide eyed. “I was told there were strange things moving in sky over the past cycles. Those are chariots?” I nodded. “With hundreds of people on it. You’ll be one of them soon.” I got up. “Now, the best thing we can do…it will help you adjust. In the morning…we’re going shopping.” “Shopping?” Amasis asked. I nodded. “You need clothes.” I said. “Chuck will want his pants and hat back. Colin will want his shirt back and shoes.” Amasis grinned and stood up. He pulled on his crotch again. “The undergarment?” I chuckled. “I don’t think Colin cares if you keep it.” Amasis shook his head. “No, no…I want to give them back.” He pulled again. “It binds and pinches. They sell garments that might not?” I patted his arm. “We can shop for those you may like, too.” I reached over and grabbed a remote. “Now, I’ll introduce you to the fabulous world of modern toileting!” I watched his eyebrows rise. He was fascinated! Like many people I heard about from remote areas in the rural South that had outhouses to use, he was flushing just to see the water come in and out. Then I showed him about TV and how to use the remote, about the channels and even how to use the translator to understand the languages if he didn’t know them. We finally had to leave when Colin came in complaining out being hungry again. It had been several hours, so he was hungry. So was Amasis. When Colin and I settled in for the night, Colin came to me as we got in bed. “How’s he handling all this?” Colin asked. I nodded. “He’ll be okay. He just feels out of place here right now.” Colin smiled. “We have a few days as the government offices discuss what to do.” He chuckled. “What do they need to do? He’s coming with us, but he needs permission to stay in the United States.” “Do you think there will be a problem?” He shook his head. “We have two powerful people agreeing to let him in. It’s just the red tape.” He stretched next to me and started to come closer and stopped. “Should we…do this?” He asked. “Do this what?” Colin rolled his eyes. “You know what I’m asking about. It’s our nightly thing! I don’t think there have been too many nights when we didn’t make love.” He thumbed to the door behind which was Amasis. “He may come in.” I laughed. “He’s not a child. He knows what we’d be doing if he saw us making love.” Colin frowned and gave me a sardonic look. “Oh, you don’t mind if he sees?” “He’s been alive a long time, I’m sure it will be nothing new to him. I’m sure as many times as he married to both male and female, he probably did it all and could give us tips!” I said pulling Colin close. “He’s already seen us naked, and we’ve seen him, but he’s pretty tired. He’s fascinated with the TV. I don’t think he’ll be up for a few hours.” I said running my hands over Colin’s chest. “A few hours enjoying each other?” I asked. Colin smiled kissing me. “I like that idea.” He began kissing me deeper and with more longing. It was the next morning when we went to get breakfast Amasis knew a little more and was sharing what he’d found out. “So, this is a country of Hebrews?” He asked. “They were nomadic before!” I nodded. “This has been a country for a while now.” I looked at him. “They were once slaves to the people of Egypt.” Amasis nodded. “Not for a few thousand cycles…” he smiled. “…years.” He grinned. “I am trying to learn more English.” He tapped his translator. “I was seeing…watching that magic window…what you say is TV. I was listening and understood some…the languages changed a lot, but I realized, they were Hebrew here. This is Israel. A country made up of Hebrews.” Colin nodded. “You got it.” I watched as both of them were eating well. “We’re going to get Amasis and Amir some clothes. Want to come?” Colin nodded. “Sure. We won’t be leaving for a few more days.” Amasis looked again a little wary. “Then we will take the flying chariot?” Colin nodded smiling. “It’s called a plane. We’re taking you to where we live far across the ocean.” Amasis smiled. “You two are very kind. Thank you for doing all this.” The mall was also fascinating to Amasis. He looked at everything. He marveled at a lot of what he saw we had in this world now. Electronic gadgets must hit all males in our very DNA, he was spellbound looking at all the TV, stereos, computers and all those things. I showed him where there was music like he heard in the SUV he could get and play anytime he wanted on a stereo. Even Amir was a little unprepared for a lot he was seeing. The most important thing was for Amasis was Amasis found some undergarments that didn’t pinch or bind. The shoes he would just have to get used to. It was at the mall as we got something to eat that Colin breeched a subject. “We came to your city originally, Amasis, because of the Others.” Colin said. “Those you called The Old Ones.” Amasis nodded. “They were pretty well taken care of. I hadn’t seen one in a hundred cycles.” “But they didn’t originate in your city?” Colin said. Amasis shook his head. “No. We had the records about them, but they originated elsewhere. A place near the original capital of…” he said a word, but the translator beeped. “…later it was called Thinis. They were taken to many places and released in the wilds north of Egypt. From what I understand, in what you now call…Europe. They were some released to go North, South, East and West. They knew how to survive. They were primitive, but resourceful.” He thought. “From what I understand, the creator of these creatures wanted a force that would overtake an enemy; providing that our own people would be immune to these creatures.” “They would go, attack the people in these countries, wipe them out…” Colin said. Amasis nodded. “The people would die he thought.” Amasis said. “They would die in simple sunlight.” He shrugged. “Some would live, but they would not attack our own people.” I nodded. “They pretty much did that. These creatures don’t attack us, because we already are vampires. He wasn’t making a race of vampires, was he?” “I don’t think that was his intent.” Amasis said. Colin frowned. “How did you become a victim?” Amasis frowned. “I really can’t remember.” He said. “It was so many cycles ago. I remember I fought in a fierce battle. I was wounded and when I woke up…” he shrugged. “…I just thought I’d fallen in that battle and I was in the afterlife. I was making that afterlife better. I survived because I was stashed away in what was going to be my tomb. It wasn’t finished. I was sealed in, but I was there, couldn’t go out, so I didn’t.” I smiled. “You were in battle?” Amasis nodded with a smile. “I was a warrior! I was not just Pharaoh! I would never lead a campaign I wasn’t involved in.” Colin nodded. “That explains why we probably never have seen them in The Others in the United States.” I nodded. “We have wild vampires, but those are the ones that have given up.” I sighed. “The Others…” I waved at Amasis. “…the ones he calls the Old Ones never were taken there.” Colin sat back as he thought. “The danger is far from over.” He said to us. “Those men…whoever sent them know who we are. They know where we live. We’ll see them again.” “Are we moving on?” I asked. “We need to see what Stan has gotten from those scrolls.” Colin said. “He did get them all, right?” I asked. “All the ones that were there, yes.” Colin nodded. “Now, we’ll find out if that builds a database we can use.” I grinned at Amasis. “And you’ll be with us. You get to be part of a big celebration in the United States.” Amasis raised his eyebrows. “Oh? Celebrating what?” “Christmas!” We were finally cleared to leave Israel. We were given the papers needed for Amasis and Amir complete with pictures and documentation needed. The camera flash startled Amasis, but he weathered it well. Amasis looked as we arrived at the airport and looked at a plane for the first time. He nodded. “Okay, it does sort of look like a bird.” Colin slapped Amasis on the back. “That’s because it is a bird! Now, we’ll be riding in one.” It was the Holm’s Laboratories plane again, so less hassle with the authorities. I showed Amasis and Amir what to do when we got onboard. I showed them the seatbelts and told them what they can expect. I spoke of turbulence and Amasis’ and Amir’s eyes widened when I talked about that. Chuck, Shelly, Mark and Stan were flying commercial to New York. They had lives other than chasing vampires. I sat by Colin and put my seatbelt on. “I felt like a stewardess or whatever they call them…flight attendant?” I went into the voice I’d heard many times as the flight safeties were given. “In case of loss of cabin pressure, the masks will come down and put the mask on yourself before attaching one to you child…” Colin chuckled. “I’d listen to you.” He smiled at me. We were good until the plane’s engines suddenly got louder and we began to move. I watched with a grin as Amasis’ eyes widened the faster we went and kept getting faster. When the nose of the airplane left the ground Amasis let out a slow sound that got louder to become a small yelp with the rear wheels left the ground and we began rising. Then he started breathing faster as his grip on the arm of the seat became tighter, his knuckles were white. I reached over and pried his hand free. “It’s okay.” I said. “We’re flying and will do that for a long time.” Amasis nodded too rapidly, but couldn’t say a thing. George came offered to give him a light sedative. Amasis didn’t answer. I walked to George. “Give him a few more minutes. When he realizes what he fears never happens; he might calm down.” George nodded and promised to watch him. Colin smiled as I sat down beside him again. “Some people never get used to flying.” He shrugged. “But they know about planes.” I said. “He never heard of one or even knew what they were until a few days ago.” Amasis finally went to sleep and I relaxed. Mom reached over to me. “Son, Willie and I…” I looked up at her and smiled. “You mean…my Dad and you.” Willie chuckled beside her. “Well, you had a father.” “And I remember, but you have that job now.” I said. “You’re Dad now.” Mom smiled at Willie and looked at me again. “Your Dad and I have some news.” I sat back a little in my seat. “I’m not going to be a big brother.” Mom swatted me lightly on the arm. “No, not that kind of news.” She smiled shaking her head. “We’re moving out.” “What!?” I asked in shock. “You’re going to leave Wentworth!?” Now Colin was listening. “You want to leave Wentworth Manor?” Mom frowned, but Willie shook his head. “We’re not leaving the two of you, we’re just moving to a place of our own.” Willie nodded. “We want a place of our own. Besides, the house is getting crowded. You have Amasis and Amir now…” “I still have the house on James Island. The lease will be up at the first of the year. We’ll move in there.” Mom said logically. Then Gabriella leaned over from her seat. “We’re moving out, too.” She said holding Alex’s hand who rose beside her. “It’s better for all of us.” Colin looked from Gabriella and to Mom. “Everyone is in danger now that those people are after us.” “Are we more safe at Wentworth?” Gabriella asked. “You two were kidnapped right from Wentworth! On your wedding day!!” “Which we knew that would probably happen!” I protested. I looked over at Burke who was about to say something. “…and we’ve already been through that, Burke, don’t reopen that.” Burke gave a shrug and settle back next to George. “Assign what security you think best, Daddy.” Gabriella said as she smiled at Alex. “I have my protection here.” “We land in Charleston.” Mom said. “But Willie and I will be checking into a resident’s hotel there until the lease is up.” “Alex and I will be checking in there, too.” Gabriella said and looked at Mom. “I seem to remember a woman that was in the real estate business.” She smiled. “Care to help us look for a house?” Mom smiled. “I’d be happy to!” Colin was slowly letting it sink into his mind. “Fine.” He sighed. “I guess they all move on eventually.” I looked at Colin and waved at my mother. “That’s what I’m supposed to do, that was my job! I was her child. She’s not supposed to move out. I’m supposed to grow up and move out. Not her!” Colin patted me on the hand. “Well, she is.” “My mother got married and is moving out.” I sighed. “So is my Gabby.” Colin said sadly. I looked at Colin. “Are we supposed to cry or something now?” I frowned. “I wouldn’t have minded a little version of Willie, that would have been fun…” I smiled at Colin, “…or another me.” Mom laughed. “Oh, no, the world could not handle another you, Devon.” Colin pulled me kissing my temple. “I don’t think that would be so bad.”
  26. 36 likes
    Chapter 39 The drive to the airport was quiet. I stared out the rear window of the cab as we buzzed past cars and buildings and people living their lives. I now knew I hadn’t been living mine. I had acquiesced to being who everyone else thought I should be, all the while wishing I could just be me, whoever that was. Maybe I would find myself in Hawaii. It certainly wasn’t happening back home with my family. I smiled. Everything changed with that one phone call. Amanda Franklin had left me millions, but all the money in the world was worthless compared to her priceless wisdom. Love fully and live for others. I was ready to love. First up — myself. It was slow going, stepping away from my self-imposed exile and venturing out into the world. And doing it as a gay man. Sort of. I didn’t really know what I was doing, but I had to try. Hopefully I wouldn’t have to do it alone. Sharon and Billy had accepted me for who I was. Maybe others would too. I wanted to love someone else, like Amanda had loved Patrick and Phillip. Billy convinced me a gay man could have a normal life with a forever love of his own. I needed to love and be loved like that. I wanted more than sex. I craved a real family, a place where I belonged, where I was wanted, with someone who needed me in his life. I was ready to live for others. I had tools, now. More than I could count. I also had people in my life who believed in me. I just needed to believe in myself. It was still a strange thought, that I could somehow do good things and change other people’s lives for the better. But this new purpose sparked a great hope in me - that I could make a difference, just like Amanda. My stomach churned and my hands trembled where they rested on the seat. Such lofty dreams scared me. What if I stepped out and failed? What if I never found a forever love? What if I couldn’t make a difference? I shook my head and gritted my teeth, my hands morphing into fists. Enough was enough. I had lived in fear of one kind or another all my life, but no more. It was time to channel those fears into forward progress. I was ready to do it afraid.
  27. 36 likes
    “I was going to tell you,” I said. “But I was too scared.” I thought it was a good start; at least it was the truth, but he wouldn’t acknowledge me or even look in my direction. I turned towards Sue for help and she must have been able to sense my frustration. “He’s been waiting for you to come home so that he could talk to you,” she said to Daniel and this time he answered but his reply was directed at me. “Why…what’s the point?” he said. “What are you trying to prove…I don’t get it? It’s got nothing to do with me.” I didn’t know how to answer that so I left it to Sue. As far as I was concerned, now that our secret was out, there wasn’t much left to say. Either he accepted us or he didn’t but neither was necessarily permanent. He might not like it at first, but in a couple of months, he might think differently. I didn’t see much point in discussing it any further, but Sue seemed to be looking for a quick solution to something that everyone else could see was going to take a bit of time. “It’s got a lot to do with you Daniel,” she said. “He’s your brother; you share a room. It’s important to sort it out….” “It doesn’t matter mom!” he said. It was the first time that I had heard him raise his voice to his mom. “You don’t get it, do you? Robbie will do whatever he wants to do and everyone else will have to change their lives because of it.” “Wait a minute,” I said but he put his hand up to stop me. “No, let me finish. Because this is what always happens. You and dad will bend the rules for him. You always do! It doesn’t matter what I think, you’ve already made your decision. Whatever it is that you’ve decided between you, that’s what will happen! WHY ARE YOU EVEN ASKING ME!” “DANIEL!” “NO, MOM. You didn’t ask me if I wanted to share my room with him, you told me! I didn’t mind, but it’s not like I had a choice either. Robbie will do whatever he wants because you’re scared of him.” I stood up to leave, shaking my head. “I’ve heard enough,” I said and walked to the stairs where Nathan was standing. “That’s ridiculous,” she said. “We're not scared of him and we’re not biased towards him either. We’ve always been fair.” He disagreed. “You were scared before he even got here. He had a bad time in England. I get that! But it took you guys three months before either of you even said no to him. You’re so busy feeling sorry for him all the time, that you forget about your real kids. We don’t matter anymore. It’s just about him! AS LONG AS ROBBIE’S OKAY, THAT’S ALL THAT MATTERS TO YOU!” “DANIEL THAT’S ENOUGH,” said Sue. “Stop it now…why didn’t you speak to me earlier about this?” “Because you wouldn’t have listened.” I started making my way upstairs with Nathan behind me. There was little that either of us could do now. It was a family matter which needed to be resolved within the family and once again I was feeling very much on the outside. As I expected, Nicola was waiting at the top of the stairs with Amy and I walked past them to go and sit in the living room. “What has any of that got to do with us?” said Nathan. He had a point but I could see how it was all connected and what’s more, I could even see some truth in what Daniel had said. Nicola’s words only a few weeks before had been almost identical. She would have noticed it as well, and she came to join us with Amy taking up her now usual position on the sofa between Nathan and me. “I didn’t ask to be treated any differently, you know?” I said, looking towards Nicola. “And I didn’t ask to share a room either. I would’ve preferred to have had my own room or I could’ve slept on the sofa bed.” “You can share my room if you want Robbie?” said Amy and I thanked her for her offer and patted her head. “I guess he’s upset that we didn’t tell him earlier,” said Nathan. “Daniel isn’t just upset about you guys,” said Nicola. “This has been an issue all along and not just with him. Robbie knows that.” ‘Here we go, how did I know this was coming’? “I already told you; I didn’t ask them to treat me any different. I would have preferred them not to.” That last comment was probably stretching the truth a little and Nicola knew it. I had been playing the sympathy card to good effect from the day that I arrived and had never been shy of using it to gain an advantage or to bend the rules in my favour. I had learned how to do this in England and was comfortable playing the role of the victim if it got me what I wanted. Nicola held a winning hand and we both knew it, but she had the grace not to push home her advantage, sparing my already bruised feelings. It was remarkable how much her attitude had changed towards me in recent weeks. A month before, she would have gone for the jugular. It was something to be thankful for; I would not have been able to stand up to both of them at the same time. “He’ll come around,” said Nathan. “Daniel’s the coolest guy I know.” I shot him a discerning look, which made him laugh. “Except for Robbie of course.” Nicola rolled her eyes and Amy hunched her shoulders and giggled before Nathan playfully pushed her with his shoulder. “Jimmy seems to think that you’re cool,” said Nicola. “I can’t think why though.” “I think he’s nice too,” I said, but when I glanced over at her, she gave me a hard stare. “What? Oh come on, I don’t mean in that way…blimey.” I screwed up my face and shook my head. “Geez, what do you take me for? I mean he’s okay…but.” I looked to Nathan for help, but he raised his eyebrows and tilted his head. “Not you as well.” “I didn’t say anything,” he said. “Your expression implied,” I said, but my slight smile ensured that everyone knew that we were joking. Including Amy, who seemed to be picking up all the signals. “I think Robbie loves Nathan,” she said with a cheeky smile and completely out of the blue. The conversation moved on without either of us denying her observation, but Nicola’s expression when Amy wasn’t looking, told me that her little sister knew more than we thought. I couldn’t tell if Sue’s chat with Daniel had managed to solve anything or not, but they were alone in the basement for a long time before she came upstairs to help Nicola prepare dinner. Daniel remained downstairs in his room and although I agreed to keep out of his way for a while, I was expecting him to want to talk to his friend before he left to go home. Nathan’s visit that day, however, was cut short by a phone call from his dad. He looked a little shaken up as he turned towards me in the dining room. “I’m sorry Robbie; I have to go. My dad’s on his way to collect me.” I stood up with him. “Is there something wrong?” “Well, kind of, I suppose,” he said. “My grandpa has just died!” He looked close to tears but was bravely fighting them back. “Oh God. I’m so sorry.” I reached over to hold him as I heard Sue scamper in from the kitchen. “Oh Nathan, that’s terrible dear. I didn’t even know that he was ill,” she said. “Neither did I. My dad said that he had a stroke earlier today, but they couldn’t save him. He lives in Ottawa. He was over eighty.” “It doesn’t matter how old he was, it’s still a terrible loss,” said Sue and she gave him a hug before rushing off to tell Daniel, which I thought was a good move. “Will you be okay?” asked Nathan as I hugged him tightly, trying to block out memories of my mom. Scars that were still only seven months old and nowhere near healed. “Of course I’m gonna be okay. It’s you I’m worried about.” I couldn’t believe that he was still concerned about me, after just hearing such bad news. The memory of Mr Jenkins informing me of my mom’s death was etched into my brain and I was certain that I would never be able to forget his words or anything else about that day. At the time, it was the only thing that I could or wanted to think about. Nathan seemed remarkably composed though if a little pale. When Daniel appeared at the top of the stairs he looked uneasy at the sight of me holding Nathan, who had his head resting on my shoulder. It was more of a boyfriend pose than a brotherly of friendship one and he stood well back until I released Nathan and gently pushed him towards Daniel. Daniel flicked his eyes towards me before tentatively placing his arm around his friend, who looked sad but still in control of his emotions. “I’m sorry Nathan,” said Daniel. “How did it happen?” I felt a hand around my arm as I was gently tugged away, but this was compelling viewing and as Nicola slowly led me into the kitchen, I saw Nathan relax and throw his arms around his friend. Finally, there were some tears; it wouldn’t have been right without them, especially as I always seemed to be able to cry at the drop of a hat. The only thing that surprised me was that Daniel was also crying, although only a little, but I had never witnessed it before. It was a personal moment that I found difficult to ignore and I wanted to listen to what was being said, but Nicola had a firm grip and dragged me to the back of the kitchen where she pinned me against the wall. She had a scowl on her face that told me to stay put and I decided for once, not to test her resolve. * * * * * Whatever was said during those five or so minutes, stayed with them and the only thing that Nathan would tell me later that evening when I called him, was that they had sorted out a few things. He sounded to be a little better than he was when he left our house. The following day he would go with his family to Ottawa to be with his Grandma, so I wouldn’t get to see him and I missed him already. “It’s a lot better than sitting at the bottom of the garden isn’t it?” said Nicola as I ended my phone call. I looked over and nodded, but Daniel had also heard her comment and glared at me on his way downstairs. He now knew that all the secret phone calls that I had made from the garden were to Nathan. I could almost understand how he could feel a little betrayed, but it was never done maliciously. Nathan and I were made for each other, if we had of allowed their friendship to keep us apart, it would have been tragic. There was one more very important hurdle to clear, in what was now looking like the longest coming out story of all time. With Amy half in the know, Don represented the final piece of the family puzzle and he would be the last to find out. The next day was Saturday and he would be at home for the remainder of the holiday weekend. Sue told me that she would talk to him later that night when he came home and I passed the time nervously on my computer. I was still online at eleven o’ clock when I heard the television go off and Daniel come into the room. He had barely said a word to me in eight hours but after closing the door, he proceeded to undress as usual and then walk around in his boxer shorts. It had been worrying me all evening, I was scared that he would feel the need to act differently around me now that he knew. I would have understood, but I wouldn’t have liked it and it brought back an old problem that now seemed more relevant than ever. As unlikely as it seemed for a naturist like Daniel. If he did decide never to undress in front of me again, how could I possibly feel aggrieved by it? After all, there had been times in the past, and quite a few of them, when I had deliberately watched him and got a thrill from it, enough to give me a boner. If I had ever suspected that someone was doing that to me, maybe a girl for example, then I would have gone ballistic for sure. It was double standards and I swore to myself never to go there again. ‘Daniel’s supposed to be my brother, if I want to earn his trust then I need to stop perving on him’. If I was ever challenged about the past, then I would have to deny it until the cows come home, but at the time, I was just happy that he was undressing as usual, even if I didn’t dare look at him. * * * * * The next day it was raining. It was going to be a long day and the first full day without Nathan since my accident. Instead of waking up to soft kisses from my sweetheart, my sleep was abruptly ended by a not so quiet Daniel banging around the room looking for something to wear. Any other time of day and I would have allowed him his little stomp, but I wasn’t the best person to be around first thing in the morning, especially after such a poor night’s sleep. I bit my lip for a while but then lost it when he slammed his wardrobe door. “Okay, I’m awake! Are you fucking happy now?” he looked at me but said nothing as I grabbed a towel and headed for the bathroom. A long shower cooled me down but when I got back he had gone. At least I was able to get dressed on my own and unlike Daniel’s, my clothes, as usual, were folded in my drawers where I could find them. It was another thing that was getting me down about sharing this room and that day it was worse than I had ever seen it before. ‘I swear he’s doing this on purpose to wind me up’. The room was a tip and it wasn’t just his half. There were clothes everywhere, most of them dirty from his sleepover at Doug’s house. I counted three towels, all on the floor, plus empty cups, glasses, and a plate. He had only been here for half a day since I got back from the hospital. ‘So this is Robbie getting his own way again, is it? If everybody did what I wanted, then my life here would be a lot better’. It was bullshit. I was the one who was having to change my life for him and not the other way around. ‘Spoilt little shit’! Daniel had put me in a foul mood and I was expecting it to get worse. If Sue was true to her word, then she had already talked to Don and I was now officially out to the entire family. I would have to wait for his reaction, but I wasn’t looking forward to this day at all. ‘If I could fast-forward one day in my life it would be this one’. My frustrations were compounded when I turned to look in the mirror and it was gone. My temper from a couple of days before had put paid to that and I couldn’t even blame anyone. It made me even angrier, but as I took a deep breath and prepared to open the door, I received a text. It was from Nathan; a simple plain message as usual. ‘Hope your day goes well. Love you so much’. No text talk, no smiley faces, just plain English and direct to the point. It knocked the wind out of my sails and turned my angry face into a happy one. He was the only person in the world who could have done that, and as I hurriedly returned his message with something long-winded and far less effective, it put everything into perspective. * * * * * Sue was in the kitchen, but there was no sign of anyone else except Amy, who came over to sit beside me at the counter. I was anxious for an update and she didn’t keep me waiting. “I talked last night to Don,” she said. “And?” “He said that he’ll talk to you about it today, it was a surprise to him, he had no idea.” “Do you think he’ll be okay with it?” “He’s going to need some time with this, but that goes for all of us. It was never going to be easy hun, but this is the worst bit. It’ll get better,” she said. “I promise.” She covered my hand with hers and tried to reassure me, but there was something in her tone that raised a few flags. She didn’t sound quite as confident as she had done the previous day. I was anxious to get this conversation with Don over and done with as soon as possible. “Where is he now?” “He’s at the beer store.” “Geez, I guess he didn’t take it too well then,” I said. Sue laughed. “He’s gone to get beer for tonight,” she said and I smiled. “You haven’t driven him to drink just yet.” ‘It won't be long’. “What’s happening tonight?” “We have some guests coming over…important guests. The Cobourg mafia.” “Oh, I remember.” I smiled at her reference the local bigshots. The mayor, chief of police and the local member of parliament, were all members of the so-called mafia. “Nobody that you would be interested in, but they’re all looking forward to meeting you.” She must have read my expression. “Don’t worry, they only want to say hello. Don has talked a lot about you.” “I bet he hasn’t told them the latest episode’. That fast-forward button was becoming more attractive by the second. “I don’t think I should share a room with Daniel anymore,” I said, out of the blue. “Why honey, has he said anything to you about it?” “No, he hasn’t said a single word to me yet about anything, but it’s not gonna work anymore, I just know it.” I smiled at Amy as she climbed onto my lap and put her arms around my neck. “You have to give it some time,” said Sue. “Amy can you get off Robbie please, you know he’s still not well.” I lifted Amy back to the floor and she skipped away to get changed. “I don’t think it will ever work, not anymore,” I said. “And he probably won't wanna be…you know…getting changed and stuff with me there.” “That’s nonsense, this is Daniel we’re talking about. Honey, I think you’re worrying over nothing, give it some time, you’ll see. Besides, I don’t have anywhere else to put you.” “Well, I was thinking. If you don’t mind, then I could always….” “Absolutely not!” she said putting her hand up and cutting me off. “Sorry, but I’m not going to allow you to stay at Nathan’s house.” I was confused. “I was about to say that I wouldn’t mind sleeping on the sofa bed in the family room.” “Oh, sorry…I thought that you had other ideas.” I shook my head as if she was crazy. “Why would you even think that?” I said. “Oh, come on,” she said. “Don’t act all innocent with me.” I wasn’t happy with where this conversation was going. “But I am innocent.” “No, you’re not.” She seemed sure of herself, but I was certain that she was just guessing. “Well you’re wrong,” I said. “Robbie, I’m not stupid. I’ve seen the way you act around each other.” “Sue, please. I don’t wanna talk about this with you.” “I don’t particularly wanna talk about it either,” she said. “And I don’t want to know the gory details, but I do want you to tell me that you’re being safe…do you understand what I’m getting at?” “Oh my God, I don’t believe we’re having this conversation, can you just drop it please?” “What’s going on?” I turned to see Nicola standing behind me. “Not you as well.” “It’s okay dear,” said Sue. “I was just asking Robbie something in private. It’s got nothing to do with you.” Nicola laughed. “Oh, then you must be talking about sex?” “Nicola, please!” I stood up to leave; sex with Nathan wasn’t a subject that I wanted to discuss with close family members, but Sue grabbed my arm. “You understand what I’m getting at don’t you Robbie. That way we don’t have to have this conversation again in the future.” “Yes,” I said, “of course I understand.” “I’m a nurse,” she said. “Duh, I do know that.” “Good,” she said. “I’m not saying anything bad against Nathan, it could be anyone. I just want you to be safe dear.” “Keep it covered!” said Nicola and I cringed as she laughed. “That shouldn’t be too difficult for you.” “Very funny, can I go now?” “Promise me, Robbie,” said Sue. I looked her in the eye. “I promise,” I said, and she released my arm. “Good, I trust you, honey,” she said and Nicola rolled her eyes. “I wouldn’t worry mom,” she said. “Nathan’s on the pill anyway.” I opened my mouth but managed to stop myself at the last moment and saved a dollar. “Well done,” said Sue. “You’re learning, I thought we’d never get there.” “Ah, look, mom, we made him blush.” Nicola pinched my cheek before I pushed her hand away. “Piss off and leave me the fuck alone!” Nicola burst out laughing as Sue tutted and reached for the swear jar, but I was saved by the front door. I turned to see Daniel divert into the living room to go downstairs, without saying a word to anyone. Behind him was Don, who walked towards us. He didn’t look very happy. “Robbie, can I have a word please, in my study?” I wasn’t ready, but I doubt if I would have ever been ready. Don was a large man, built more for a construction site than an office, but he always came across as a bit of a gentle giant, and although I was always wary of him, I was never scared or intimidated. That day was probably the first time, and as I sat in the chair facing his desk, I must have looked nervous. I felt like a naughty schoolboy and it reminded me of an incident, a few years earlier, when I was sent to the head teacher’s office for fighting. On that occasion, it was my fault, I had started the fight throwing the first punch, but I escaped with no more than a warning from Mr Jenkins. He would keep you waiting around forever, before announcing your fate and I soon learned that the waiting was part of the punishment. Don seemed to have learned this art himself and it felt like ages before he finally settled into the big chair behind the desk. It made him look even bigger and fiercer and by the time he started to speak, I admit that I was actually quite scared, although I wasn’t sure why. His opening words set the tone and confirmed my worst fears. “You know what this is about,” he said calmly and I nodded. “Tell me this isn’t true Robbie.” I had nothing to say. “TELL ME IT ISN’T TRUE!” he shouted at me, making me jump. “What isn’t true?” I asked. “DON’T DO THIS TO ME,” he shouted. “I want to know how long it’s been going on. I’M TALKING ABOUT NATHAN?” “A couple of months,” I mumbled, but he pretended not to hear me. “A COUPLE OF MONTHS!” “Oh, geez,” he shook his head. “What is it Robbie, haven’t we done enough for you? Is life not good enough for you here?” “No, it’s nothing like that.” “WHAT MORE DO YOU WANT FROM ME ROBBIE?” His voice was getting louder with each sentence. “I’VE DONE EVERYTHING THAT I COULD POSSIBLY HAVE DONE TO HELP YOU FIT INTO THIS FAMILY AND YOU THROW IT IN MY FACE. WHY?” I don’t know how he was expecting me to answer that question, it didn’t make any sense. My worst nightmare was coming true and being played out right in front of me. I had cramps in my stomach and for a moment I thought that I was going to throw up. “Sorry,” I said. It was all that I had to offer, but my lack of answers only frustrated him more. “You have everything you could possibly want,” he said. “There are children out there who would give anything to swap places with you.” I didn’t disagree with that statement; it just didn’t seem relevant and I shrugged my shoulders to say as much. “What on earth made you want to do this? I don’t know what to say to you that can describe how disgusted I am by what you’ve been doing…we’ve taken you into our home Robbie, and this is how you repay us? It’s…it’s depraved,” he said. “I can’t think of any other word. What would your mother have thought?” Those words were guaranteed to hurt and they went straight through me, slicing me in half and filling my eyes with tears. I was totally unprepared and sank deeper into the chair with my head bowed and my eyes closed tightly, hoping that it would all somehow go away. I started crying; he made me feel cheap and useless like I had let him down and abused his trust. “Do you mind telling me how you managed to keep it quiet?” “I don’t know what you mean” “Where has this been happening?” “Not here,” I said. “If that’s what you’re worried about?” It was a blatant lie, but what else did he expect. “Yes, Robbie, I was worried about that and for obvious reasons,” he said, but his obvious reasons weren’t that obvious to me. “So I take it this has been going on at Nathan’s house or is there anywhere else that you use?” I didn’t like the way that he was talking, he made it sound dirty and casual when it had been the complete opposite. I didn’t want to discuss what we had done; he would never be able to understand anyway. “Well,” he asked again. “Look I don’t know what you want me to say or why you’re even asking me these questions. It’s not like it happened every day.” “I don’t understand you,” he said. “That’s right, you don’t understand. I thought that maybe you would, but obviously, you don’t get it, do you?” I had no idea where that sudden spurt of bravery came from but it felt good saying it, even if I was to regret it. “I don’t want you talking to me like that, okay?” At least he was calm, but his next sentence totally blew me apart. “And until I can figure all this out, I want you to stay away from Nathan.” “WHAT, WHY?” “WHY DO YOU THINK?” “I DON’T KNOW, WE’RE NOT DOING ANYTHING WRONG?” “HOW CAN YOU SAY THAT...OF COURSE, IT’S WRONG. IT’S AGAINST THE LAW FOR A START…WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU?” His face was red and he tried to calm himself down before continuing. “Nathan is no longer allowed to visit this house and his house is strictly out of bounds for you. I won’t allow this to continue Robbie. It’s immoral, it’s illegal and I’ll do whatever I need to do to stop it. From this day on you can forget all about Nathan. The sooner that you can do this the easier it’s going to be for you. Then maybe you can learn to be more responsible and who knows maybe one day you can put all this behind you and live a normal and happy life.” It was more than I had expected, but I listened intently to every word. I felt each one strike me like a dagger through the heart, as I began to fully understand the implications of what was being said. Few words had ever hurt me as much as those did, and once again I was unable to stop the tears from escaping my already sore eyes. Unless he changed his mind, then as far as I was concerned, I no longer had any reason to live. It was like hearing a death sentence being passed. I doubted that he would ever be able to understand what effect it would have on my life or exactly how much power he had over my very existence. If he ever did, then I was absolutely certain that it would be too late. I wasn’t able to think straight. I had so many thoughts swirling around my head at the same time that it was difficult for me to concentrate on any one thing for long. He started talking to me again, but I had switched off long ago. “Robbie, are you listening to me?” I looked up to face him. “WHAT?” I shouted. “No, I’m not interested in anything you have to say.” I was being as impudent as I dared; he wasn’t used to being talked to like that. ‘You better get used to this because if you take Nathan away from me I’m gonna hate you forever’! I heard the door open and close behind me and felt Sue’s presence at my side. “What the hell’s going on?” I didn’t look up, but her voice was firm and demanded an answer. “I’m trying to sort out this mess,” he said as I felt Sue’s hand on my shoulder. “Well it doesn’t sound like you’re doing a very good job of it,” she said. “You need to calm down. Robbie hasn’t done anything wrong.” “What do mean he hasn’t done anything wrong?” He stood up, threw his hands in the air and turned around to look out of the window, muttering to himself. “Prick!” I said it under my breath, but they both heard me and Don spun around quicker than I had ever seen him move before. He looked as if he was going to hit me, but Sue instinctively moved to block his path standing between us and staring him down. There were times when this little woman stood much taller than her actual height. “Robbie,” she said calmly. “Please don’t make it any worse than it already is?” “How can it be worse?” I said. “Do you think that he’s right to try and stop us from seeing each other? Just because he doesn't understand it.” My head was spinning as I tried to think of answers that weren’t there. I needed to get away from him or it was just going to get worse and Sue was stuck in the middle. He looked pensive, maybe recognising that he had gone over the top. “Robbie, look, I know you’ve been through a tough time lately.” I could almost see the red mist as it descended. I stood up and tried to make it to the door before I opened my mouth, but I couldn’t stop the words from coming out. It was as if I had absolutely no control at all over my vocal chords. “YOU KNOW WHAT?” I said. “FUCK YOU!” Then I opened the door and ran through it, brushing off Sue’s attempts to stop me. I remember seeing Amy standing by the kitchen, she was crying and it hurt me even more but I couldn’t stop. Nicola tried to grab my arm but I pulled it away and ran down the stairs, taking them two at a time, before pushing my way past a startled looking Daniel in the family room. He called after me but I ignored him and headed straight for the bedroom where I pulled out my drawer and tipped it upside down on the bed. I was shaking and sobbing as I rummaged through the mess, grabbing what I needed and shoving them into my pockets. Keys, a handful of cash, my phone and I was gone. I picked up a pair of my sneakers, ran out the back door and around the side of the house before anyone could figure out what I was doing. Then out of breath and still carrying my shoes, I jogged down the road until I reached the creek where I turned off the sidewalk to take the trail. I could no longer be seen from the road, so I sat in the dirt to put my sneakers on. As I finished tying the laces, my phone started ringing. I took it out of my pocket and switched it off without looking to see who it was. The creek ran through across the town and then down towards the lake. It was a popular shortcut used mostly by kids—everyone else had cars—but I knew that Don wouldn’t follow on foot, so I was just needed to keep away from the roads. With Nathan and his family in Ottawa, I had nowhere to go, and no other plans other than to get as far away as possible from that house!
  28. 36 likes
    Chapter 34 At lunchtime, I went out to my car to call Todd Martin. I had a lot of questions and I needed to see if he was okay with the money I had spent over the weekend. I found his card in my wallet and dialed. He answered on the first ring. “Jack Schaeffer! How are you, man? Get back to Chicago okay?” “Yeah, I did. How are you today, Todd?” “Good, can’t complain. What can I do for you, Jack?” “Well, I think I did a not too smart thing. I went down to the Boeing headquarters here in Chicago and toured a mockup of the new 747 plane. I know you said I shouldn’t, but I couldn’t resist. It was so beautiful and I hate flying first class with all the rabble. So I put a down payment on one. It was only 117 million, and you have two years to come up with the remaining 250 million. You were right. They take a Centurion card everywhere. Is that okay?” I was nearly choking trying not to laugh at my joke. “Ha ha, Jack. Very funny, you little shit. Now tell me you didn’t.” “Naw man. I’m not that stupid. Besides, what could one person do with a plane that big? But hey, I did spend some money. I helped a couple at the airport on Friday get seats together on my plane. And I went on a little shopping trip for myself and got some clothes and an iPad. I hope that’s okay.” “Sure, Jack. Of course. No problem. Unless you spend above a certain threshold in a calendar day, I don’t even get a heads up from the system. The bills are just paid, no questions asked.” Really? “So what is the threshold?” I asked. “No way, Jack. I’m not telling you. That’s all I need, you spending a shitload of money just to trip the system so I catch it. I can already see you’re gonna be a pain in my ass, aren’t you?” I heard the smile in his voice. I liked Todd a lot. He and I were going to get along great. Too bad he was straight. Maybe I could talk to his wife and she would share him once in a while. Don’t be silly, Jack. “I’m just asking. It’s not like I have anything I really need to buy right now.” “Well, let’s just say it’s in the high six figures and leave it at that.” Holy crap! Did he just say I could spend close to a million dollars in a day and he wouldn’t even be warned about it? I thought I was beyond shock anymore with the money thing, but I was wrong. “Yikes! Okay, well, no worries. Not gonna happen, Todd. But that does answer one of my questions.” “Oh, what?” he asked. “I want to take a trip to Hawaii and the place I want to stay is kind of pricey.” “How pricey is pricey, Jack?” “Like $2500 a night.” I braced for his scream. “Jack, that’s not pricey. Sure, for the average guy, or even the average upper class guy, it might be a little steep. But trust me, you can handle it. Go and have a blast. Enjoy yourself. How long are you planning to stay?” “I’m not sure. I was thinking a week. I wanna get out of Chicago, get some sun and just veg out and think about life, ya know?” “I get it. Sounds wonderful to me too. Go for it. You need any help making plans on where to stay and how to get there? I’m good with all the little detailed shit. I’m here to help if you want it.” He was sounding too good to be true. “I’m good for now. I’ll let you know once I’ve made up my mind on what I’m doing. But there is the other matter we discussed when I was out there. My student loan?” “Oh, yeah. Right. You got the numbers for me? I’m ready when you are.” I gave him my current remaining balance—$16,374.22—and the account numbers and contact information. He assured me he would have it handled before the week was over. That was easy. “So Jack, when are you coming back out to Denver? We should talk about some options for you, if you’re up for it. Plus my wife Margie would love to meet you.” Why, I wondered. I was nobody. “Well, actually that was the other thing I needed to talk to you about. I’ve decided to quit my job and move to Denver in a little while, probably right after my trip. I really liked it out there and I think I would like to get a little more involved in the day to day activities with the trust. That is, if I wouldn’t be a bother.” “Not at all, Jack. Are you kidding? It would be great to have you out here and I wouldn’t mind walking you through everything we’re working on for you—make sure you’re on board with it all. Nothing too deep, just skimming the surface so you get an idea.” I knew I liked this guy. He knows not to overwhelm me with too much information at one time. Smart man. “I like the sound of that. Let’s do it. Soon as I get back from my vacation.” “Hey, Jack, have you given any thought to where you are gonna stay if you move to Denver? You know you have a house out here, right?” “Yeah, I remember seeing it on one of Larry’s lists. But I never found out much about it. Is it nice?” I had no idea about real estate or owning a house. Way above my previous pay grade. “Uh, yeah, I would think so. I’ve never seen it, but it’s out in Littleton, about twenty minutes from downtown Denver. Sits on seven hundred acres on a mountain side. Sounds pretty nice to me.” Crap! Crap! Crap! I was going from a one bedroom apartment to seven hundred acres? Geez, how was I supposed to manage all that? I hated cleaning my little apartment and it only took an hour. I could feel an anxiety attack threaten. “Jack, you there? Jack, where’d you go?” He sounded frantic. “I’m here. Just give me a minute, okay?” I tried to calm my breathing. This emotional freak out response of mine was getting old. “Alright. I can breathe again. Sorry. It’s just...I hear numbers like that and it gets overwhelming really fast for me. I’m trying to get over it.” “Numbers like what, Jack?” He asked, with genuine concern in his tone. “Seven hundred acres, high six figures, crap like that. I mean, I live in a tiny one bedroom apartment. Now you’re talking a house on seven hundred acres of land. How am I supposed to take care of it? It’s way more than I can handle. I was thinking it was a small townhome or a simple single family home in a subdivision somewhere.” “Nope, none of those. But you know, it’s taken care of already by the Smyth family—Charles and Maggie Smyth. He does all the landscaping and maintenance and general labor and she does all the cooking, cleaning and household management things. So really, there is nothing for you to do. You’d have live-in help. If you want them, that is. According to Larry, they asked to stay on and keep the place going until the estate got resolved. They’ve been doing it for close to twenty years, I think. Phillip Franklin hired them from a hotel he stayed at a lot. You’d have to ask Larry for more details.” “What if I don’t like it? Or I’m not comfortable with live-in help? What if they don’t like me or don’t want to stay on? Then what?” I asked. “I’m sure they’ll like you, Jack. But, hey, if they don’t, then we put the house and land on the market and we sell it. And we get you a great condo in the city. Or whatever you want. You can live wherever and however you want to, you know that right?” He was being gentle with me, which I appreciated. I would get over being a ninny about the money eventually. I hoped I would, anyway. “Well, I guess it couldn’t hurt to at least visit it and see what it’s like. I mean Phillip and Amanda loved it, I understand. So maybe it’s great. I’ll check it out when I get to Denver later.” “Sounds good, Jack. Hey, why don’t you give me the name of the place in Hawaii you were interested in renting and let me see what I can find out for you? Once you know when, and if it’s available, we can talk about flights and rental cars and other things you might need.” His assistance would actually be a relief as I had struggled to figure out availability online when I was surfing yesterday. Maybe Todd could call them directly or something. I gave him the info. “Alright, Jack. I’ll get on this right away and let you know what I find out. By the way, check out your bank balance today. I transferred some money to you this morning. Gotta run. Bye.” He hung up, leaving me staring at my phone. What had he done? My empty stomach preempted any further money business. I buzzed over to Buffalo Wild Wings for lunch and ordered wings with my favorite flavors–chipotle dry rub and spicy barbeque, six of each. I washed them down with a large Diet Coke and then used the wet napkin things they have on the table to try to get the sticky sauce off my fingers. I finally gave up and hit the bathroom to wash up. I was standing in front of the mirror, soaping my hands, when a guy a few years older than me clearly leaned backwards from the urinal behind me and scoped out my ass. I mean, he looked right at it for several seconds, then looked up at my face in the mirror and smiled. No mistaking his interest. I smiled back, letting him know I appreciated his attention. He lifted an eyebrow as if to ask, “Interested in getting to know one another a little better?” But in a split second I realized I had just decided to leave Chicago. What sense did it make to get involved with this guy, hot as he was, when I couldn’t really have a relationship with him? Sure, the sex might be epic, but my heart would just get broken in the end. So I dried my hands and when he walked up to the sink, I said, “Thanks for thinking about me. But I can’t pursue anything right now. I hope you understand.” “Sure, no problem. But kid, you got one hell of an ass on you. Be careful with that thing. Somebody might get hurt. Wish it could have been me,” he said with a grin. I blushed and walked out of there before I changed my mind. I mentally kicked myself all the way to the car. There was a part of me that wondered if I was upsetting some kind of sex god by always turning down opportunities, holding out for true love. Maybe I would never find love and then I’d be too old or too...whatever. I made it back to the office within my allotted one hour break time. Mary was still out on her lunch, so I secretly logged onto my bank online, something I had learned how to do over the weekend, and almost fell out of my chair when I saw the balance. It should have been less than $1,500. Instead, the screen showed I had a little over $200,000 in my checking account. Holy crap! Todd was totally messing with my head again. I was still staring open mouthed at the screen when Mary walked in from her lunch. I snapped out of it and shut down the web browser on the accounting computer before she could accidentally see the screen. Thankfully, we both had busy afternoons and nothing more was said about my impending departure until close to quitting time. Marcus called me into his office and asked me to shut the door. “Jack, have a seat. This won’t take long. I’m sure you want to get out of here.” He didn’t know the half of it. I could feel Mary readying herself for round two of the inquisition and I had said all I wanted to. “I’ve been thinking about you leaving, Jack, and I have an idea I want to run by you. I’m thinking of splitting your position into two. As you know, I have been wanting a certified accountant on staff for a long time. Our numbers are looking up and we have a lot more transactions to manage, plus my time is being taken up with more strategic planning and the financial management is getting short changed. So here’s my idea. I’ll hire an accountant to do all the bookkeeping part of your job, which I’m estimating is like seventy-five percent of what you do for us, correct?” I nodded. That sounded about right to me. “The rest I’ll merge into what Mary is already doing. The combined position will be titled Office Manager and I’m thinking of offering it to Mary. She’s proven she can handle the workload and I can probably swing a raise for her with the new responsibilities. “Bottom line, Jack. You won’t have to interview or train your replacement. What do you think?” He asked. I grinned from ear to ear. “I think it sounds brilliant. Mary will be super happy. She hinted around this morning she might want a piece of my job. It’s perfect. I know she could use the money. And if you can keep her busier, she won’t have as much time to be a busybody.” I smiled. I really liked his idea. Everybody wins. I was feeling much better about my decision to leave. “Great. My thoughts exactly. Now, have you given any thought to how long you want to stay on?” I hadn’t. “Actually, no. I still have a lot to do to make the move happen. My apartment, I have to figure out. I’m thinking of selling my car and getting something else out there. Not sure I have much to move. Most of it isn’t worth a lot. I really don’t know how long it will take to get everything done, Marcus.” “Alright. Well, for now, we’ll proceed with this plan, and you keep me posted with your progress on things. And if you need to take time during the day to handle some arrangements, feel free Jack. Just keep payroll going please. That’s all I ask.” He was smiling in mock horror at the thought of payroll not being done by Friday. “Go on, Jack. Go home. Have a great evening. I’ll see you in the morning.” “Night,” I said and then made my exit. Thankfully, Mary had already left for the day.
  29. 35 likes
    Diarmad (Third person narrator with limited POV) Diarmad watched as Ronan checked the French doors in the back, every window, and finally, after he was satisfied everything was locked up tight, setting the alarm system by the front door. Someone from the security team came from upstairs, and they talked briefly before the man disappeared down the hall leading to the kitchen. Doing the evening round had been Landyn’s task for as long as Diarmad could remember. Afterwards, they would usually sit together with Simon, Ronan, and Becca, enjoying the last quiet evening before Seraei from all over the world visited the summerhouse to celebrate their arrival on Earth. Ronan’s voice brought him out of his musings. “All set for the night, my Lord.” Diarmad put his empty glass down on the table in front of him. “Is everything ready for tomorrow?” “Yes, Sire. The security system in the guesthouses is up and running and the rooms upstairs are in order. Additional men will arrive before everyone else turns up during the afternoon.” “Very good, Ronan.” Diarmad knew his attempt at a friendly smile had failed when he saw Ronan’s expression harden. “Do you need another drink? Should I send Keith?” “No, thank you, Ronan. I will be going to my rooms momentarily.” And, in an afterthought, “Good night, and give Becca my regards.” “Will do. Thank you, Sire.” Ronan bowed, then turned around and quickly went upstairs. Where his mate is waiting for him. Longing flooded Diarmad’s mind, but it was quickly replaced by annoyance. It happened every time his thoughts wandered to Noël. For a brief moment, he would feel their bond strong and vibrating, and then he remembered everything wrong, everything that had made it impossible for him to live with his mate any longer. He felt his irritation well up just thinking of the disarray the boy had always brought to their room; books, clothes, candy wrappers on the floor and on every flat surface. If it had not been for Keith, it would have been like living in a garbage can. The terrible music Noël had listened to, one would think as a classical pianist he would have had better taste. Or his impossible friends, Kris in particular, who were traipsing about the house, making a commotion. But did he listen to Diarmad’s complaints? No, he just laughed them away. In the end, it had been unbearable. Even Noël’s scent had grated on his nerves; hearing his youthful voice had Diarmad flee the room, and his touch had almost hurt, making his skin itch for hours. Diarmad resented what he had found lovable before, and that was when he realized it was over. Obviously, their most sacred ritual was flawed—for this could not be what the old tomes had described, a love that could overcome everything. Separation had been the only logical conclusion. *** Diarmad stared at the book in his hands without really reading it. Usually, with the house full of guests, there was no chance to have a moment alone outside his rooms, but by some miracle, the library had been pleasantly quiet all day. The news of his separation from Noël had been making the rounds, and, as expected, most of his people had reacted like they were either shocked and/or disappointed. Naturally, those who didn’t know Noël very well blamed him. Diarmad had heard the wildest rumors about Noël cheating on him, or even having been caught stealing money. The moment he had become aware of these absurd accusations, he had instructed Keith to spread the word that Noël did not do any such things, but that Diarmad himself had been the one who had wanted the separation. In the past, communicating the king’s affairs had always been Landyn’s job. This year, the man and his mate had chosen to spend their vacation with Noël, cruising on their sailing yacht, rather than spending it with him. A clear sign they were not happy with his decision to separate from Noël. Diarmad hoped that with time, they would calm down and their friendship would recover. They were expected to arrive in the evening, or early the next morning at the latest. I wonder if Noël will really come. When Diarmad heard the door, he closed his book and looked up to see who finally found his hiding place. Sean Monaghan’s big frame came around one of the bookshelves moments later, and he stopped when he noticed Diarmad sitting in one of the big armchairs by the fireplace. Running his hand repeatedly over the white blond bristles of his buzz cut, he immediately apologized. “I’m sorry to bother you my King. Cieran sent me to tell you that people are asking for you. They want to know if Lord Noël is going to attend the celebrations, especially the clan leaders who don’t know him yet are eager to finally meet up with him. I, as well as the other council members, assured them he’ll be here tomorrow morning at the latest, but we still think it would be better if you talk to them yourself, dissuade rumors you aren’t well.” Diarmad put the book on the small side table beside his chair. “You are probably right.” Then another thought occurred to him. “Is Laird on his way home yet?” “Yes my Lord, but he was um… not exactly happy he had to leave.” Sean was suddenly very interested in some of the books sitting on the mantelpiece. “He er... somewhat lost control of himself and told everybody who was interested or not, that ‘the little whelp is just jealous’ so he had to leave the house, which wasn’t fair as he is now the man at your side. Some of the clan leaders found this disconcerting, to say the least.” “It would not have been appropriate for Laird to be at my side during the celebrations, even if Noël hadn't insisted on coming only if he was not present. Laird’s rude behavior shows that Noël was right on demanding his absence. Rest assured, he will be properly punished when I am back home.” “That might be what he is after in the first place.” Sean’s cheeks flushed with embarrassment as soon as the words were out. “I’m so sorry, my Lord! It is not my place—” “No, it is not, but you might be right.” Diarmad’s eyes narrowed. “This will not give him any pleasure, I can promise you that.” Awkward silence filled the room. Obviously desperate to change the topic, Sean blurted out, “Will Lord Noël bring his new lover?” He back-pedaled immediately when he saw his king’s eyes flashing silver, and lifted his hands apologetically. “I’m only asking because this could lead to even more questions.” “His new lover? He has a new lover?” Diarmad was out of his chair, and Sean took a step back before he answered. “Does he not? I’m sorry, my Lord, we thought this human he is living with—a misunderstanding maybe…” “He is not bringing anybody beside Simon and Landyn.” “So the rumors are wrong? He isn’t involved with anyone yet?” And the man’s whole demeanor brightened. “Would it be inappropriate if someone else…I mean, you’re legally separated, right?” “Are you telling me someone is interested in my mate?” Diarmad took a step forward, his gaze holding Sean’s. “Do you not seek a mate of your own?” Standing tall, Sean met his king’s eyes. “Well yes, but in the meantime… I mean, he’s very beautiful and very talented also. We, the council, want him to work as one of our licensed telepaths. In fact, we will offer him the position at the next meeting. If he accepts, he will supervise negotiations, even trials, to ensure that the truth is spoken.” Then Sean grinned. “And having an empath as a lover certainly never hurts…” “You do not need my consent, as you very well know.” He stormed to the door, brushing Sean’s shoulder so hard on his way out that he knocked the other man aside making him stumble. *** Keith had told him of a musical performance taking place in the hall later in the evening, and Diarmad had expected to listen to some of the more talented students of their new Music & Arts Center. Instead, Noël had appeared on the stage. Standing there arrogantly, his thumb hooked onto the front pocket of his ripped jeans, pulling down the waistband just enough that if the white button-down shirt had been just a little shorter, everybody could have seen Diarmad’s mark. For a brief moment, Diarmad had been disappointed, as he had always liked others seeing the intricate vine marking Noël as his. Nothing on his mate’s face had betrayed any emotions. Curious, Diarmad had tried to probe his mind, only to run into impenetrable shields followed by Noël jerking his head up, scanning the crowd for whomever had dared to try and read him. He had been so beautiful. His sun-bleached hair was longer than Diarmad remembered; it was now reaching way down his back. When he had pushed the rolled shirtsleeves over his elbows, Diarmad could not help but admire the smooth, tanned skin stretching over sleek muscles. At that moment, almost all of the sound reasons for leaving Noël had been forgotten, and Diarmad had been about to leap out of his chair embarrassing himself, when somebody had nudged his shoulder and a drink had appeared in his line of sight. After looking into Keith’s sympathetic face, he had accepted the glass and immediately gulped down a large amount of the cool beverage, feeling better instantly. Noël’s presentation had been a thoughtful mix of arrival-themed songs. The guests had loved every minute of it. And then he had played one last soulful piece, cleverly blaming Diarmad for everything that had happened. First, only single glances had been thrown at him, but the more Noël had poured himself out there, the more Diarmad had felt other people’s eyes on him, some curious, others accusing and reproachful. That was when he understood what Noël was doing; he was trying to divide him from his own people! A provocative bow later and Noël was gone, no mingling with the guests but instead, leaving Diarmad to handle the chaos he had created. You will not disappear on me, not after this stunt. Searching for his wayward mate, Diarmad pushed through his guests. He won’t let Noël get away with what he had done. No, he was not going to tolerate this kind of behavior, and if he had to drag Noël back so he could explain to everyone that he did not mean it as it had sounded, he would. Which no one is going to believe. He has to apologize to me, publicly. Diarmad couldn’t detect Noël anywhere in the hall, and when he tried to look for him in the backyard, he found himself constantly surrounded by Seraei. He could hardly move. People kept talking to him, some with barely concealed sensationalism gleaming in their eyes, trying to gauge his mood after Noël’s performance. He finally reached the door when Montgomery approached him. As the leader of one of the three most important clans on Earth, he could not ignore the man. Diarmad groaned inwardly before he pasted a polite smile on his face. “Montgomery, so good you could make it this year.” The man took his hand with a firm grip. “My Lord, what a little spitfire you have there!” Diarmad almost punched him into his smug face. “Thank you, my friend. Yeah, he has quite the temper sometimes…” He chuckled, while trying to peer around the other’s tall frame through the open patio door leading into the backyard. No Noël. Only, the man wasn’t deterred by Diarmad’s more-than-obvious efforts to get away, but actually had the audacity to bend his head getting even closer, while whispering in his ear, “He’s beautiful, so why did you seek a separation? Was he too much to handle?” Montgomery grinned knowingly. “The young always need a firm hand to learn their place. Trouble, yes, but also a delightful challenge. Not like your Laird, huh? At his age, he is probably much better trained thereby easier to handle, yes? Is that what you prefer?” Diarmad honestly considered simply killing the man and be done with him. It would be an inconvenience, but nothing more. Montgomery finally sensed that he had overstepped the line because he backed away quickly, lifting his hands in a ‘just a joke’ gesture. “I will pretend we never had this conversation, Montgomery—for now. If you would excuse me, I need to have a word with my mate.” He quickly headed outside before his temper got the better of him. Noël wasn’t anywhere downstairs, so Diarmad finally went up to his room. Storming inside without knocking, he found nothing there but his lingering scent. “Damn it!” “Are you looking for someone, my King?” Landyn leaned with his shoulder against the doorjamb, clearly mocking him with his question. Diarmad decided not to respond to the targeted provocation. “Where is he?” “Home.” “Home?” “Yes, home. He left fifteen minutes ago with Simon.” “Without notifying me?” Heavy disappointment pressed in on him before he could get a grip of himself again. “He did not want to face the consequences of his little stunt but preferred to tuck his tail between his legs and run instead? Hiding behind your mate rather than stand accountable for his deeds? I did not think he would be such a coward.” Landyn straightened up, looking furious. “That was quick!” Diarmad didn’t understand, and it must have shown on his face. “Adopt the language of your new lover!” He spat the last word with so much venom, Diarmad had to hold on to himself as not to take a step back. “You understood nothing, not that it surprises me. He couldn’t stay here because he was mentally and emotionally exhausted. This wasn’t him exposing you…That was him showing you he knows it’s over; he accepted it and that he will move on eventually…like you already did before he was even out of the house.” How dare Landyn speak like this to his king? And he wasn’t done yet. “You never really knew who Noël became after mating with you, do you? He’s Seraei now, a gifted telepath and empath, strong like Tristan, sensitive like Luis, and witty and beautiful as himself. This was their form to express themselves, to tell you how they feel. Of course he’s hurt and angry, and he has every right to show this to you and to everyone else if he wants to. Fate chose right after all, he is your equal; he won’t let you push him aside without at least commenting on it in his own special way. And you have to suck it up, my King!” Landyn had never spoken to him like this. This had to be all Noël’s doing. He had estranged one of Diarmad’s closest friends and confidant from him. How could Landyn not see this? Diarmad knew what he had to do next, even if it hurt. It was too dangerous to keep Landyn by his side with this new attitude of his. The day would come were he would betray him again; it was time to take action. But Landyn beat him to it. “I resign. The council need a personal guard for Noël, now that he isn’t living with you anymore. I’ll apply for the job. I’ll discuss the details with Ronan, as he is probably the one you want doing my job from now on, right?” Without waiting for an answer, Landyn bowed briefly before he turned and left. Once again, Diarmad was standing in Noël’s empty room. Everything was slipping out of his grasp.
  30. 35 likes
    I came in where Amasis was waking up. The idea of telling him was…I didn’t know what to say to him, but the truth. He looked at me and smiled as I sat beside him. “It didn’t let up.” Amasis said. “It hurt every bit as much last night.” “No, it doesn’t let up until we give you the other…when your body’s ready.” I admitted. I wasn’t really able to disguise that something happened. He lost his wife. Amasis looked in my eyes and his smile faded. “What happened?” “I don’t do well stringing things along, so…” I said, “Nabia killed herself yesterday.” He may have known what she was going to do. He even mentioned she was probably going to do it. Yet, when I told him what happened, his eyes widened a little. Now that he had moisture I could see his eyes, which I could now see were very brown, change as the emotions could now be read more. I watched as it sunk in and he nodded. “I understand.” He nodded. Now, I was even more confused. “You understand? I don’t!” It sounded angry even for me. “How could she do that? We weren’t doing anything to hurt…” I stopped. “Sorry, you were the one that lost her. My understanding is not important.” Amasis shook his head. “Do you know how many times I have been told this?” I shook my head. “I don’t know either.” Amasis said loud and now was a little angry. “There were so many times, I can’t remember!” I was seeing that he had this happen many times. Somehow, he’d learned to shield his heart. “This has happened too often for you to really feel things, isn’t that true?” Amasis turned away and didn’t answer at first. “Wouldn’t you?” I shook my head. “I probably wouldn’t be alive myself. I can’t imagine what it would be like to not feel. I can’t lose Colin. I’d feel that.” “There were too many.” Amasis frowned. “It becomes more that you don’t dare to feel. I feel, but I don’t feel as I used to.” I nodded. “Do you remember all the others that you married?” He nodded. “All of them.” He said sadly. “The marriages of the past sort of blend.” “Blend?” He smiled. “Do you remember everything in your past?” He settled down again with a sigh. “Or does it become one long memory? You may remember things when there was something extra, like…” he thought, “receiving a special gift on a day that made you very happy. Or someone you didn’t expect to see suddenly comes to you. You don’t remember every meal or every event of the days up to that moment, but you remember that moment. I have been married so many times. They sort of…blend. I remember their faces occasionally, but it becomes one long memory. My life is one long memory with the occasional event taking more…important place in my heart.” “You only gave a few that kiss to bring them into what you believed was an afterlife.” I said. “You didn’t do it for all of them.” Amasis nodded and smiled. “There were quite a few that didn’t want the kiss.” He chuckled. “In fact, many of those were very happy unions.” He chuckled. “I almost prefer those. They left me, yes, but because they went to another afterlife…I thought.” He smiled. “They would age and eventually die.” He shrugged. “I never stopped loving them, but in me…I always knew they would do this.” I shook my head. “I guess you did, but it had to hurt.” He nodded. “Every single one.” He shrugged. “I guess I got used to it. It was going to happen.” I nodded. “Out of curiosity…” I began with a smile, “…you said you had wives that were male? This translator doesn’t translate groom.” I chuckled. “They were men, not womanly men.” “No, they weren’t.” Amasis chuckled and then looked surprised. “I had a few. Why?” I smiled and thought of the best way to say it. “Well, the outside world we plan to have you go into…marriages like Colin’s and mine are only now becoming less…taboo?” His head went back a little more surprised. “Why is that?” “Well, lengthy explanations aside, there are religious orders now that think we shouldn’t.” Amasis now looked more confused. “It’s just love.” I nodded. “We see that.” I said. “You see that, but they don’t see that.” I grinned. “Your society didn’t see it as taboo?” Now he looked every bit the pharaoh and god for moment. “I was Amasis. Who I choose is my choice. I am Amasis!” His eyes had more moisture and I could see the look in his eyes now. He was serious, but delivered it with a light feeling. “There were many that chose companionship with someone that was the same gender as they were.” He gave a nod. “I remember my first.” “Your first wife that was a man?” He nodded. “I remember that one very well.” He smiled. “I married him as a reward.” “A reward? For what?” “Ma’na.” He said fondly. “Really Ma’nakhtuf was his name. He was a warrior. He led one of the first campaigns right after I received the gift of this life. Details on that campaign is blurred, but I remember him.” He said smiling more and sighed. “He was a very beautiful man. He was strong and a natural leader, but very much the man.” He chuckled. “It was his campaign that put a lot in the treasury.” He scratched his head as I thought it might itch now. He shrugged. “It was the greatest thing I could think of.” I gave a grudging nod. “But you’d mated with a man before?” Amasis looked at me with his eyes looking a little wary as he knew he was telling something he kept to himself. “I had. Why would be taboo? You are a part of the people. All bodies fit together.” He looked puzzled. “You should know that. Our bodies work fine together, it’s just…” he shrugged. “…a little different.” I nodded smiling more. “Ah…but it’s that difference people in these religious powers don’t approve of.” “Why should they approve or disapprove? They aren’t involved.” I nodded holding my hand up to stop him. “Hey, I’m on your side!” I smiled. “But you have to admit, sex is often used for something other than love.” Amasis nodded. “It’s enjoyable, so used for fun, but yes, it can be a big weapon. I had warriors that often used it to subdue enemies…both male and female. The males were usually enemy warriors, the females were just…villagers. I didn’t approve, but my warriors did it.” He was being honest and forthcoming, so I asked. “How did you deal with all this time down here?” I asked. “There had to be times that seemed to drag on.” He nodded. “I went through times that were very hard. I thought I was losing my godliness, but I made challenges for myself.” He waved at the caves and surrounding underground city. “This didn’t just magically happen. I did it.” “You did?” Amasis nodded with a chuckle. “I didn’t do it alone, but time and experience I knew what I wanted and with the help of my people…and those captured in campaigns, I carved out this.” He smiled. “This took nearly a thousand season cycles.” He looked at me. “You understand season cycles?” I looked at the little screen. “Sure.” I said. “Times when the floods came once a year?” He nodded. “Yes, cycles.” I smiled. “Yes, we call them years.” We had gone from the original point. “My concern was about Nabia. You don’t feel anything about her dying?” Amasis looked pained a little. “I will miss her.” He said sadly. “I knew it would happen. My bigger concern is about Amir.” I nodded. “He was very upset.” “He would be.” Amasis reasoned. “She was his life source.” “You still see him as your son?” Amasis nodded. “Of course. I am the only father he’s known.” He sat up more. “His experience in life has been limited. He does not have the background to rely on. His loss is greater. He will always be my son.” “What happened to his male parent? The one that caused his birth?” Amasis frowned. “He was killed shortly before Amir’s birth.” He sighed. “His mother had been a servant here…and her mother and father…she was only twenty cycles or so…she had no one. Her mother and father helped, but her father died and then so did her mother, too. She worked hard here, but I saw she was more. Like Ma’na and some of the other wives, she thought me a god, but getting to know her, she, like Ma’na, saw me more as a man. I had needs.” He sighed. “I hoped with this knowledge, she’d be easier to accept this afterlife and stay with me. She turned out to be like all the others.” “Well, you seem to be okay with her leaving.” I said, still not sure that was true. He would have problems later. “Do we proceed with the serum doses?” Amasis looked surprised again. “Would I have to start over if I don’t take the medication?” “Yes, you will.” He shook his head. “Then no, I won’t put it off. I’ll take the next injection.” I nodded. “Well, today, you get your first meal.” His eyes widened at the thought. “I will?” I left Amasis in the care of George as he told Amasis more about the medication and how it worked and what it did. Colin caught me coming to our chamber. “How’d it go? Did he take it well?” He asked putting on another kilt. He looked at my face and looked down at what he was trying to wrap on. “I need clean clothes.” I nodded. “So, you didn’t put that on just to seduce me?” Colin grinned. “Well, it wasn’t my purpose, but if it does…” he shrugged. I walked over and pulled the end he had in his hand away, letting it drop leaving him naked. “You can put that on later.” I watched his smile grow. “I can’t imagine anybody, but you for me.” Colin frowned. “Didn’t he care about Nabia?” I shrugged. “He’s cared about a lot of people. He took the news better than anyone I’ve known. He loved and married quite a few. Perhaps that’s why he didn’t breakdown. Nabia is just the most recent loss.” I explained pulling Colin toward me. I kissed him deeply. “I never want to lose you, Colin. Mom and Dad talked about everything ending. Amasis talked about knowing the relationships would end."” I held him close loving the warmth I felt from him. “I’ll die if you leave.” Colin tightened his hold on me. “We’ll do everything we can to stop that from happening.” His hands came over me. “If anything, Amasis gives me hope.” I pulled away enough to look in those emerald eyes. “He does?” Colin nodded. “If he can live this long. There’s no reason we can’t. Imagine a life together that spans thousands of years!” He looked at me smiling. “A couple of thousand years with me in your life. Is that what you want?” I smiled as my hand went over his chest. Again, loving the tickle of his hairs on my fingers. “I want nothing else.” “That’s what we’ll do.” I nodded. “I want you right now.” Colin nodded. “You have me. All of me.” I nodded. “What we do is more than just sex, right?” Colin frowned. “Of course, it is. It’s the glue that binds us together.” His face softened. “We’re not just lovers, Devon. Not to me. We are connected in a way no other humans can connect with us. You’re a part of me.” He smiled. “I never knew a person could be a much a part of my very soul.” I smiled at him. “Let’s just put a little more glue into this joining.” I grinned kissing him deeply. “I adore you, Colin. A part of me and my very soul.” It was a few hours before we emerged to take a bath. This time, we were the only two in the communal bath. The water was still warm, but I did miss the others. Until Amir came in. “Oh,” Amir said stopping. “I thought I was the only one.” He said sadly and turned to leave. “Amir.” I said from the water. “Please, don’t go.” I said pleading a little. “This is no time for you to be alone.” I also considered that maybe it was too soon for him. “If you want to be alone, fine, but you don’t have to be.” Amir hesitated a moment. At last he turned around and began to pull on his garments to take them off. “I’m not good company now.” “So?” I shook my head. “We’re social creatures. We aren’t meant to go through life by ourselves.” I touched my own chest. “Our whole makeup needs people. You need people. We can be there for you.” He lowered himself into the warm waters. “I’m in a place where I don’t know what to do.” He said sadly. “My mother is gone.” I nodded. “I know.” “She didn’t have to leave.” Amir said a little angry. “She had a good life. She was a god.” Colin smiled at him patiently. “There were things she was going through we will never understand. We can’t judge her.” Amir nodded. “I’m not judging, I just want to understand.” “You need to speak with Amasis.” I said. “He will understand more than anyone.” I looked Amir in the eyes. “He loved your mother.” I smiled. “He loves you, Amir. You’re not in this alone.” “My mother is gone.” Amir said again. I nodded again. “Yes, she is.” “She could have waited until I die.” Amir said. I nodded again. “She thought otherwise.” We got Amasis a little something to eat, which he did as all the others did. He sniffed it carefully and wondered if he could eat it. “It’s camel!” Colin said brightly. “Just not as spicily flavored for now. Just try some.” He encouraged. He did the same as they all did. Tasted carefully and then was eating with more gusto. “I’m sure George told you to…” Colin began. I stopped Colin. “Don’t waste your breath. They never listen when we warn them about eating too much, too fast.” Amasis was really enjoying his meal! Chuck came in suddenly. “There could be a problem.” He said huffing as he fought to catch his breath. “In fact…” he huffed, “I know…there is.” Colin looked at him. “You could have called us and not be trying catch your breath.” Chuck shook his head. “Mark said not to.” He explained and pointed. “He was worried…that others would hear.” He leaned forward and rested on his knees. “We have company.” I was surprised. “Out here in the desert!? What are they?” Chuck held his hand up and took a deep breath and stood up more. “We don’t know, but they’re not…” he waved at the underground city. “One of these lovely people. They’re professional. Willie and Alex agree with Mark’s assessment. They appear to be militia.” I looked at Colin and then back to Chuck. “Why?” “The movements are planned. Strategic.” Chuck explained. “And what we are afraid they can hear us, we can hear them.” He said. “It’s not in a language. It’s code.” He looked around. “You have a laptop here?” I nodded and pointed to the laptop near us. “I don’t use it often to save power.” Chuck nodded. “You should see this.” He pulled up the screen and hit a few keys. Then he waved at the screen. “See?” What we saw looked like a group of nomads, camels and things carried, the long robes and headdress. Then he went to another screen. This was taken by a camera…long range, but good focus. The men could be seen more and one removed his headdress. My eyes widened as I saw he was blonde. “He could be someone that joined the group?” I suggested as a possible explanation. “There are three like him in a group of twelve.” He said and hit another set of keys. I heard conversations and there were some words I recognized. Buddy was not needed to identify the language. I didn’t understand what he said, but the language was Russian. “Russians!?” Colin looked at his translator and the readouts. “What are they…” “The others are Egyptian and others from the Middle East.” Chuck said. “Mark thinks it’s a scouting party.” He looked at Colin and me. “I think so, too.” “Why?” I said again. “Sorry, I’m asking why a lot, but…” Chuck nodded. “The signals we send.” He explained pointing up through the roof of the mountain. “They can’t read the signals. They are encrypted, but there should be no signals out here at all. Amir had a simple setup with his emails. It didn’t attract a lot of attention. Our signals to Buddy were.” I nodded. “They came to find us.” Colin nodded. “Looking for the source of signals that should not be out here.” Amasis was listening, but he didn’t understand much without us speaking to him using the translator. He understood some of what we said. “I have troops.” He said. “We help?” I shook my head. “I don’t see how. That would only confirm were we are.” I said rubbing Amasis on the back to assure myself as well as Amasis. “Thank you, though.” I looked at Colin. “They can’t be from Rafa Morsi, can they?” Colin shrugged. “I said he was retired, remember? That’s an interesting mix of nationalities.” He looked at Chuck. “Where were they?” “Not far from Amir’s village.” Chuck answered. “And Buddy is there?” I asked. Chuck shook his head. “He’s down here now, but the source of the previous signals was from the village. It’s only a matter of time before they find the tunnels.” I nodded. “And find Amasis’ City.” Amasis stood at last. “I can at least post troops at the entrances.” Colin nodded. “Do that. However, if they meet these men, they don’t attack unless they are attacked.” Now Amasis was again Pharaoh. I was impressed! He stood clapping his hands quickly. A member of his troops came in. Amasis gave orders in their own language to the man who nodded and rushed to do what Amasis instructed. Colin walked over to me. “Will he be ready to move soon?” He asked George and me. “He’s near the end.” George nodded. “I can make a disc soon.” He waved at Amasis. “But he won’t be ready for out there!” George said pointing out of the caves. “The world changed in two thousand years!” I nodded. “He’ll be fine. We’re not leaving him here, but we may not have a choice.” Colin thought. “We need to be ready.” He said. “If we have to leave, it may be quick.” Chuck nodded. “We’ll be ready.”
  31. 35 likes
    Deep Breaths and Sight Seeing “Morning gorgeous,” Liam said quietly to me. “Hey,” I answered him and lifted my finger to trace the outline of his face, so handsome, “Love you so much,” “Me too, Honey.”Liam’s smile was warm and loving. “I have to go to the gallery this morning, the woman said I’ll be four or five hours and again tomorrow. Can you promise me you’ll call our psychologist, I don’t want to have to bring out the big guns to make sure you do,” Liam said with concern. I looked over Liam’s shoulder then turned to lie on my back, “I promise,” I said sheepishly staring at the ceiling. He moved across and laid his cheek on my chest looking up at me. “I will, I promise,” I could feel my face flush with humiliation. Liam cupped the side of my face, “Babe, there is nothing to feel embarrassed about, it’s been a hellish year, the scales seem to tip from incredibly fantastic to extremely awful then back again in the blink of an eye. We barely have time to catch our breath and deal with it. There doesn’t appear to have been a middle ground for us, where we had time to just cruise boringly along. It’s breaking my heart to see you struggle. I love you so much, please do this for me, for yourself.” I stroked my fingers through his hair, “I promise you, I will. Maybe I should see her one-on-one for a while.” I said thinking out loud, continuing my thought with, “I’m sorry I’ve hurt you.” “Oh my love,” Liam whispered and moved over the top of me, so we were eye-to-eye and kissed me affectionately. “Everything is going to turn out fine, you’ll see. We just need a little help right now. There’s no shame in that.” Liam finished, rubbing his thumb across my cheek and I gave him a weak smile. He grinned back at me, “That’s my sweet boy. Now get your gorgeous ass out of bed and get in the shower with me so I can thoroughly inspect your naughty bits and make sure they're clean.” I chuckled and lazily made my way to the shower. <>-<>-<> Liam left for the gallery when I was on the phone to our psychologist’s office making a time for her to call me back as there was no urgency, but I did need to speak with her today. The receptionist said she would call me at around one-fifteen this afternoon. There was a quiet knock on the door and a pause then Mom walked in. “You ready to go Momma? I forgot to ask Liam if there was anywhere he didn’t mind us going without him, so I thought if you like we could do some girly clothes shopping for you. And maybe they’ll have some funky shops to find something for Lee.” I said. “Are you sure? Actually, don’t answer that,” Mom said putting her hand up as if to stop me. “It will be nice to have someone to shop with for a change. I’m going to be gracious and say thank you, Will, that would be lovely. But we will need nourishment to keep us going, so breakfast first.” “Great sounds yummy,” I grabbed my wallet and phone putting them in the pocket of my Levi’s, I put my hand out in gesture, “Lead on Momma,” I said laughing. I took Mom to breakfast. She was none too happy that I paid. I told her to “get over it,” it’s not like I bought her a car. Enough said I guessed when she didn’t have a comeback. It was slow going at first. Mom wandered around feeling the fabrics, umming and ahhing. We finally came to a place, her eyes lit up. I think we spent two hours in there. I was her gopher and consultant. I really have no fashion sense, didn’t really get that gene. But I do know what looks nice at least if someone’s already wearing it. So I roped one of the sales ladies into helping us, she was great, she seemed to enjoy our banter and had the patience of a saint. Her name was Danni, and working her way through school. Danni was studying to be a lawyer, and her scholarships didn’t cover all of her costs so she worked as much as she could. Lovely girl. “Is Kit your Mom?” she asked while we were waiting for Mom to try on her fiftieth outfit. “Sort of, mother-in-law,” I said smiling, that didn’t hurt to say, so that can’t be what upset me last night. Danni frowned at me, “I thought she only had a son?” I chuckled, “She does, my husband.” I pulled my phone out to show her a picture of Liam. She screwed up her face, “What a shame,” I chortled, “What?” “You’re both so gorgeous, it’s not fair when you have the personality to match the looks and then go and fall in love with each other, us girls get stuck with the leftover creepy assholes.” She said and gave me a fake pouty face. “How old are you anyway, you don’t look old enough to be married?” “We’re seventeen, we got married last weekend. Our parents had signed the consent forms before one of us got pregnant out of wedlock.” I laughed. “Oh, you,” she said gently hitting my arm, “You don’t have any single straight friends, do you?” “Um… Well, there’s Oliver,” I showed her a picture, “But he and his girlfriend just had a baby, which my husband seems to think is his.” I said laughing and told her what happened before we left for the airport yesterday. “That’s hilarious,” she said laughing, “so what brings you to town, I’m assuming you’re not on your honeymoon.” “My husband has a show at a gallery here, it opens next week. You should come, if you like photography that is, I can put your name on the list for the opening with a plus one. Liam won’t mind.” “Oh my God, it just clicked. Are you talking about Liam Sands? That’s your husband?” She grabbed my forearm in excitement. I nodded my head “Yes,” and smiled. “This is so cool, they’ve been plugging his show all over town. One of my girlfriends Jilly is a photographer, she’ll just die if I can get her in for the opening. He won the National Geographic photo competition the picture with the alligator right?” She bounced in anticipation, “Could you really get us on the list?” “I’ll send a text now, what is your full name and your friend’s,” I asked handing her my phone, so she could put them in the message, and I worked with their names. “Thank you so much, this is going to be great.” Danni seemed very excited. Mom walked out of the dressing room, I screwed up my face. “No Mom… just no! You are a petite woman, and that makes you look frumpy.” Danni smacked me on the arm, her eyes bulging, “You can’t say that to a woman.” She walked over to Mom and made her turn around so she could look at her properly, “I’m afraid Mr. Tactless over there is right, it’s definitely not the right outfit for you. We have something in a similar tone, and the material is just as light, but it’s a dress instead of a top and skirt. Would you like to try it instead? This divides your body all wrong, thus giving you the appearance of frumpy since the offensive word is already out there.” Danni smiled warmly at Mom. Mom gave her a look of uncertainty, “Sorry Mom, I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings. You always look beautiful and that color suits you, try on the dress what have you got to lose.” I said moving toward her giving a hug and kissing her cheek. “Alright then, why not. Thank you, Danni.” Mom smiled and went back to the dressing room, and Danni went to find the dress. She fluttered back to us and handed the dress through a gap in the curtain. Then turned on me with daggers. “Don’t say anything,” I said waving my hand across in front of my body, “I already feel like a royal ass. I love that woman and would never want to hurt her. She’s the only Mom I’ve ever had.” My phone started ringing, and I looked at who was calling. It was my psychologist. Hmmm, good timing. “Mom I’m just stepping out, I have to take this. Just give me a minute I want to see the dress on you.” I called out. “Go ahead my sweet boy,” Mom called back. I left the shop to have my conversation. I told my psychologist what happened last night at dinner, she was concerned with me being so far away. I could feel the panic rise in me as I was talking, especially after what I just did to Mom. She walked me through an exercise to help curb the panic and calm myself, which was helpful right now. Thank God for small miracles it’s working. I asked if this is normal as things did seem to be getting better. She told me not to dwell on it, I’ll only work myself up. Sometimes things get worse before they get better and it’s not surprising with how much we had to work through. It’s a minor setback, and things will get back on track. She’s told me to concentrate on what’s in front of me right now. I’ve also been set to see her alone while Liam is away to work on it. And to call her again if anything else further happens. I felt better after talking to her. I took a deep breath and exhaled, picked my myself up and went into the shop to see Mom. She took one look at me and knew there was a problem. Nothing was said right now, but I knew it would be coming. She had that concerned Mom look on her face. Her and Danni stood from where they were seated Mom still in the dress, she had waited for me. “Oh Mom, beautiful, you look amazing. That is definitely a thousand times better than that outfit you had on previously. You should wear this to Liam’s Gallery Opening.” The dress was figure hugging without being tight showing off her beautiful womanly figure stopping just above the knee. Mom looked sophisticated and classy, as always. “Those shoes you liked, at the other place, would they go with this outfit?” “They’d actually be perfect for it.” Mom said with a grin. The only reason she hadn’t bought them was that she didn’t have anything to go with them. “I saw you had those little hand purses and accessories, do you have one for Mom. Or do we need to get one covered?” I asked. “Let me see, I’ll be right back,” Danni said with a huge grin. Mom gave me a quizzical look, “What, between you and Katherine I pay attention. Some of your girly nonsense creeps into my brain,” I said chuckling, “Mom, Danni is right, I was tactless, and I shouldn’t have said what I did…” “Oh nonsense, my sweet boy. I know I can always count on you for the truth. I know you weren’t being facetious. Don’t think another second about it. I should be saying thank you.” Mom said warmly. That went a little way to placate me a little, I would hate to hurt her. “Baby boy, is everything okay, you’ve been a bit off the past few days.” I took a deep breath, “No not really, we can talk about it later. Not here.” I stated with a weak smile. “Fair enough, let me get out of this dress,” Mom said walking back into the dressing room. “PING!” From: Liam Message: Done my sweet husband, I miss you today, and I love you too, Babe. Turns out Danni did have a purse to match the outfit perfectly. I told her that Liam had contacted me and let me know her and her friend's name is now on the list. She squealed and hugged me, then realized what she had done. Mom and I laughed. Mom also bought the outfit and purse. Then dragged me back to the shop which had the shoes. We decided to stop and have lunch, thank God. Shopping with a woman is tiresome. Being dragged from one place to another and then back to a store you’d already been to. On top of that, you become their pack mule. As we were wandering along looking for a place to have lunch, we stumbled across a whole in the wall t-shirt place. It had all types of shirts from slogans to concert tees. They also did custom makes. You can make your own shirts. I dragged Mom in there to look for something for Lee. He liked vintage concert tees. At the moment he was into Australian Rock Bands, from the 70’s and 80’s. I spoke with the lady at the counter and told her what I was looking for. She had bright pink hair, shaved down one side. Her outfit was small and short, and I think was supposed to give the illusion of Catholic School Girl uniform but way too tight. Her feet were covered with Doc Martins that laced all the way to her knee, with socks that finished just above the knee. It was cute for an eighteen-year-old I suppose, but she must have been close to thirty. But it seemed to work for her, anyway, she had a couple of them. A band called Cold Chisel and another by the name of Rose Tattoo. I took both because I couldn’t make up my mind. She also recommended a local music shop that would have cd’s to complement the shirts. I asked the girl if they also did baby clothes, she smiled and nodded her head, “Yes, we can do just about anything. We can even drop ship it if you like.” “Fantastic,” I ordered a onsie for Noah. It said ‘Cute as my Uncle Will’ on the front and ‘Almost as cute as my Uncle Liam’ on the back. I had it delivered home and addressed to Noah. I made Mom come with me to the music store, I managed to get a Best of CD for both bands as well as two other CD’s a group called The Angels and one called The Radiators. Australians have very unusual band names. I know he could probably download them but what’s the fun in that. They were both available on Vinyl also, but that was way too expensive. Vinyl is really for collectors anyway. Mom stopped me from spending any more money on Lee. “You spoil that boy,” Mom said sternly, but I could see a small smile on her face. “I can’t help it, I missed out on growing up with him. I like to give him things he wants. You guys make sure he has everything he needs. It’s not that big of a deal. Besides he’s my little brother, aren’t I suppose to spoil him a little.” Mom rolled her eyes at me and slipped her arm through the crook of my arm as we walked along. <>-<>-<> Liam had already left for the gallery, we’d had room service together for breakfast. We were meeting him this afternoon to go sightseeing and Mom wanted to meet an old college friend for brunch, so I was lazily reading a book in bed. My phone rang, and it was Dad. “Hi Dad,” I said brightly. “Son, I’ve just spoken with Kit. Why didn’t you tell me you were struggling?” Dad sounded upset, not angry, but honestly, hurt and sad. Damn Mom. After shopping yesterday we went to lunch, and she had me spill my guts. I ran my finger over the pattern on my PJ bottoms, “I feel ashamed and embarrassed,” I said quietly into the phone after a pause to gather myself, “I’ve been trying to handle it, we’ve been seeing a psychologist,” I said. “That must be costing you a fortune, you know my insurance will cover you,” Dad informed me. “We’re okay,” “Sweetheart, I’m so sorry I should have kept a closer eye on you. Maybe you and Liam should come home for a while. Just until you feel like yourself again.” He said hopefully. “Dad you have a full house, I spoke with our psychologist yesterday. She’s given me some exercises to use when I feel myself starting to panic. She helped me work out a couple of my triggers, it will get better,” I told him, I wish he wouldn’t worry. “What are the triggers?” Dad asked. “For some reason, it’s anything to do with that woman who gave birth to me. Another is the guilt I apparently feel over everything that has happened to Liam. Everyone keeps telling me it’s not my fault, but the actions of others. None of which I could have stopped or changed, because I didn’t even know what they were doing or have any indication there was a problem. Well except for that woman, but you can’t predict a crazy person’s actions only stay away, which is what we did. The doctor keeps assuring me even a restraining order wouldn’t have helped because she never did anything directly in person. But my head just can’t seem to come around, even though I am aware they’re right.” “Oh son, that’s truly awful. I wish I could take it all away.” I could hear the emotion in Dad’s voice. “People keep hurting Liam to hurt me, I can’t work out what I did to be such a horrible… horr…” I started crying. “Come now Will, please don’t cry Son. You’re not a horrible person. You are kind, loving and selfless. You have a healthy amount of confidence usually. You aren’t responsible for what others do Will, that’s on them.” Dad croaked out. “I should probably get in the shower, Liam will be back soon we’re going sightseeing,” I said deflated. “Don’t let them break you, Will, I want you to start fighting back. Push back twice as hard. Show them you’re a force to be reckoned with. They’ve chosen the wrong people to fuck with. It might help you start to feel like you again. You’re not broken, just a little bruised. Take back the control, I’ll bet that will kick start your recovery from the place you feel you’re trapped. You have a whole extended family of support. Every single one of them will be behind you. They’ll prop you up, dust you off and send you in again. Now get to it, chop, chop.” Dad said with an angry but confident voice. “Language Dad,” I chortled and sniffled. “Where would I even start?” I asked. “Start with your lawyer, I’ll speak to Callen, see if he can’t find you someone other than the guy you’ve been using. We’ll have to pay, but it will be worth it. I’ll even break my trust to do it. Have the lawyer contact the FBI and start getting all of that mess sorted. See what we can do about your Mother, maybe we can work on the deals that have been made. We have no loyalty to her, and we owe her nothing. Right now all I want you to worry about is yourself, Liam and getting through this week, I’ll take care of the other for the moment. When you get home, it’s team Blundell-Sunderland-Sands,” “Wow, that’s a mouthful. Okay, thanks, Dad. I love you, I’m glad Mom blabbed. Give Papi and Lee a hug for me and tell them I love and miss them. I better go. Thank you for calling me, I feel better.” I said with a smile in my voice this time. “You’re welcome, we love and miss you too. We’ll see you soon.” Dad said happily. Holy shit, maybe I should be paying Dad instead of the psychologist. I feel better than when I spoke with her yesterday. <>-<>-<> It had been a couple of days since Dad, and I talked. Liam had the next two days off from the gallery and today is Liam’s Dad’s birthday. We are sitting down to a room service breakfast, and the mood is somber. I’m holding Liam’s hand while he eats. We both had a big cry and cuddle this morning. We miss him so much, I wish he were still here. These two are my favorite people on earth, and I hate that they are hurting. I’ve organized a lunch for them together at a nice restaurant, and they could do whatever they wanted with the reservation, not even go if they didn’t want to but it was there, so they didn’t have to think about it. He was grateful for the time with his Mom. There’s a knock on the door, we all frowned at each other. I got up from the table, wiped my mouth with a napkin, kissed Liam and put my hand on Mom’s shoulder as I went by her. I expected room service again or a hotel employee but, no, three smiling faces bowled through the opening. Mom got up and went straight to Dad, and her emotions got the better of her. She sobbed into Dad’s shoulder, explaining how happy she is, he and Papi were here. Liam had tears in his eyes while he hugged the stuffing out of Lee, and I reached out for Papi. “What are you all doing here?” I asked smiling. “Well, it’s William’s birthday, and if he were still with us, we’d all be celebrating together. Doesn’t seem like a need to change that. We all carry him in our hearts everywhere we go. I say let’s do him proud, and show him the sights of Washington.” Dad said with a big smile on his face. Liam started crying, I pulled him into the bedroom quickly and closed the door then into my arms. I rubbed his back and gently held his head to me, “Are you okay my sweet boy?” “I was worried I wouldn’t get through today, and the minute your Dad stepped in the room I knew it would be okay. It kind of makes me feel guilty for missing my Dad less.” Liam muttered into my neck while he fingered the collar of my shirt. “I’m not sure you miss him less Baby, I think it’s just Dad. He makes us feel safe and loved, we need that sometimes, we’re still young even though we believe that we’re grown up.” I kissed the top of his head, “Are you going to be okay, did you want to wash your face before you come back out?” “Yes please, I’ll meet you out there. Thank you, I’m so glad you picked me to marry.” He said with a sad smile. “It’s your own fault, you made it, so you were the only choice,” I chuckled, “you’re stuck with me now.” “Good, you’re all I’ve ever wanted and all I will ever want,” Liam said kissing me gently, “I love you so much.” I kissed him back, “I love you too, Baby. I’ll see you back out there.” I left Liam to clean himself up and went back to the common room. I sought Lee out and gave him a big hug. “Ooh, Liam, Mom and I got you something,” I said going back to the bedroom. Liam was walking out holding the bag with Lee’s stuff in it. “I knew you wouldn’t be able to wait,” Liam chuckled as he went to hand me that bag, I indicated he give it to Lee himself. While I put my arm around Liam’s waist. Lee looked at Dad and Papi like he was asking permission, “Go on Son, what did you get?” Dad asked while he had his arms around Mom’s waist to comfort her. She had her head resting on his shoulder. I love that they’re all so close. “H o l y m o l e y,” Lee elongated his words as he held the t-shirts up for all to see. His eyes popping from his head, “how did you know about these bands?” Lee said excitedly. “We’re smarter than you think? There’s more in the bag,” Liam said smiling, looked at me and winked. I smirked at him. At least that cheered Liam up a little. Even Mom looked a little amused, she was trying to put on a brave front. She’s a superwoman, that one. The strongest person I know. Lee pulled out the CD’s and just about lost his mind. I couldn’t keep up with his words, he was more than a little-excited. He flipped off the shirt he was wearing and exchanged it for one we had just given him. I saw everyone’s face fall when we saw the scars on his body, a constant reminder of his past. We tried not to let him see we noticed them. He’s very self-conscious usually. But maybe he’s getting more comfortable with us. “How does it look,” he said holding it away from his body trying to look at it. “Looks great,” Papi said hugging him. Lee came over to Liam and I and hugged us together, “Thank you so much, you are the best big brothers ever,” Lee’s smile radiating happiness. Then he shocked us all, he went barrelling over to Mom and hugged her tightly, “Thanks, Mom.” Lee said. Mom cried because that’s what Mom’s do when us kids make them proud and happy. Lee pulled back, he looked frightened, “Sorry,” he said quietly. Mom pulled him back into her arms, “Don't apologize, my sweet boy. You just made my day… year even. I love that you think of me that way.” “So I can call you Mom?” he asked cautiously. “I’d love nothing more,” Mom said kissing his cheek. Lee’s face beamed with pride and happiness, and so was Liam’s when I casually looked sideways. Well, today is turning out much better than I’d hoped. “How about we ditch this room service and take these boys to Freddie’s Beach Bar for breakfast?” Mom said with a little more pep than she had earlier. “Hell yes, you guys are going to love this place,” Liam said clapping his hands together. I know we enjoyed the other night. Mom giggled at Liam’s enthusiasm. “Just let me get my purse, and we’ll get going?” Mom said leaving for her bedroom. <>-<>-<> Tonight is Liam’s big night, he looks fantastic in his tux. I love seeing him naked, but there’s something mouth watering about seeing him in a Tuxedo, and it makes my knees weak. “See something you like, Will?” Papi asked me smirking and handing me a glass of champagne. I nodded my head unable to talk with my throat all dry. I took a sip, ahh, that’s better. We were all standing in the common room of our suite. Papi, Dad, and Lee had arrived about ten minutes ago with a bottle of Dom under Dad’s arm. Dad stood next to Liam, “Liam, you have always made us proud, and tonight is no different. We’re honoured to share in your big night with you. Here is to you and your talent taking you places you’ve never even imagined. We hope you enjoy the journey, this is just the beginning Son.” Dad held his glass up, “To Liam!” Dad said smiling, a proud father. We all raised our glasses, “To Liam!” we all said and drank the champagne. Liam came over and kissed me softly on the lips and slipped his arm around my waist, “I just want to thank you Mom and Will for coming with me this past week. And for you three coming out and sharing this with me. Dad, your timing couldn’t have been more perfect. I had no idea how I would get through Dad’s birthday without him here. But when I saw you walk through the door, I felt relieved and guilty all at the same time. Guilty because having you in my life makes me miss Dad less, you both share a lot of the same qualities and characteristics and helps me when I miss him. It’s like he’s still here. Amazingly you found a man – you Papi – who makes up what you are missing that was the make up of my Dad. Between you both, it’s like I have my Dad back most of the time and helps me deal with him not being here. I’m so grateful I have you.” Liam said with tears in his eyes. I looked at Mom, “I agree with Liam, you’ve both made our loss more bearable,” Mom said smiling, “We can’t thank you enough for everything you’ve done for us.” She gave Papi a hug and kiss on the cheek and then did the same with Dad. Liam did the same, they both whispered something in his ear, it made him smile as he wiped his eyes. I put my arm around Lee and gave him a side hug. “I’m so happy I’m part of this family now,” Lee said quietly. “Not as happy as we are to have you, little brother,” I leaned and whispered in his ear, “your little butt is the one that completes our family,” I kissed his temple. PING! CHOO CHOO! DING! DING! MEOW! DING! All our phones went at once. From: Kat Pic: Noah in his onesie that I ordered last week when I went shopping with Mom. She’d sent a picture of him from the front and back so we could see the whole outfit. Message: Seriously Will, I know this was you! And congratulations and good luck tonight Liam. We love you! “Will, you didn’t?” Dad said laughing. I scoffed, “Of course not I’m way cuter than Liam.” Liam wrapped his arm around my neck and turned me until I was facing him “Yeah, you are,” he said biting my bottom lip then licking it. I rubbed our hips together, grabbing his waist. Seems we forgot anyone else was there. Must be the champagne. Oh, how I love this man, who cares about anything else when I have him. “Okay!” Dad said clapping his hands together, “the Limo is here, we better head out before this gets pornographic and we’re all scarred for life.” Liam and I pulled back laughing. That definitely broke the spell. Liam’s phone made that damn CHOO! CHOO! Noise all the way to the gallery. I really have to change that damn alert tone. Liam not taking any notice answering all of his messages. He passed me his phone, Alex had sent him a picture of Benny in his Batman onesie holding a sign saying “Good luck Liam,” “Aww! How cute is that.” I said, they left to go back home yesterday. Kat ended up looking after Benny and Haley with the help of Seb and Beau so Dad, Papi, and Lee could fly out as soon as they could. Lee opted out of going to the race with them, and Oliver went in his place at Kat’s insistence. I don’t think Lee felt comfortable with people he didn’t really know. The Limo pulled up in front of the gallery, which was lit up nicely. It had all the fanfare. One of those big lights that shoot into the sky, a carpet going from the sidewalk to the gallery with the ropes either side. A few people had gathered around them, I guess in case they got to see someone famous. This whole thing seems a lot bigger deal than I thought it would be. While the family was exiting the limo, I pulled Liam to me for a quick hug and kiss before we got out. “Good luck tonight Honey, I’m so proud of you. You deserve this, are you nervous? You seem nervous,” I could feel him quivering a little. “No Baby, I’m not, you’re just turning me on in that tux,” He chuckled, and we exited the limo, once we standing on the carpet he turned to me, “remember you love me, and please don’t be mad. I love you more than life it’s self, my Husband,” with that he kissed me on the lips and pulled me gently holding my hand toward the entrance, where the rest of my family had stopped and were all looking to the left, eyes gaping. I titled my head, “Why would I be mad at you?” I said as we walked through the door of the gallery and looked in the same direction. FUCK!!
  32. 35 likes
    I watched as Wayne was absorbing what I’d told him. He knew he had a child coming, but now he was grandfather; from a daughter, he didn’t know about. “Grandchildren.” He said quietly, still in shock. I chuckled. “Yes, Wayne, grandchildren.” I walked toward him. “This is what’s called a tablet. I’ll explain the science, but…here are some pictures.” I held the tablet’s screen so he could see. “There are others. Just take your finger and slide like so.” I ran it across the screen, but brought the original back and handed him the tablet. He never had seen something like it, but he was staring at the pictures I’d given him of the woman, a man and three children. “If you want a closer look.” I used my thumb and forefinger that brought his daughter’s picture closer, blowing the image up. Wayne was just fascinated, not at the tablet, but the image. He looked almost afraid to touch it. “My god, she looks just…” he said softly, “like my mother.” I smiled as he did use his finger and move to another picture. “This is two years old, but…” I pointed to the image of a young woman, “this is your eldest granddaughter. Her name is Karen Wallace. She’s now twenty and at a University in Edinburgh. The middle child is Wayne Scott Wallace, he’s now seventeen and a senior in high school. His interest is Geology. Karen wants to be a doctor. The youngest is Kelly. She’s now fourteen. Katie’s husband’s name is Sean. He’s fifty-one now.” I watched as he sorted through the pictures and stopped on one. “Do you recognize her?” I knew the picture was six years old. It was at a birthday party for Kelly. Her brother and sister was there as well as her mother, father and friends. What was important was the older woman there. His eyes grew. “No…” he said touching the image. “Rosalind?” I gave a cautious smile. “I wasn’t sure how you would feel about that.” I said sitting on the couch beside his chair. “This is the last photo of Rosalind before she got sick.” His eyebrows came together as he looked more. “She’s…so old.” I nodded. “She was in her early sixties.” I reached out and touched his arm. “She was happy, Wayne. I know it hurts to see this, but…” He nodded. “Her life went on.” He smiled a little sadly. “You would have wanted it to, wouldn’t you?” I asked. “I went to a social media site, which I will explain later. Unfortunately, Rosalind wasn’t a big fan of that, she didn’t post much. However, Katie did.” I explained. “There are other pictures about their vacations…or what you guys here in England say; holiday.” I smiled. “The English love Spain.” I showed him a little more about the website and how to get around with it. “I’ll come back later.” I said squeezing his shoulder and went back in the hall. Colin came down the hall. “We should get him to eat tonight.” He looked at my face. He saw my sadly happy expression. “What’s going on?” I smiled. “I just…hopefully, gave him something to live for.” I said taking Colin’s arm. “He’s looking at some family photos now.” “He has family?” Colin asked. “He does.” I smiled and we went back to the library. I told him about Wayne’s grandchildren. We arrived at the library where we saw George and Burke laughing at something. Burke smiled. “How is Jerry?” He asked and smiled. “Sorry, I mean Wayne.” I smiled. “Much better.” “Devon was showing pictures of his family that are still alive.” Colin explained. “We’re leaving him alone for now.” George grinned. “I’m glad. Hopefully he can make a connection.” He looked at us. “How does he look?” I gave a nod. “Pretty good. Almost normal.” I looked at George. “He told us about others. Vampires that I think are the ones we’re looking for. He said they were naked and hairless and he’s only seen two.” George frowned. “Naked and hairless?” Colin smiled. “We’ll find out more later.” George smiled. “I’ll still need a blood sample.” “If he has any left.” Colin chuckled. He looked around. “Where’s Dr. Hathaway?” “She’ll be back.” George said. “She had some business with MI5 or something.” “We’ll give Wayne a little more time.” I said. “Then we should reintroduce food.” “I’ll get Nigel to have the chicken ready.” Colin said rising to do just that. About two more hours later I went back to Wayne’s room with Colin and Wayne’s first solid meal in nearly fifty years. Wayne had stopped looking at the pictures, but was sitting there thinking in deep thought. “How are you now?” I asked. Wayne shook his head. “I’m so out of place now.” He said. “The world went on and I didn’t.” Colin sat near him. “It did.” He nodded. “We’re not just going to throw you out there. We’ll try to catch you up with things.” “There are other vampires here that will also help you that have been in the same boat.” I said. Wayne frowned. “I looked at all the pictures.” He shook his head. “How can I meet them? They won’t know who I am. I’ll be a freak.” “Think about this.” I said sitting with Colin. “Katie never met you, but she named her son after you. Rosalind kept your memory alive for your daughter…enough that she named him Wayne. That tells me Rosalind loved you.” I smiled. “It was five years later that she met Dennis Tyler. They married when Katie was seven. We will also help if you want to meet them. There are other vampires that still have ties to the past by family. It can be done.” Wayne got up and went to the window. He looked outside, but his mind was on something else. “Are going after the others?” He asked bitterly. He turned to Colin and me, “the one that made me robbed me of a life.” Colin nodded. “We need to find them first.” “You gave yourself to Shelly and Willie?” I asked. “The vampires that caught you?” Wayne smiled a little. “Like I said, I knew about the one that made me and I saw another…years later. I knew about vampires that could talk and only came out at night to seek blood. I’d seen other vampires like me, that couldn’t talk.” He smiled. “Then I saw them…the ones that are like you.” He chuckled. “I thought they were another kind of vampire.” He shrugged. “Even as a vampire myself, I had the ability to sense what they were. I knew them to be vampires.” He walked back. “And I sensed those others…that were human, but I didn’t want their blood. I was curious. I was very scared, but curious.” He chuckled. “Even when they pointed that gun at me…the one that burns like the sun? I was just so…I wanted to know why they were different; all of them. So, yes, I let them take me.” I smiled. “That was very brave of you.” “Even with the venom in you, you still retained enough of humanity to look for a way out.” Colin marveled. “That says a lot about you.” He went back to the desk he’d put the covered dish on. “But, for now…” Colin brought the dish over. Cautioning as always about being careful not to eat too much, too fast; he presented the chicken to Wayne. The aroma was enticing to Wayne. I saw his nose twitch. Colin also brought a cup of cool water to drink. Wayne tried it and as with all the others, began consuming more eagerly. I looked at Colin. “Why do we bother telling them to take it easy? They never do.” Colin nodded with a smile. “They can never say we didn’t warn them.” George came and took more blood to test. He did a cursory exam looking pleased at Wayne’s eyes and color. “You’re color is practically normal.” He held the sealed little container with Wayne’s blood in it. “Now, to check the level of serum in your blood…I think you can see the sunrise in the morning.” Wayne nodded. “I saw it get brighter outside this morning.” He smiled. “I tried to steal a peak, but I didn’t dare open the curtains yet.” “We’ll give another few doses.” George said. “How long was the pain last night?” Wayne shrugged. “Four…maybe five hours?” “Can you draw?” I asked Wayne. Wayne looked puzzled. “I can, but I’m not a Rembrandt.” I chuckled. “You don’t have to be.” I got up. “I’m going to get you a pencil and some paper, could you sketch out an image of the one that bit you?” Wayne nodded. “Sure.” I came back with a sketch pad and some charcoal. Giving it to Wayne, he began drawing immediately. “You won’t be a freak to them, Wayne.” He looked up at me surprised. “Of course, I will.” “No.” I shook my head. “You’re family. You are the reason they even exist. I’m leaving the decision up to you, but we’ll be there if you decide to reach out to them.” Wayne nodded and went back to sketching. It took a few minutes before Wayne handed the picture he’d drawn to Colin and me. “Okay.” I said. “I know I’ve seen this movie.” I looked at a pretty good drawing of his vampire. He was round headed and no hair whatsoever. Not on his head or even eyebrows, but two eyes, a nose and mouth that was open. What I did see was just fangs. No other teeth, but there were the two elongated teeth in the front, with two lesser fangs beside them and two below. Wayne came over. “What I didn’t draw…he was male for sure.” He said. “He had a dick, but…” he frowned. “…he had no…” he pointed down to his own crotch. “…there were no balls.” He shuddered. “No hair there either.” Colin and I both looked at this creature again. “Whatever he was, he wasn’t human.” Wayne added. “But you were in a mine.” Colin clarified. Wayne nodded. “That was my job.” He said. “I was in a very old tunnel that had been abandoned long ago. I don’t think a man had been down there for nearly a century.” He shrugged. “Maybe more.” When George gave the serum again, the pain started again, but it only lasted a few hours. Not even five, but it did end. George came back smiling. “His level has sort of stabilized. He’s beginning to hold it. I can make the disc for him in a day or two.” Colin showed him the picture of the vampire that Wayne drew. “This is the vampire that bit Wayne.” George looked at it and his eyes widened. “This is ugly!” Colin told George what Wayne had told him. Now George was taking a while to think about what we told him. He sat and you could see he was thinking when at last he nodded. “Okay…this is just some thoughts. I won’t know until we get one.” He began. “What I see is a creature that doesn’t eat, therefore, no other teeth. I see a creature that doesn’t reproduce like we do, therefore no need for the genitalia. His only means of reproduction is by venom.” I nodded. “That follows.” “It does?” Colin asked. “Just a theory,” George smiled. “We have been watered down from this creature.” He said. “Remember what I said about the things in our venom that is human and that is what helped us retain that humanity. Wayne here retained a good bit of his humanity, even though he had a more primitive form of venom.” He shook the picture. “I’m guessing this…thing…is very old.” “Is it natural?” I asked. “How could something like this evolve?” George shrugged. “I can’t say.” He smiled. “Again, it’s all theory.” “But plausible.” I nodded. “But where did he come from?” “Good question.” George said. I frowned. “We need to go to either that Vampire Capital in Africa or more important, Cairo. That is the oldest area where humans are said to come from.” Colin shrugged. “Maybe we should plan to do that very soon.” “We can send a team there.” George said. I looked at Wayne as he was still suffering. “I just don’t see how this could have evolved.” George shook his head. “Who says it did?” Colin looked at George. “You think it was made?” George shrugged again. “Even Devon wondered about this venom. It only works in humans. It doesn’t work in animals. It’s a very specific venom. It creates a being that reproduces by biting and creates the perfect predator.” He put the picture down. “It’s too perfect.” Just before sunrise, we roused Wayne from his sleep. “This will only take a few minutes.” Colin said smiling. “You’ve had a rough time, but now, you get a reward.” We walked out to the east side and stood on the terrace. It was like those vampires before him. The sun was brightening the horizon and then that one sliver of light shown through. There was fear in Wayne’s eyes as he saw the sun for the first time in fifty years. Tears which he now could produce were shed as he beheld that yellow orb rise. The tingling he got as he rubbed his arms. Mom and Willie did take the trip to London. We now had five teams out patrolling the surrounding towns and more vampires were found and either were killed or brought in by us. We did plan to make a lab that could be worked with more equipment and a sun-blocking structure to keep the harmful sunlight away while they were being treated. I also noted a new friendship between Edwin and Matt. Sunday night, Gabriella met Wayne and frowned at him. “You need a haircut.” She said simply. Wayne laughed. “Well, it’s better than what it has been for several decades.” He rubbed his hairy face. “Could I get a razor?” He asked me. I looked surprised. “You look good with a beard.” He smiled. “Maybe so, but if I meet the grandkids, I should look more presentable.” Colin smiled. “You want to see them?” Wayne smiled more sadly. “I would like to see them.” He said. “If things go right, then I’ll tell them who I am.” He looked at Colin and me. “I need you to come with me.” I nodded. “Of course.” When Gabriella was finished and he had shaved…well…he was a very handsome man! The lack of a beard shaved not only the hair, but a few years. He had been in his early thirties when he was turned. We got him some clothes. When Mom and Willie came down for lunch that Monday, Mom was playing it cool. Nothing to tell anyone, but that didn’t last long. “Everyone…” Mom began smiling enough to split her face if not careful. “…Willie asked me to marry him.” She held her left hand out. Then she let out her squeal just like I knew she would. Me, being who I am, I frowned. “Aw, too bad you had to turn him down.” Mom shook her head smiling. “Are you kidding!? I plan to marry him here!!” Edwin smiled. “And you just happen to be at a manor that is here good for that. How coincidental.” “We’ll pull out all the stops!” Colin said happily. He looked at Gabriella and Alex. “What about you two? Do we make it a double?” Gabriella shook her head. “Every bride deserves to be the focus.” She smiled. “But no, I want to be married at Wentworth, given away by you, Daddy.” Colin smiled. “I think that would be great, Gabby.” Gabriella smiled. “Maybe this spring?” Colin smiled and nodded. “That sounds like a date.” It was Tuesday when we heard the helicopter coming. Thornwood was now crowded with people so there were a few waiting outside when the helicopter landed not far away. Edwin was getting money now from Holm’s Laboratories, so he wasn’t worried about expenses. Colin and I watched as we saw Director Mattingly and Dr. Hathaway get out, doing the stooped approach everyone did, even though the blades were high above them. Edwin, Matt and Wayne walked over to join Colin and me. Dr. Hathaway smiled as she greeted us. Director Mattingly shook our hands. “You’ll be covered.” He said. “The PM has been briefed and knows pretty much all that we do. We’ll need details often to keep up with things.” Colin nodded. “We can do that.” It was Dr. Hathaway that was looking at Wayne and her eyes grew. Wayne walked up. “It’s nice to see you again, Doctor.” He shook her hand. He looked at Director Mattingly. “Director Mattingly.” Director Mattingly looked puzzled. “I’m sorry. Have we met?” He smiled. Wayne nodded. “Oh, yes.” He grinned. “But you probably remember this...” Wayne hissed again and looked like he was going to charge the Director. Director Mattingly jumped a little as his eyes widened. “No.” He said softly in shock. “You can’t be.” “Unbelievable!” Dr. Hathaway said marveling at Wayne. “Wayne!?” Wayne nodded. “That’s me.” Dr. Hathaway still was staring at Wayne in awe. “The treatment worked!” “I’ll have the disc inserted tomorrow.” Wayne nodded. “I’ll be pain free.” Dr. Hathaway frowned. “And I missed it!” She all but moaned. “This is remarkable!” Colin nodded chuckling. “It is indeed.” Dr. Hathaway shook her head. “I’ve got to more involved with this. This just miraculous!” “We can talk more in the house.” Edwin invited them in the house. It was a little later that Wayne came to us in the library where Colin worked online dealing with Holm’s Laboratories accounts and investments. I wasn’t lazy, but I was reading a book. “Hello, guys.” Wayne said softly as he sat down in a chair near us. “Hi, Wayne.” I greeted. “You said you’d go with me to see my daughter and grandchildren.” Wayne said. Colin nodded. “We will.” “When can we do that?” Wayne asked. “We need to consider when the best day would be.” I said. “My thoughts would be on a Sunday evening. They should be done with…whatever they had done. The children at home would be getting ready for school Monday. Katie and Sean would be getting ready for a week at work.” Now Wayne was looking very nervous. “How about this Sunday?” Colin nodded. “Certainly.” I smiled at Wayne’s worried face. “I don’t know what you’re thinking, but I can see it’s making you uneasy.” Wayne’s eyebrows rose. “Uneasy!? I’m far beyond uneasy. I’m going to see a daughter three weeks ago I didn’t know about! I’ll hopefully meet grandchildren I hadn’t even imagined I had and showing them a father and grandfather they thought was dead! I’m way, way beyond uneasy.” He laughed nervous. “But, if I don’t…” I rose coming over to Wayne. “We’ll be there if you need us.” I smiled touching his shoulder. “You’ve got the disc in and now that nightmare is over. We’ll help you with the rest of this journey. We’ll be as active or passive as you want us to be.” Colin got up and came over. “You’re not alone now.” Wayne smiled rising and hugged us both. “As far as I’m concerned, you two are angels.” He began to shed a tear. “Thank you.” The trip to Edinburgh would only take three or four hours, so we left about two o’clock to drive there. Colin drove, not me. Wayne hadn’t driven in fifty years and wasn’t brave enough to start again just yet. Wayne was just starting to get used to some things, but was amazed at the GPS that guided our way to the house where his daughter and grandchildren lived. They actually lived in a small part of town named Joppa. They lived in a nice neighborhood two blocks from a beach called Musselburgh Beach. Whatever Sean and Katie did, they did it well because the house didn’t look cheap. They were not poor. We parked nearby and let Wayne tell us when he was ready. Wayne looked at the house. “This is silly.” He said suddenly and rubbed his hands on his pants. “I’m more nervous now than when I asked Rosalind to marry me.” I smiled at Wayne. “Take you time.” He took a deep breath and blew a breath out. “I’m the rip the band-aide off kind of man.” He opened the door and got out. Then he stopped. “Come with me?” He said a little pitifully. Colin chuckled. “No problem.” He said getting out. We walked up the sidewalk to the front door. The cars were there, so we weren’t worried they wouldn’t be home. Wayne was not a coward as he walked up and rang the doorbell. We heard the steps of someone coming to the door and a muffled conversation that we got a little of as the front door opened. This was Sean Wallace. A very distinguished man in his early fifties with dark hair that was grey at the temple and through his hair. “Yes?” Sean said looking at us. He saw Colin and me, but his gaze came to Wayne. His face changed from mild curiosity to one puzzled and then just plan confused and then his eyes grew. You didn’t have to read minds to know what was going on in his head. He turned his head slightly, but didn’t take his eyes off Wayne. “Oh, Katie!! You have got to see this!” He said with pronounced Scottish accent. A voice came as someone approached the door. “What is it? You know I…” she was saying as she came to the door, saw Colin and me and then Wayne. She looked, the same thing, puzzled and then confused and then the eyes widened, but then we all saw her eyes go back into her head and she fainted.
  33. 35 likes
    Chapter 18 I held Amanda’s letter in my hand, nervously flipping it back and forth. I held it under my nose, inhaling a faint fragrance—her perfume perhaps? The envelope itself was beautiful—elegant and restrained. I opened the seal as carefully as I could. Thankfully, I didn’t rip it. Inside were many pages folded together. Apparently she had much to tell me. I hoped I was ready to hear it. To my son, If you are reading this letter, then Clyde has found you and my hoped upon plan succeeded. You are a young man by now. I hope you look like your father. I am sure you have a million questions for me and I have some, but not all, of the answers. I thought long and hard about whether it was appropriate to prepare this letter but a friend of mine encouraged me that it was the right thing to do. As you probably now know, my name is Amanda Franklin and I am your birth mother. I gave you up for adoption on the day you were born. If I allow myself, I believe I can still remember your smell as I held you for a short while after the delivery. You were so cute, my beautiful baby boy. I don’t remember anything about my pregnancy or delivery. I guess I blocked all of it out of my mind. But you…you, I remember. I tried to forget for the last 24 years. I tried to forget everything about that time in my life. There was so much pain, so much hurt. But there was also you. Please forgive my ramblings. I’ll start at the beginning. I was born Amanda Wilding in San Diego, California, 53 years ago. I was the only child of a doctor and a school teacher. My childhood was unremarkable and completely normal. All the usual life events, nothing tragic or traumatic. I graduated high school and went to UCLA where I earned my bachelor’s degree in biochemistry. I got my dream job with ACON Laboratories in San Diego, working in medical research. There I met my first love, Patrick. Patrick was two years older than me and so handsome. And smart. He had the darkest brown hair, almost black, with the deepest green eyes that held my heart from the moment I met him. We were inseparable. We were married quickly – I was 24, he was 26. We rented a small bungalow near the beach and did everything together. We worked in the same lab together, worked on the same research teams, everything. We didn’t have much money but we didn’t care. We were young and in love. Our research teams made big progress in diabetes medicine. We helped put together better instruments for measuring blood glucose for patients among other things. It was extremely rewarding work. I was so proud of what we were doing together, Patrick and I. I had just turned 29 when I got pregnant. At first I was not happy, as I had never wanted children. I guess I was one of those rare women whose work was her life and fulfillment. But Patrick was over the moon. He was so excited. He wanted to make a nursery out of our spare bedroom the first week. I made him wait. My pregnancy was uneventful, as it progressed normally. I went through all the usual stages, gained the right amount of weight, passed all the tests. Sometime in those first few months, as you grew inside of me, my thinking all changed and I wanted you more than I wanted anything else in life. I couldn’t stop thinking about holding you and feeding you and taking care of you. I fantasized about you and your father and me running our own research company and curing diseases together. That was our dream. But dreams don’t always come true. Patrick and I were driving in a rainstorm to my parents’ house for a dinner party. I didn’t want to go – I was getting tired easily in my sixth month. But Patrick said we should go, so we went. I don’t remember anything but what they told me afterwards. A semi truck driven by a drunk man crossed the center lane and hit our little pickup truck head on. Patrick was instantly killed and me nearly so. I was in the hospital for two weeks before they brought me out of a medically induced coma. I had a broken arm, broken leg, and broken ribs. I had various cuts and stitches on my head, neck, and torso from flying glass. I was lucky to be alive. So were you. My doctor in the hospital said he couldn’t understand how you didn’t die. All their tests showed you were fine despite all my injuries. They nursed my body back to health, but they couldn’t fix my mind or my broken heart. Patrick had been my life, my everything, even more than my work. More than you. My parents took me home to live with them and I had to see a psychologist for depression. They couldn’t give me any drugs for it because they might harm you. As the days got closer to my due date, I knew I had to decide what to do. I could try to go on as a single mother without Patrick, but I had to be honest with myself. I wasn’t prepared to do that. Not in any way. I lost my job, our house by the beach. I lost everything. And I wasn’t sure I even wanted to live anymore. I couldn’t imagine bringing a baby into my nightmare. It wasn’t fair. I made some calls and found out I could have my baby adopted through the county social services department. I had no money and no means of support so they helped me with the last month’s doctor bills. On May 17th I started labor. My father got me to the county hospital and you were born the following morning. I don’t know what your name is now, but for the time I held you in my arms, you were Patrick John Watson, II. That’s what I told the nurse your name was. I think I signed a paper for your birth certificate but I’m sure it was changed later. I named you after your father, you see. Even then I had a glimmer of hope maybe you could carry on some part of him even if I knew I no longer could. Selfish of me, I can see that now. I came home from the hospital totally lost. I slid deeper into depression. This time they gave me drugs but they made me sick. Then came the news my mother was ill. She had breast cancer. I did my best to try to take care of her – it helped my depression but I couldn’t save her. She mercifully died six months later, her pain-ravaged body an empty shell. My father was beyond despair. Like me, he loved totally and completely. We didn’t know any other way. It leaves you utterly empty inside when the one you love is gone. My father committed suicide one month later. No one, least of all me, expected him to do that. I was devastated and now completely alone in the world. Everything I had ever known and loved was now a horrible reminder of the tragedies of that year. I needed to work – it was the one thing that always grounded me. I tried to find a job in California, but realized I needed to get away and start a new life away from all the memories. I landed a job at Franklin Pharmaceuticals in Denver doing what I loved – medical research. I moved into an apartment and threw myself into the work. I slowly came alive again. That’s when I met Phillip. Phillip was like no man I had ever known, even Patrick. Phillip was the company owner’s son, the heir apparent to the family business, but he wanted no part of running it. He wanted to do research, same as me. We met for the first time at a company holiday party. He worked on another research team in a different building so our paths had never crossed. We spent that evening comparing theories for splicing genes to introduce mutations into viruses. He was fascinating, a truly brilliant mind. I was hooked. We got married a few months later, and we had a wonderful life together. Thankfully Phillip’s father kept running the company so Phillip and I could continue doing research together. We were proud of our advancements in diabetes medicines and we were starting research into some promising new cancer treatments when his father died suddenly of a heart attack during a board meeting. Phillip really did not want to run the company. It just wasn’t his thing. But he wanted the research we were doing to continue. We tried to do both for a couple of years, but it became too much. Thankfully, another pharmaceutical company made an offer to purchase Franklin Pharma and Phillip got the board to cut a deal. After the transition was completed a year later, Phillip and I decided to retire from research work. It was better left to younger minds than ours. We now had money, more money than we could ever spend, and we started to travel and enjoy the fruits of our work. Phillip especially liked the ocean so we spent time in Florida and the Caribbean. Retirement was fine. I missed the work and the sense we were helping people, but I appreciated my time with Phillip. I fell in love with him more and more every day. He, more than anyone, had helped heal the loss of Patrick, you, and my parents. I never told Phillip about you. Or Patrick. I told him a little about my parents. About my childhood and that my parents were dead. At first I just didn’t know what to say. It was such a sad chapter of my life I couldn’t think about it without getting seriously depressed so I stayed away from it. I realize now it was unfair to the memory of the people I had loved so very much. But I can’t go back and fix it now. I kept a secret from the man I loved and I regret it so much now. Phillip died in a skiing accident almost three years ago. I miss him every day. After he died I got involved in charity work to keep myself from depression. It helped. I needed a sense I was helping people, making a difference in someone else’s life. It was always the driving force of my life, my purpose, my reason for being. When I got the diagnosis of cancer, I was prepared for it. I think I even half expected it. My mother’s cancer was the same kind, and it’s believed to be genetic. So I knew my odds straight away. But I’m a medical researcher at heart. I endured the chemotherapy and the radiation so they could run tests and do chemical comparisons. Anything to help find a way to ultimately beat the beast that is cancer. I am hopeful I helped in some way. My fight is nearly over. I suspect I have days at most, not the weeks my doctor keeps trying to encourage me with. And I’m ready. But there is the unfinished matter of you, my son. I feel the need to apologize to you. Not for giving you up – I still think that was the most loving thing I could have done at the time for you. But for denying your existence to my Phillip and my friends. Even to myself, really. For that I am truly sorry. It was never my intention to cause you harm. In the past few months I have been thinking about a way in which I can acknowledge you and maybe help you in some way. I know that I may appear to be selfish, waiting until I’m gone to do this but I feel it’s for the best. We have no chance for a relationship of any kind now and I would never want to burden you with such a thing at this point in our lives. But I do care about you in my own way and I have to do something. What I have is money. A lot of money. I don’t really know how much. I leave that to the bankers and lawyers. But Patrick and Phillip both taught me one important lesson about money – it’s a tool for either doing good or doing evil. I am choosing to believe you will be an agent for good. If there is any truth to genetic inheritance, I have to believe your father’s passion for doing good for others will have crossed over to you. I sincerely hope so. He believed the best life was one lived helping his fellow man. Do that, young man. Live your life to help others. The rewards are beyond your imagination. The other thing I want to leave to you is two pieces of advice. These come from lessons I have learned the hard way. The first is this – when you love someone, love them with all your heart. With everything that you are. Totally and completely. Hold nothing back. Yes, you may get hurt. You probably will in some way. I lost two men who were the great loves of my life but I don’t regret for a second loving them with everything I had in me. I promise you that a life lived fully loving is a life well lived. The other is this – do not let fear rule your life. There is much to be afraid of in this world. Circumstances, people, things beyond our control. I let fear rule me after Patrick died and it led to deep depression and difficult, regretful decisions. Do not be afraid of life. Do not be afraid of others. Be who you are and who you believe you were called to be and forget the rest. If someone doesn’t agree or doesn’t like you for it, then they don’t appreciate you for who you are. So move on. Get on with your life and don’t hold back. If you have to, do it afraid. But do it. In my heart I know you are alive. I can feel it. Patrick and I did some great work in the lab together but you are the best thing to ever come from us. Please take the gift that I am giving you as just that, a gift to do something great for others. I pray it is not a burden but a blessing to you. With a hopeful heart, Amanda As the last page floated out of my hand onto the bed beside me, I realized I was holding the edge of a bedsheet in my fist—and it was soaking wet from my tears. I didn’t remember doing it, but I must have grabbed it so my crying would not ruin the beautiful paper. I was a mess. My heart broke for Amanda. So much tragedy, so much pain. The loss of two husbands—and a baby. I was grateful she no longer suffered and grateful she had answered the question about my birth father. He too was dead. I had lost both my birth father and birth mother in one day. More tears fell for my own pain. For the lost opportunities to know them as they were. I only had brief glimpses of their lives. Nothing of the true substance of them. Where did it all leave me? Amanda Franklin spent the last hours of her life thinking about me and what she could do for me. Her words, so tragically written, proved she cared. Her explanation for giving me up–I could totally understand her state of mind and agreed she did the right thing at that point in her life. Besides, my adoption had worked out okay for me for the most part. She had given me a chance for a happy life at my birth. Now she had given me something more. A lot more. The money was on a shelf in my mind for now. The numbers were still incomprehensible. But at least I knew why she did it, why she left it all to me. But as I reread her last words I saw that she had given me some guidance on how to handle her gift. Love fully, do it afraid, do good for other people. She seemed to think I could carry on a legacy of sorts–the legacy of Patrick, Amanda, and Phillip. To help people have better lives. It sounded wonderful and overwhelming at the same time. I was a bookkeeper working in a small company. I lived in a tiny apartment and drove an old used car. I had one hundred seventy dollars in my checking account. I wasn’t a medical researcher discovering new cures for diseases. How could I change the world and make it better for other people? I wanted to. I was on board with her vision. I felt energized by just the thought of it. I wanted that to be me. Making a difference. Be like Amanda and Patrick. But how to do it? I figured the money was supposed to be part of it. She had called money a tool. I never thought about money that way before. A tool, like a shovel for digging a hole or a hammer for a nail. A way to get something done, something necessary accomplished. A way to right a wrong maybe, or change a life for the better. Sitting there on my luxurious hotel bed, ideas started percolating. I felt like I instantly had some secret insight into who I was and who I was supposed to be. I was Jack Schaeffer, not Patrick John Watson, but I had parts of Patrick and Amanda in me. I came from good people, people who made a difference. People who changed things for the better. I wanted to be like that. For them. I wanted to be the legacy they never knew they had. But I also knew I had a lot to learn. A lot was going to have to change. My thinking needed to expand. I needed to get outside myself more, think beyond the horizon I could see. Live for something more than the moment now. I knew one other thing with an absolute certainty–I could no longer be afraid of life. I was going to be me. No matter what. It was time to do it, even if I had to do it afraid.
  34. 34 likes
    It was all set up for a nice party. There were good smells coming through the house from the kitchen and the combination of the greenery for Christmas that had the effect on me telling me it was that special Season. Yes, it was my favorite time of year. I could almost forget there a threat out there. Almost. Amasis’ hair had begun to grow out and Gabriella came early to give him a haircut. In the clothes we had gotten him, he and Amir were looking like they did belong in this century. We had brought them to Wentworth Manor to limit the amount of exposure to modern culture. Colin and I didn’t think Amasis was ready for hustle and bustle of Manhattan. The fact that Wentworth Manor was isolated and there weren’t a lot of people in this part of the Lowcountry was a good thing for Amasis. Amir was seemingly ready for more, but the other isolation Amir had in Amasis’ City had not really prepared him for the world; that and the language problem. Amir had enough English to be alright, but he needed more. Amasis was learning more, but was still heavily dependent on the translator. We all wore the little earpieces, including Amasis and Amir. The program Delkenzie put out was amazing. There was another reason for the party. To see how Amasis would handle being with others that didn’t know about him…or us. The doorbell rang and both Colin and I went to the door and Mitch was on the other side, along with two others that were his family. One was a large man in his mid to late fifties. He was about six feet and six inches tall with bronze colored hair that was starting to show grey through the hair. The other man was in his early to mid-forties with black hair that was starting to turn grey at the temples. He bore a striking resemblance to Mitch like a sibling would probably be. They were smiling when we opened the door, but when these two with Mitch saw us, their eyes widened. Mitch looked at them. “I told you.” He said. “Eerie, isn’t it? He looks just like Tony.” The dark-haired man looked at Mitch in disbelief. “He looks like Tony? They look like both of you! I’m looking at another Mitch and Tony!” I nodded to them. “So, we’ve heard.” I waved to the interior. “Welcome to Wentworth Manor.” Mitch chuckled as he walked in. “Thank you.” He said removing his coat. He waved at the other two. “This is my cousin David McKenzie and his husband and very good friend of mine, Sasha Ledebev.” Sasha was still staring in shock, but shook my hand almost absently as he stared. It wasn’t until David nudged him in the gut for him to say. “Oh, it’s nice to meet you.” He smiled. “Weird, but nice.” I nodded to him and David. “Well, welcome to the House of Weird.” Colin chuckled. “As if we weren’t already running over with weird here.” He muttered to me. I introduced Colin and they came in. David looked at the entrance foyer and the large brightly lit, decorated tree that sat in the center, towering up almost touching the crystal chandelier above it like a giant star on top. “Now that…” David said pointing at the tree. “…is a big ass tree!” I nodded laughing. “And not easy to decorate, I can tell you.” Mitch nodded. “I bet not.” Sasha looked at the house and his eyes grew. “Wow.” There were decorative garland with red ribbons, the occasional hurricane glass coverings over wide red candle that we lit. The tree’s lights were the tiny white ones that glowed like stars in the greenery and silver, gold and red glass balls hung in the bows, tensile and the lights refracted off crystal and clear balls to make it shine even more! Mitch chuckled. “Wow?” He looked at me. “He’s so articulate.” He grinned at Colin and me. “He’s the reason the Delkenzie program works as well as it does. Especially with Russian. He brought his five year old son Alik here, who didn’t speak English and we began using the program to understand him.” David nodded. “That’s why it works so well with Russian.” Colin smiled. “And it’s expanded to include so many languages now, even seldom used languages or languages that are dead.” He waved them all in. “Let us have you coats, and I’ll introduce two others that are helping to further the program.” We introduced the others here, my mother was just beyond words seeing Mitch. All of my family here were moved to almost speechlessness meeting Mitch. Then I introduced Amasis and Amir who were the only ones wearing the translator and earpieces. I watched from a distance to see how Amasis would do and it seemed to go well. Mitch was spending a good bit of time with him deep in a conversation. It wasn’t too long before we went to eat dinner and everyone watched, as they always did at the amount of food Colin and now Amasis ate. Amasis would be a big eater from now on. There was light classical seasonal music in the background as we enjoyed our dinner. I felt Colin touch my hand, so I looked up at him. “Do you think they suspect anything…odd?” Colin asked me quietly from the head of the table. I looked over as Mitch was still talking to Amasis and Amasis seemed to like talking with Mitch. There was the inevitable delay as the conversation would have to be translated and a reply given, but it was Mitch’s program and Mitch was aware of what needed to happen, so he was patient. “I think it’s going well.” I smiled and then shrugged. “It is possible for Amasis to say something that would give it away. We’ll just deal with it when it happens. This is a test run.” “What do you think we say if they suspect?” Colin asked. “The truth?” I suggested. “Mitch, David and Sasha might have a hard time with it, but I think they could be trusted with the truth.” I shrugged looking at Colin. “They might prove useful in the future. We can’t enough friends on our side.” “The whole truth?” Colin asked. “I mean, about all of us?” “We shouldn’t leave those things to question when they happen.” I said. Our mother and Willie were looking happy. Gabriella and Alex were very happy. Everything seemed to be working out fine. We were in the library while I was talking with Sasha. He was a quick, funny person. He often fell into this act where he claimed to not understand and shifted to Russian, but he understood just fine. I liked him. I like all of them. I noticed later as I saw Mitch sitting by the tree in the library. The library was decorated for the holiday and the tree was lit. A fire burned merrily in the fireplace and it all looked perfect…except Mitch looked a little lost at the moment. Amasis was in a conversation with David now. I walked over and sat by Mitch. “I hope you’re having a nice evening.” I said. Mitch looked up suddenly from his thoughts and smiled. “What?” He looked around at the pleasant surroundings. “No, the party’s great! The house is gorgeous and the company is wonderful.” He nodded touching his wedding ring. “I was just having a moment with Tony.” He said fondly in thought. He looked up. “I do that occasionally. There are times I miss him so much more.” He chuckled. “This is one of them. He proposed to me this time of year.” He chuckled as he explained. “I was on a carriage ride around Central Park this time of year...” He held his ring up, “…the night he gave me this.” I felt for him. “He sounds like a romantic guy.” Mitch nodded with a sad smile. “He was. He really was.” Then Mitch grinned and pulled out his phone. “Here, let me show you.” He turned it on and pulled something up and held the phone to me the screen. “I always keep this.” He chuckled. “I’ll never forget his face, but…” I looked at a picture of…it was Colin! I knew it couldn’t be Colin because of Tony’s darker complexion, but the face of Tony, was the face of Colin. “Wow.” I said holding it out. “Now, I understand everyone’s reaction to Colin.” I smiled handing the phone back. “He’s very handsome.” Mitch nodded and said almost sweetly. “And the most beautiful soul. He would send me a single rose every week…just because he loved me.” He said as a tear was coming. “I wish I’d met him.” I said. Mitch nodded again. “He would have liked you and Colin.” He laughed. “But it’s all good.” He said at last. “I’d give anything to have him back, but…” he shrugged. He leaned back and looked at me. “Now, explain about this…Amasis.” I was not prepared for this sudden change of subject. “What about him? We got him out of trouble in Egypt. Now he and Amir are good friends.” I waved at Amasis. Mitch nodded. “There’s more here. I’ve spoken with Amasis a good bit tonight.” He looked at me. “Let me just say…it’s like he’s from another time.” I smiled. “He’s from a remote part of a desert community. They are outside of time.” Mitch nodded. “There’s more and it’s a secret. Don’t tell me if you don’t want to, but there is something…old about the man. How he sees things in the world and what he remembers. It’s…” he shrugged, “…old. It’s almost regal, but’s old.” I looked at Mitch carefully. “You won’t believe it.” Mitch leveled a look at me. “Try me.” So, I did. I told him where we found Amasis and the circumstances that made us look for him. I told him the truth about Colin, me and Amasis. I told him everything except about my mother and Willie and the others. No one else needed to be told about now. Mitch listened, never interrupting. When I was done, I waited for him to…call the police, or say I was crazy or laugh at a joke…something! Instead, he just nodded. “Okay.” Was all he said. Now, I was not okay. “Just like that?” Mitch laughed. “Oh, come on, Devon. That story is too absurd not to be true. I believe you.” He smiled. “You have to admit, and we both deny it, but…I see the similarities in us. Between you and Colin, me and Tony. I know we’re so similar it’s like…” he thought, “…who or whatever created us thought we were such good matches…he or she decided not to waste it, but duplicate it! I’m sure there are many others of us out there.” He pointed outside of the house. “In fact, I’m sure there are many Mitches and Tonys out there; living all kinds of lives, not only now, but in the past and in the future. Even in places we think are only dreams. You and Colin, me and Tony were…” he smiled, “like magic! Our pairings were so good; it was repeated and will be repeated again and again. There is a place for us in reality. That gives me hope!” He said happily. I wasn’t expecting this. “How does it give you hope?” “I miss Tony so much.” He smiled as a tear came down. “I loved him so fiercely. I see you and Colin and see you two feel the same for each other. I know Tony and I will be together again. I simply know it!” He shrugged. I smiled. “You’re okay with all this?” Mitch nodded. “I can’t wait to see Tony again, but I know I will.” He chuckled. “There will be tales about matches like ours. Ours is a love that needs to be told about. The tale will give guys hope for their own lives.” He laughed. “Imagine, a story like Cinderella with the main characters being male!” I shook my head. “I don’t think the world is ready for that.” I smiled. Mitch looked at me thoughtfully. “I don’t know, it might be, little boys and young men need tales that make them dream. Little girls dream of Prince Charming, well, we’ll let young men like us know they can dream of a Prince Charming of their own. Get them to dream.” “You can’t name it Cinderella.” I said simply. “How about…” he thought. “Cinderfella?” I laughed. “That may be possible, but pushing the limits.” “So, let’s push!” Mitch smiled as he looked up. “I think your version of Tony is looking a little concerned.” He pointed at Colin. I looked to see Colin not upset, but had a look of curiosity on his face and concern. I patted Mitch on the arm. “Do I tell him we’re good about this whole vampire thing?” Mitch nodded. “We are. I might tell Sasha and David because they’re both sharp and probably suspecting, but don’t worry, we’ll keep this whole…vampire thing to ourselves.” He took a deep breath. “If anything, I owe you and Colin a great debt. You’re taking that program to new heights. If you need anything, I’ll be there to help. I can help with Amasis’ socialization and getting to know customs as needed.” I nodded standing. “We will probably do that. He needs about two thousand years of catchup learning.” Mitch stood as well. “I think he’s doing just fine.” He walked over to speak to my mother, who was still looking puzzled at Mitch. I went over to Colin. “You two were in a pretty deep discussion for nearly an hour!” Colin said. “Is everything alright?” “Everything is just fine.” I smiled at Colin and pulled him into a deep kiss which he responded to instantly as his arms came around me. “Who needs mistletoe? I’ll take any excuse to kiss you.” Colin chuckled. “Who needs the excuse?” He shrugged. “We just do it because.” He hugged me. “Merry Christmas, baby.” He said next to my ear in a whispered voice. “Merry Christmas, Colin.” The evening had to end as all good events do. We offered our guests a place to stay if needed, but Mitch shook his head. He hadn’t hardly drunk anything to mess with his driving and said he needed to go back home. He’d had one glass of eggnog and that was it. Mom, Willie, Gabriella and Alex would stay in the rooms they always did. Colin and I settled in for our night as we got in bed as I told him what I said to Mitch. “…and he didn’t question any of it?” Colin asked in disbelief as he slid in between the sheets. I shook my head. “He was okay with the weird. All of the weird.” I said moving over the top of Colin. My hands knew the path it liked as they traveled over Colin’s wonderful chest. I leaned in kissing him. “Now, let’s be a thing of future legend.” Colin smiled, but not certain what I meant. “Legend? I know we’re good in bed, but legendary?” “We have to strive to be that!” I said as my arms went around him. “I love you, Colin.” He smiled. “I know.” He kissed me back. “Make love to me?” I smiled. “You don’t even need to ask me.” It was Christmas morning and we came down to the library and the excitement of Christmas morning was felt, but not the childish excitement of the past with toys and other presents. We had our coffee; or rather, Colin had his needed coffee. I was finding Amasis had developed a strong love of Colin’s Death Wish Coffee. I still got my iced vanilla latte’. We had all agreed not to buy each other anything, but Colin came up to his daughter and future son-in-law. He presented them with an envelope. Gabriella looked surprised at the envelope. “What’s this? We said not…” Gabriella began taking the envelope. Colin nodded. “I’m your father, Gabby. That means I’m above the rules.” He smiled. “Even my own.” Gabriella smiled and kissed Colin on the cheek and opened the envelope. She looked at what was inside and her eyes grew. “What?” She stammered and showed Alex the check. “Why?’ Alex looked surprised, too. “That’s too much!” He said. Colin raised his hands to stop them. “Are you kidding? Do you think we don’t have the money? Gabby, you’re my daughter! Alex, you’ve become an important person…not only in my daughter’s life, but mine and Devon’s. Not because you’re both vampires, but because we both love you two. You’re marrying. You want a house. This will help with that. Whatever you need to get that, I’ll do all I can with no regrets.” Gabriella pulled Colin into a tight hug and Alex sort of wrapped his arms around Gabriella and Colin. I came over to Mom and Willie. I gave them an envelope. “Mom and Dad, you have the house on James Island. That’s fine. I grew up there and love it.” I said as Mom opened the envelope and her eyes did was Gabriella’s did and grew. “Take this, renovate or remodel or both. Buy another house. That’s up to both of you.” I looked at Mom. “I love you, Mom. You always are in my corner.” I looked at Willie. “And you…” I grinned as Willie smiled at me. “When Colin told me how important you were to him…that you were a father figure to him all those decades underground in New York…I didn’t know you, but you became such an important person to me! I see you now as a man I need to model my life after.” I waved at my mother. “I’m not talking about how important you became to my mother, though that says a lot about you. You stepped in and you let me call you Dad. You are my Dad. I love you, Willie. This is just a little to help you two to continue your lives together.” Willie wiped his eyes and stood. He pulled me close in a hug. “You are my son, Devon.” He said in the hug. “I do love you. I hope I will always be someone that deserves the love you give so easily.” I tightened the hug. “You do and you are.” Amasis and Amir watched our family. This was not a holiday they really knew, but the feelings they did know. Amasis took off his translator and said. “I hope…I say right…my words.” He began. “You, Colin. You, Devon. Become more…than friends to Amir…to me. I know…I die…if you not come…but now…I live…with you.” He smiled. “I want…give…more to…vampire together…bringing together. I want…” he looked at Amir and said something, which Amir said back. “…yes…purpose. I want purpose to be…here.” Amir nodded. “I’m not a vampire.” He said. “But I want to help. Is there a place for us in your group?” Colin and I hugged them, too. “There is.” Colin said. “There is.” “And we will help you all the way, Amasis and Amir.” I swore. Amasis nodded as he listened to make sure he understood and finally nodded. “Good.” He smiled. “That good!"
  35. 34 likes
    Now we risked usage, but kept it at key times, but Mark was poised in front of a computer often watching this group move. Amasis was just…fascinated by the computer. “This…” he pointed at the screen, “…isn’t magic?” He asked with a sound that it was incredible and had to be magic. “There is a magic window here. You see them, but they can’t see you. They are a so far away! How can you do this?” I nodded. “It is magic.” I smiled at Amasis. “It’s the magic of science.” I put an arm around his shoulder. “And I’ll be happy to explain, and I will, but it’s sort of involved and we don’t have time. So, yes, it’s magic.” I nodded. Amasis nodded. “Just tell me, how can we see so far away?” He wanted to know. I thought a minute how to explain simply. “There’s a magic eye in the sky that can see them. We see them through that.” I watched as he was very uncertain. “It’s not hard to understand, but there are some foundations you need to understand. You’ll get it. You’re a smart man.” Amasis gave a shrug and nod. “I have a lot to learn.” I smiled. “And you have friends that will help you.” I assured. “We won’t leave you, Amasis.” He looked at me and now, I saw emotion in his eyes. “For the first time in all the season cycles, I believe you will be with me.” He said as he hugged me. “You are my friends. You and Colin and all the others. You are my friends.” I nodded. “We are. In fact, I feel we’re family.” Amasis smiled at that and nodded. “Not brothers.” “Not brothers?” I frowned. He shook his head as I saw a twinkle in his eyes. “I love you and Colin.” He explained. “I don’t remember a lot about my past and family, but I had a brother.” He said smiling. “I do remember not liking him at all.” My eyes widened. “Why?” “He was less intelligent than…” He said a word and I heard a beep when the translator didn’t know a word. Usually I just thought about the word in context, but…I tapped the translator. “I didn’t get that.” He grinned. “It looks like a small horse. It is about this high…” he held his hand up about midway on his body. I looked surprised at him. “I think you just called your brother an ass.” Amasis shrugged. “If you say so.” I grinned at him. “You know enough English! I bet you knew exactly what you were saying!” Then he said in accented, but clearly English. “You prove?” He said and hurried down the corridor as he laughed. “He was ass!!” Again in accented, but clearly in English. Stan also monitored the Internet to see if he could find out what was happening outside just ten to fifteen miles away. We didn’t dare start up Buddy here. The power drain and the signals we sent to the satellite would be too high and tell them exactly where we were. The next sunrise came. George, Burke, Colin and I stood with Amasis on the hilltop above Amasis’ City. He had not ventured outside at all in nearly two thousand years! Not even at night. So, we took him out an hour before the sun would rise. Amasis was shaking as he was both excited and scared. “You know I am just like you.” I reassured Amasis. “So are Colin, Burke and George…all the ones you know are vampires. You feel it. We’re fine. It will tingle for the first few times, but it won’t hurt you.” Amasis was beyond words at this point and just nodded. He reached out suddenly and grabbed my hand and in a whisper almost, he said. “I never dared to be out here.” “We’ll be right here with you.” I said again. “If there’s a problem, we’ll get you back in. The tunnel entrance is right there.” I pointed on the hill. He again didn’t say much, but nodded, but his eyes widened with terror as the sky lightened. The desert was in many ways beautiful with its own charms. Looking east, we felt the chill of air was changing to the desert heat as the sun was about to break the horizon. I knew Amasis was feeling it, but I looked as the first rays of the sun broke that rocky horizon and the first sunrise for him began. Just as with other vampires, as he began to cry. He grabbed Colin’s hand with his other. I knew he was feeling the tingle. He let go of mine a few seconds to rub his hand over his arm and body. He took my hand again. “Khepri.” He said reverently. “I thought I’d never see this again.” Colin frowned whispering to Amasis. “I thought he was Ra.” Amasis chuckled and rubbed his and my hand over his face nodding. He held our hands too tight to let go. “He is…Ra-Atum-Khepri is his full name. Khepri is the name of the rising sun. Atum for the setting sun.” He said as more of the sun rose higher. He shook his head. “I wish Nabia had stayed to see this.” Colin nodded. “I wish she had, too.” He let Amasis’ hand go and wrapped his arm around Amasis’ shoulders. “I’m so glad we can at least touch you now. I can’t do that with any other god.” Amasis chuckled hearing it again. “We’re all the same, so why not?” He smiled. “I like being touched…” he looked from Colin to me. “…by friends.” “I’m a big toucher, so get used to it.” I said with a smile. The sun was rising more and I could see the tingling was becoming more…annoying to Amasis. I said we should go back in. “There will be many sun rises for you in the future.” I chuckled. “You’ll see a lot of Atum and Khepri. I promise you.” There was another giving Amasis a meal which he devoured quickly and was reaching for more. He smiled at Colin and me. “I have never…” he said chewing, “…or at least I don’t remember eating something this good!” I chuckled. “There’s a whole world of tastes and flavors.” Amasis shook his head. “I look forward to tasting it all!” I went into the chamber where Stan was again hunched over a computer. Mark was standing behind him looking over his shoulder at the screen as Stan went through various emails. Stan was shaking his head. “There is nothing.” Stan said sadly. “If there is anything, it’s encrypted, but there’s nothing to find! Buddy is finding nothing to try to sift through.” “There may be nothing.” Colin said sadly. Mark shook his head. “Not that I can figure.” He said sourly. “I’ll bet my next paycheck those guys are connected with a nonpolitical group, but what group. I can’t say.” He turned to me. “The group feels less about a certain country.” “Militia for hire?” I asked. Mark nodded. “Most assuredly.” He looked at the images they got from all the members of this group. I shook my head. “With no ideology or government backing, they are more dangerous.” Mark nodded again. “They’re following a paycheck for a job to do. Laws and ethics are not going to be followed to get that job done.” Stan let out another grunt and slammed his fists down on the desk. “This is so…frustrating!” He waved again at the computer. “Buddy can probably do it, but the speed for these laptops is limited. The file transfer and connection can work, but I would rather be in New York or England, using Buddy directly.” He waved at an image. “I have the face of one of them. Using facial recognition I might be able to find out who they are. This is too slow!” Mark grinned and started squeezing Stan’s shoulders in a massage. “Easy there, Lightning Man. It’s gonna be fine.” Mark looked at me again. “With no government backing and no political agendas, we don’t know how deep the pockets of the people backing them are. They could be well equipped, even better than we are.” He grinned. “Not that Holm’s Laboratories is skimping on anything, but…” “They could be well armed.” I nodded. “And we’re not.” “Against vampires, we are.” Mark waved at the screen again. “Against them and guns…no.” He grinned at me. “They could have better computers.” Stan lifted his head quickly as his eyes flew wide. “What!? No way! Buddy is the best! There is no system that can break in through his firewalls and encrypted files.” Stan looked at the screen again. “I’ll get this guy’s identity using the FBI and Interpol databases and whatever…he has to have a record.” He began typing again. “I’ll find him!” Mark nodded at me and winked at me. “I know you can, baby.” He said giving Stan a quick squeeze on the shoulder for encouragement. I chuckled at Mark and patted his arm. Leaning in so only he could hear. “Good motivating.” Mark shrugged. “It’s a gift.” Colin and I met with Willie and Alex. They had military backgrounds as we told them what was happening and understood the danger. Amasis and Amir were also there. Amir had a working knowledge of English, more than Amasis, but to make sure we were understood, we had Amir fitted with an earpiece and translator to convert English to his language and he told Amasis what was said. Willie groaned as he and Alex went over what actions they should take. “The problem is the people of Amasis’ City. It isn’t that they aren’t willing to lay down their lives; they are going against men with guns…machine guns and bombs! They live outside, yes, but they are swords, spears and brute force! We don’t have weapons for this!” Colin grunted understanding, but Amasis held up a finger. He began in broken English. “You don’t.” He said slowly. “I may.” Then he began in his own language. “We have raided many groups…warriors and others. Treasure was not our only plunder.” His eyebrows waggled and he motioned for us to follow him. We followed him a good ways through the tunnels until at last we came to a chamber we would never have found without him. “These were taken over the years.” Amasis said waving at the many boxes and containers. “I wasn’t sure what they were, but I kept them. Fearing they could be dangerous, I kept them away from the people.” Now Alex and Willie were looking at guns and a lot of munitions. The labels were written in several languages. Some were old and I thought they were from World War II. There were other crates and boxes that were newer from more recent conflicts. “There is a good supply of guns.” Willie said. “They need to be cleaned.” He said picking up a gun I was sure was a rapid fire machine gun. Colin opened a crate and stepped back instantly in fear. “Devon, look at this!” I walked over to the crate. This was clearly marked. “This is C4! This is a powerful explosive!” Colin nodded. “This amount of explosives could level the whole mountain!” He smiled at my surprised expression. “I’ve seen my share of movies. I know what Hollywood says can happen.” He looked at Willie. “Can we use this?” Willie and Alex looked at the crate which was packed with quite a number of the explosives. “I don’t know how to use this.” Alex said and Willie shook his head. I smiled. “I bet Chuck, Mark and Shelly know how.” I shook Amasis’ shoulder. “And I bet Stan could help create the detonators.” Amasis’ eyes became confused. “I do not know…detonator.” I chuckled. “A big bang!” I said. “We can make it a big bang!” Amasis was nodded, but it was still not clearly understood. He may not have known “bang.” Colin smiled. “We can put some at the tunnel entrances and blow the whole tunnel.” He looked at me and frowned. “I know you want to save these people. I know you don’t want to destroy this city, but…” “Yes.” I agreed reluctantly. “But we need to tell Amasis. He must understand and know what the consequences are.” Colin looked at Amasis who was trying to understand what we were saying. “I guess you need to tell him. He’ll listen to you.” Colin put his hand on my shoulder. “We’re not blowing up the city, just the entrances to it.” “You think.” I said. “This could cause the whole mountain to come down.” Colin nodded. “It could, but it would be protected if we block the entrances.” “We’re really going to do this?” I asked no one in particular. Colin didn’t like saying it, but… “I don’t see another choice. Those men will find their way down here. Everything will be lost when they do. Alex, Willie, Mark, Chuck and Shelly will set up the C4.” I looked at Amasis. “We need to talk.” I said and led him back out of the storage chamber to catch him up with all of it. Gunpowder, explosives and what we hoped to do and he needed to understand and approved of in a few days. I explained about the explosions and gun powder and touched lightly on ballistics and the destruction that the C4 could wield. Amasis listened, but was having a hard time accepting the scale of destruction. “You’re talking about the power of a god!” He said as he stood and began thinking and working it out in his mind. “Yes, I suppose I am.” I stood up and looked at Amasis. “They are just tools. They can do good things, too: make big rocks into smaller rocks. Unclog a river or…the can make tunnels made of rock collapse.” He looked around the chamber we were in and I knew he was thinking of the surrounding city. “We will get the people out first?” I nodded. “Absolutely. We don’t want to hurt anyone. You know that.” I touched Amasis gently. “You will be with us.” I sighed. “There will be more you will see that you won’t understand, but Colin, me and the others will be there to help. I swear.” I smiled. “You’re almost done with the serum. George will be able to make something that can slip under your skin. The pain will go away and you can be outside all day.” Amasis nodded as he smiled at that. “It’s worth losing this to be able to do that.” The trick with satellite images, you had to move a satellite to where you want to see. That was a major production, we didn’t try that. We used a satellite in a rotating orbit and we only got images so often, but often enough to keep tabs on where this militia was. Suddenly we heard Stan let out a shout of victory. “I got him!” Stan said coming over quickly carrying the laptop. “I got him! He’s Yuri Smirnov,” he looked up, “he was named after vodka? Or that vodka was named after his family?” He shook his head. “He’s thirty-six and boy…” he chuckled, “this guy was not a nice person.” Colin nodded. “Did you expect him to be?” Stan just let that go. “He’s Russian by his daddy, but Ukrainian by his mommy. He was born and raised in Kiev. Educated in Moscow and joined the military there. He’s freelanced since he left the service.” He shook his head reading. “He was questioned about some…activities that were basically war crimes.” He hit a button and showed us the screen. He smiled. “This Delkenzie program worked well with the Russian language. It read through that pretty easy.” Colin chuckled. “Well, Mitch did say that Russian was a bitch for him. It was one of the first languages the program learned to read and translate for him.” He looked at me. “Something about their alphabet drove him crazy.” Stan nodded. “Well, this guy is definitely is a gun for hire. I’m doing a search now to find out more.” We gathered again in the dining chamber. The thing was, now, Amasis was dining with us. On food! He was proving to have nearly as good an appetite as Colin! Willie chuckled as Amasis was enjoying his dinner. “George, I think you created a monster.” George grinned as he looked over at Amasis. “Let the man enjoy his meal. It’s been a long time since he’s eaten!” “When are you inserting the disc?” Colin asked smiling at Amasis. “Tonight.” George said looking at Amasis. “Amasis, the pain will stop from now on.” “As long as you stay on the serum.” I stressed to Amasis. Amasis nodded. “The pain the last two days wasn’t long. I’m just…” he waved at what he was eating, “…not believing how good this is!” He looked up at us. “I think you need to move those chariots from the above tunnel entrance. You should take it to one of the villages. Not Amir’s village, but one of the others. We’ll hide them there.” He took a deep breath. “And…I need to tell the people what’s going to happen. I want to be sure everyone is out of here before you do…that big boom.” Colin nodded and looked at the others of our team. “That means, you all pack and be ready to leave.” “We’ll be ready.” Mark nodded. George created the disc using Amasis’ blood and inserted it under his skin on the back of his arm. Colin and I were there as this last step was done. Amasis sat up looking at the site where George had inserted the serum disc. “That didn’t hurt at all.” He touched his own arm. “I still don’t have any feeling yet in my arm.” He smiled at George. “You are a good doctor.” George smiled and bowed slightly. “Thank you.” Amasis now had a dark covering of hair seen without his headdress and that was growing and it was getting soft now. He rubbed his own head. “Well, I guess I need to address the people soon.” He said to Colin and me. I nodded. “And we need to find you clothes.” Amasis looked down at his kilt. “Why?” His hand went to his headdress. Colin chuckled. “People don’t wear that too much out there. I’m sure between all the other men, we can find you something.” Amasis nodded and then shrugged. Stan shook his head at the images he got from the satellite. “They’re not giving up.” “They’re not hurrying down here.” Colin said looking at the image as well. Stan nodded. “Because they don’t know where Amir’s village is! It’s not on any map.” He said. “The only signal being fed to and from the satellite now is this one. Those other signals stopped. It’s a bid empty desert and they only know approximately where to look, but not exact. They are getting closer.” “How long?” I asked Stan’s eyes grow. “Just guestimate.” Stan thought. “A few days?” Colin nodded. “We need to get everyone packed and able to leave.” The largest chamber was the temple to hold everyone at once. I frowned when I saw the people gathered. They had numbered in the thousands or so I was told. There were a few hundred, but not the numbers that used to be. Amasis got up on the raised portion of the temple as people looked at him and spoke to each other. I didn’t need the Delkenzie program to know they were talking about how different Amasis looked. Gone was his kilt, he wore jeans and t-shirt with mountain boots and he removed the ball cap that said Mets. Amasis raised his hands and they stopped talking. “I told you over the last few days, I begin a new chapter in my life soon.” Amasis said, but this time, there was sadness clearly in his voice. “I have lived down here a long time.” He smiled. “I knew your parents, grandparents and great-grandparents.” Now that there was the moisture in his eyes, I saw the tears come down his face. “I have loved all of you. I would not be here if you had not been here to care for me. You worshipped me as a god. I am no god.” He stopped and caught himself. “I owe all of you everything. I am so grateful to each and every one of you.” He looked at the temple and now he was crying more. “I’m not going forever.” He looked over at Amir. “My son and I will be starting a life in the outside world.” He said raising his arm to Amir who came and stood beside him. “This will also be a time for each of you to start a new life. I hope the little I gave you...” He smiled. “My treasury has some things left. I’m gave each of you something from that.” He said. “It’s not a lot, but I’m told the gold alone will be enough for you to start that new life.” Mark came running in the temple. “They are in Amir’s village!” He shouted. “It won’t be long before they find the tunnel entrance!” Colin jumped up beside Amasis. “Sorry.” He said to Amasis. “People!” He said and the translator said it in their language. “The men are coming. You need to leave now! Go out the other two tunnels! You can go to the other village after we do…this thing we must!” He waved again. “Go!” Amasis also said go in their language and now the people started to hurry out, not screaming, but very frightened. Colin and I rushed over to Mark. “Where are Gabriella and our mother?” Mark worked on a device he held. “They are already heading down the tunnel to the other village where the vehicles are.” He held the device up to Colin. “This is a remote.” He said. “I rigged it to detonate all the C4 at once in an area.” I smiled. “Wow, you knew how to do that!?” Mark grinned. “Like I tell Stan, I’m not just a pretty face.” He held the device that looked like a cell phone. One of those flip phones. “Enter 111 and hit Send 1, Send 2, Send 3 and Send 4. Send 1 is Amir’s village tunnel.” He smiled. “And then…” he threw his hands away. “…boom!!” He frowned. “There was enough C4 to cover the entrances of the tunnel a good ways on all four tunnels.” “Four?” I asked. “The one we came in is to be blown as well.” Mark said. “It’s the one not connected to any village.” Stan came over quickly. “The cameras we set up…they are getting closer!” He pointed to the screen as the men were looking in the tunnel. “They found the tunnel entrance!” Colin grabbed my arm. “We need to go.” What was interesting was Stan looking at his computer as he hurried with us down a tunnel. Amasis was pulling on his jeans. “How do you men wear this?” He pulled on the crotch again. “The undergarment pinches!” He stumbled lifting a foot. “…and these sandals!” He said in disgust. I chuckled. “We just got used to it.” I said to him with a shrug. “And those are boots, not sandals.” Amasis frowned. “They are pains!” Stan looked startled. “They’re coming in the tunnel entrance!” Colin stopped and held his hand out to Stan. “I see you have the camera set up, did we rig the speakers?” Stan nodded and pointed to top of the screen. “Here’s the microphone.” “Enter here and you will die.” Colin said. “You have sixty seconds to leave.” What they heard was in Russian, Ukrainian, Arabic and the local dialect. We saw the men stop and look at who was speaking and didn’t proceed further. “This is no idle threat!” Colin said and did a count down and when he dialed the 111 and hit send 1. We were miles away down a tunnel, but noise travels. At the speed of sound we finally heard the blast! And the cave itself shook only the tiniest bit. Amasis looked back surprised at the blasting sound with wide eyes. The camera quit sending the image. “Come on!” I said to Amasis pulling on his arm. “This is going to go boom, too!” We made to the end of the tunnel and out to the village. They were right when they said it was a village of mostly tents. No real permanent buildings. There were the camels a few children or young adults tending them and a goose or something. Colin hit a few keys and saw the people were out of the other tunnel and hit the buttons and that camera quit sending images. He hit the other code and the tunnel we just left had a deafening blast. I could hear the crumbling of rock as the tunnel walls were collapsing. He hit one more…we all looked at the mountain in the distance and heard a more distant blast like a volcano erupting with one single blast. Amasis looked horrified as he watched everyone cower. So, did he.
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    I could have gone with Colin, but he insisted I remain with Amasis and Nabia. I didn’t like being left behind, but we had gotten Amasis and Nabia asking questions or at least thinking there could be more to this life he had. Amir’s village was northwest of this tomb? Palace? It was…a mountain of rock. The village was two miles away. Underground! Remember, this had been built over hundreds of years, but you could travel though sandstorms and undisturbed by thieves and other raiders underground. He told Colin to leave the vehicles we had brought and take some of their vehicles. If anyone saw theirs out, it wouldn’t attract attention. The passage through the ground to and from the village to the mountain was wider. Amir promised to help Colin and took four other men from the mountain with them. As much as I wanted to see the village that Amir came from, Colin wanted me safe here. “And what about your safety?” I asked Colin trying to keep fear from my voice. Colin smiled, but it was a smile that was soft and he knew I was worried. “We don’t know what Tad Morsi wanted.” He said in tone that said don’t jump to conclusions. I nodded. “So, leave the stuff there.” I said simply, but he wouldn’t do that for the reasons I was worried about. Colin nodded. “Okay, worry a little, but don’t go crazy with it.” He kissed me. “I’ll be in touch.” He held up his satellite phone. “I have the locator inside me, you’ll know where I am. We’ll see each other by our computers every night.” He held up the tablet we used. “You can keep track of me here.” “The program is good and valuable, but I don’t think his being there was about that.” I said. “Neither do you. With that in mind, be careful!” Colin smiled now like he normally used. “I’ll be back.” He kissed me gently. “Thanks for worrying about me.” I nodded. “I always have been and always will be.” I pulled on the shirt he was wearing. “They did a good job with the laundry.” I smiled as I hugged him. “Hurry back and you can put the kilt back on.” He kissed me again and held me tight. “I’ll be back by dawn the next day.” He said and walked with Amir and the rest…Egyptians and vampire down the tunnel toward the village. I watched him walk until I couldn’t see him anymore. I came up with a plan to reach Amasis. I knew Colin would never approve, but it was the only thing I could think of. I went looking for George. I found him and Burke together in a chamber those here just visited in lounging and talking on giant pillows. “George.” I began slowly. “I need you to hear me.” George looked puzzled. “Okay.” He turned around because of the tone I used. “I get the feeling this is very serious.” I nodded. “It is.” I looked at George. “The best way to reach Amasis; is to show him.” George looked puzzled not understanding. “Show him what?” “That he and I…you are…the same.” George looked puzzled again and his eyes widened as he got it. “No.” “George, it’s the only way!” George looked panicked. “You have the disc!” “I know, I want you to take it out!” Burke looked surprised and was shaking his head. “You’ll be a vampire again.” He would refuse! I nodded. “And show Amasis we are the same.” I began to pace in a circle again. “It’s one thing to tell him what he is, but he’ll be to see we are the same. He can see that the serum the will work for himself and how…on me.” George shook his head. “I can’t do that!” I nodded going closer to him. “Yes, you can.” I smiled at him. “You don’t want to, but you can.” I put a hand on his shoulder. “If you don’t, I’ll take the disc out myself.” I sighed and sat by him. “When we believed the world was flat, what better way to prove its round, but take us in the sky and show us we’re wrong? We saw what we believed was not true.” I frowned. “I know well how much it hurts to take the serum and I’m not looking forward to doing it again.” I looked at George and Burke. “Amasis is not stupid. He’s a victim…not only by a vampire, but of his own beliefs. Ramming two thousand years in his mind would be nearly impossible for him to accept without evidence.” I smiled. “I’ll show him the evidence.” George was shaking his head the whole time I said what I did. “And you wait until Colin is gone to do this?” “Of course, I did.” I smiled. “Do you believe he would let me?” I smiled and I really didn’t want to do this, but I didn’t see a choice. “You and I both know,” I chuckled, “if Colin wanted to…he could beat the hell of me if he wanted to! Do you think I don’t know that?” George nodded hesitantly. “So, instead…he’ll beat the hell out of me!” I smiled at him. “He won’t do that. We know that, too.” I sat back. “I do have medical knowledge. I can and will do it…even if I do it myself, but the angle I have to go to get to it is awkward. I’d prefer you to get it.” George looked to the heavens for guidance of some kind. “You know I’m right.” I said. “Amasis can deny things told him, but he’ll believe his own senses. He’ll see the truth.” I smiled. “He’s been in Hell, now we can get him out.” I waited for George to consider what I asked of him. “How long will it take for the serum to no longer work?” George thought and looked at me. “Not long. Maybe a couple of days.” I got up. “The disc is coming out. Now. We don’t have time to waste. Colin will be back a couple of days. By the time he gets back, I’ll be half way there and it will be too late to not let it play out.” Burke grumbled. “Colin might kill both of you.” “Yes.” George said sadly, “but Devon’s right. Okay.” He took a deep breath. “Let’s go.” We went to a chamber George decided would be his lab and used a local anesthetic and took the disc out. I didn’t say anything to anyone else about what I planned, but Gabriella and Alex knew within a few hours. Gabriella looked at me, squinted her eyes and sniffed. Her eyes widened and she pulled Alex to her side and whispered to Alex. “You took the disc out.” Alex said. It wasn’t a question, but a statement. I nodded. “I did. On purpose.” I looked at them. “I want Amasis and Nabia to see what happens.” Gabriella shook her head. “Daddy will be furious.” I chuckled and nodded. “You’re right about that.” I looked at them suddenly. “Don’t you dare tell him. He’ll know when he gets back.” Gabriella gave a laugh that said she was glad not to be in my shoes. “I wouldn’t dream of it.” That night, after sunset Colin called and said he was at the house getting our things. He said that Amir had several trucks they used for the caravans, but they were harder to get across the sands and had to make turns when the way was too sandy or too rocky. He did look at me strangely. I was glad Colin couldn’t sense me through our connection. He asked me if I was alright and I said I was fine. Amasis came from having gotten his blood and looked at me curious, but said nothing at the moment. It was a couple of hours before sunrise he finally came to me. “What is happening with you?” Amasis asked. I smiled. “What do you sense?” His eyebrows came together. “I sense…” he paused getting closer. “You aren’t feeling like you did when you arrived.” I nodded at him. “That’s because I’m not.” I smiled and patted him on the shoulder. I could do that, I had his permission to touch him and Nabia from his own mouth. He knew we were similar and I shouldn’t be restricted like the others. “You’ll see tomorrow or the day after.” I had not been a full vampire very long when I was one. It was a weird sensation that came over me. My appetite was gone for food. The hunger for blood was starting, but not a full intensity. Yet. When the sun came up, I went to bed. No, the sun wouldn’t harm me down here, but I could sense it was up. I slept…and I’m sorry for this, but…I slept like the dead! I knew what was happening, but it was a strange sensation I was getting. I noticed more when a young woman was doing something and I got…this feeling. I could see why vampires were considered sexual, because…I’d never really desired a woman or girl much, but right now…she was the most desirable person I saw! Then I realized the smell I got from her was drawing me to her and I saw her pulse in her neck. I was becoming aroused. I felt the venom in me rise and I wanted her so badly. Closing my eyes I forced these sensations back. It was then my computer buzzed. I grimaced. “Colin.” I muttered to myself, but opened the computer. There was Colin’s happy face that changed when he saw mine. “Devon!” He said now panicked. “What are you doing?” I knew he would see it, he could tell from my eyes. “What has to be done.” “No, Devon!” Colin shouted. “You get George to give you the serum right now!” He demanded. “This is the only way to show Amasis and Nabia we are the same.” I explained. “We can go through the science of it, but they’ll believe their own eyes and senses.” “Damn it, Devon!” He said and slammed the computer he was using down and cut the connection. I grinned sadly and looked at my computer for his location. He was still a half a day away. I looked at the enhanced map, he maybe a full day away when I saw how he had to go. The ground near here was rocky, but more difficult to maneuver through. I got up and went to the door of the chamber. Yes, we had a door. I shut the door and secured it with a strong piece of wood against the rock of the chamber making it impossible to get open. A few minutes later Willie and my mother were at the door banging on it. “Devon!” I heard my mother shout as she banged. “Colin just called and told us you aren’t on the serum! Devon!” “No, I’m not on the serum, Mom.” I said. “I’ve got to show those two what I am, so they’ll know what they are.” “Aw, son.” I heard Willie’s voice said almost in tears. “Don’t do this. We can talk to them and explain…” I smiled when he called me son. “I do love you both and thanks, Dad, but you know this is the best, sure way.” Willie was nearly crying. “Please, Devon. This is killing us.” His voice broke. “It’s killing your mother and it’s killing me!” “I know.” I said smiling again. “I’m sorry, but I have to do this.” I felt the sunrise again. It was about midday when I heard another bang on the door. “Devon!” I heard Colin shout. “Let me in!” I hurt, knowing what he might feel. “Let it play out. I’ll return to normal in a week.” “Devon!!” Colin shouted banging harder. I was groggy like I had taken a sleeping pill…several sleeping pills. It was only an hour later when I heard a whole other bang, but stronger and harder than a person’s hand. I heard the wood of the door splinter a little, but my wood prop against the door held. I heard the bang again and saw the wooden door break a bit. Again, the bang and I heard the wood shatter. Colin rushed in the room. I opened my eyes a little, the need to rest so strong in me. Colin rushed to my side and turned my head toward him. “…I don’t care! Give him the serum!” Colin said from a conversation they’d had before entering. “The sun is up!” George argued back. “We need to wait till sundown. You know that!” Colin stood and pushed George against the stone wall. “How could you do this!?” Colin waved at me. “You made him what we hated to be!” “Stop!” I said, still groggy, but I tried to sit up. “Don’t blame George. I insisted. I would have done it myself if he hadn’t. He did it safer.” George put a hand on Colin’s shoulder as Colin looked in horror at me. “You know he’s right.” Colin looked back at George in that rage. “Are you crazy!?” George pulled Colin to look at him. “He’s right.” He said firmly. “Instead of guiding Amasis and Nabia with science and educating a lot about the world and how this works; showing them is the fastest way!” He waved at me. “He’s right.” He looked at Colin. “You know he is.” I blinked through the grogginess. “Do me a favor.” I said weakly. “Anything.” Colin sat by me on the large pillow. “What?” “Clear all humans away when I rise at sundown.” I asked. I shook my head. “Even Chuck and Shelly.” I now hated what I was feeling. The disorientation and the groggy feeling were overwhelming. “I now see how strong the hunger for the blood might be.” Colin looked at George and Burke. “You heard him. Get those people away. You’ve only got a couple of hours.” He looked at me. “I’ll have blood ready when you wake up fully.” I shook my head. “No.” I said seeing Colin now completely puzzled. “I need to see Amasis when I get up. He will know I am the same as they are.” I almost cried…if I had tears at that time…when Colin began to cry. “I’m so sorry, Colin. I don’t want to hurt you, but I could see no other way. You would never have let me do this.” He shook his head as the tears came down unchecked now. “No. I wouldn’t have.” He leaned in kissing me gently. “I couldn’t have.” He finger combed through my hair as he took my hand in his kissing my fingers. “Rest. It will be sundown soon enough.” The passing of time when in this state was fast. No dreams…just a lot of nothing. The sensation…the best way to describe it…I felt the sun go down. The great source of burning heat was suddenly gone. I didn’t have to see it. My eyes went open and…I wouldn’t tell Colin, but I got the instant impression of that little guy in the books and movies that kept talking about “his precious” when he lost that ring in the Lord of The Rings book series and movies. Only my “precious” was blood! It was the first thing on my mind as I sat up. Where did I find blood? I needed it and had to have it. I saw Colin look at me suddenly and yes…I at first looked at him as a target, but I got this nauseating feeling at the thought of feeding on him. I sensed so strongly he did not have what I wanted…what I needed…what I had to have no matter the cost. “Devon?” Colin asked standing carefully. He was ready with the translator on and earpiece in. “Where’s Amasis?” I asked surprised at how rough my voice was. “I have to get to Amasis. Now!” I said and headed toward the door of our chamber. In the corridor, it was…I could smell where there had been targets before. I could smell that…delicious steak-like smell I got the first and only other time I’d had blood. Now, it was acting like a Giger Counter, telling me what direction to go. “Amasis. Where do I go?” Colin came rushing toward me. “This way.” He was about to touch me, but I withdrew my hand. “Blood.” I said. “I need blood.” Colin nodded. “I know, but hang on. You’ll get some soon.” He waved me in a direction. I fought the Giger Counter feeling that told me another direction and continued. We neared a door normally guarded by two guards, but there were none now. It would have been dangerous for them. Colin opened the door and it might have been rude to just barge into a man’s bedroom. Certainly not the bedroom of a god! Amasis was sitting up and looked at us puzzled. He was expecting a servant with his needed nourishment, but instead got us. Any other time I would have liked that Amasis slept naked, but now, all I wanted was blood! He got up cautiously and pulled some material around his naked form. “Look, Amasis.” Colin demanded. “Sense this.” He pointed at me. “He is just like you!” Amasis looked a little angry at first, but soon, he came closer looking at me. “How?” I hissed…not in anger, but frustration. This was taking too long. “I am no god, Amasis. I am a vampire! I am a monster by nature, but I am no demon or evil god. This isn’t an afterlife. This isn’t the Otherworld. I did this to show you that you and I are exactly the same in every way. I am no god.” I looked angry now as I know my hiss had showed fangs I now felt. “You…are no god. This life isn’t punishment and you are no demon.” I walked closer to Amasis. “Feel it in me. Feel it in you. We are vampires!” Then I caught the smell I desired strong now. I turned instantly to see my mother holding a clay jar. In that jar was what I needed! Willie came in behind her with another clay jar. Mom smiled and handed the jar to me. “Here, Sweetie. This is what you need.” It took everything I had not to grab the jar. Raising the jar, that urge I felt with the servant girl returned, and the smell was…the best, most perfectly cooked steak I’d never imagined, but wanted so desperately…that first sip, there are no words. A desert sometimes has some water somewhere. I was beyond that. As soon as I swallowed that first gulp, every fiber of my being was absorbing this precious liquid and another swallow and another. I could only drink so much, so fast. I felt the desire and hunger begin to fade, but I drained the entire jar. I looked at Amasis, who was staring in wonder and in horror at what he’d seen and heard. I panted a couple of times and wiped my mouth with the back of my hand. The hand came down bloodied, but I ignored it. I took the jar from Willie. I walked over to Amasis with the blood. “This is going to be so hard for you.” I said carefully. “You’ve believed something for thousands of years.” I said holding the jar up to him. “I’m about to destroy all of that. I am so sorry.” Amasis looked at the jar. “I know how badly you need this. I did, too.” He took the jar of blood. I smiled at him. “I don’t want to hurt you, but you need to know the truth.” I could see he was thinking about what he’d seen, what he couldn’t deny now. He was processing what he’d learned in a few minutes, put what he thought was true for thousands of years were being questioned…about everything. Amasis drank the blood. His eyes fixed on me as he consumed the whole jar. He looked angry, but not at any of us. He was angry. When he was finished with the jar, he threw it against the far wall where it shattered. “Get out.” He said to me quietly. “Amasis…” Colin began. “Get out!!” Amasis said louder and pointed to the door. Colin took my hand and led me out of Amasis’ chamber. He closed the door quietly behind us. “He’ll need to process this.” I nodded. “Sure.” Now I saw Colin, but I felt shame and remorse for what I was and what he’d seen me do. I began to walk away, but he grabbed me, pulling me to him. “Please don’t.” Colin said hugging me. “Don’t do that. Never leave me.” He said still in our hug. “I know what you’re feeling. I know so well.” He broke from me a little as he ran his fingers over my face. “This is the part of the life I never wanted you to know about.” He smiled. “You are a very, very brave man, Devon.” He shook his head as tears again formed in his eyes. “I don’t know if I would have done that.” I smiled. “Yes, you would have.” I ran my hands over my face. “I must look hideous.” Colin shook his head. “No. You don’t.” He smiled. “You’re the man I love. You’re the most beautiful human being.” He smiled more. “I would prefer a little moisture in your eyes, but you are breathtaking; even now.” He kissed me gently. “I love you, Devon.”
  37. 34 likes
    Chapter 38 I returned home a little after ten. I put the leftover casserole in the refrigerator and went looking for Alex. I found him sitting on the floor in the bedroom, listening to his iPod with headphones so he didn’t hear me come in. He jumped a foot when he looked up and saw me staring at him from the bedroom doorway. “Jack, you’re home!” he exclaimed, yanking the ear buds in a single pull. “How was your dinner?” “Fine. There’s some leftover Mexican casserole in the fridge for you. I see you got in okay. Find a place for your stuff?” “Yeah. I just have my suitcase here in the corner for now. I wasn’t sure what you still have to pack or whatever. I can do my unpacking tomorrow. I just needed a place to crash for tonight.” “Speaking of which, where are we going to put you tonight?” He was sitting on a pallet of sheets and blankets, which I knew were not mine. “I thought I’d just sleep in here on the floor. I have my own blankets and shit, so is it cool with you?” It was. “Sure, Alex, no problem. I’m gonna get ready for bed. I’m beat. I’ll be out of the bathroom in a few.” I went in and did my usual evening prep for bed. All my toiletries were packed in my Dopp kit so it felt like I lived in a hotel now, not really my apartment. I finished up and started to step out the door when I realized I was naked. Force of habit. I fished around on the floor where I had thrown my dirty clothes and put my underwear back on. I figured those would be okay. I didn’t have pajamas or sweats. And my two pair of gym shorts were packed. I needed to remember to pack the dirties in the morning. I got back into the bedroom just as Alex was undressing over by his suitcase. His shirt came off and I was struck by all the muscles in his back. They were rippling as he moved about. He shucked his jeans and his ass popped out, naked and hard. Obviously, Alex went commando. Interesting. And hot. My dick started to rise. This could go nowhere. Get a grip, Jack. Then he bent over to get his toothbrush and toothpaste and I had to put my hand over my mouth to stifle a squeal. I could see his puckered hole just winking at me while he rifled through his suitcase. I was starting to sweat and my dick was now rock hard. I sat down on the bed and tried to cover it up with the comforter. He found the missing toothpaste, grabbed a towel from another pile and then turned to head to the bathroom. As he walked in front of me past the foot of the bed, I saw his cock in full profile. Had to be six inches hanging soft, not too thick, but topped with a dense patch of dark black hair spreading out up his torso and then across his chest. This was a hairy guy. He had a swarthy, olive-skinned Mediterranean look about him. Sexy man. Rose was a foolish girl if she let him get away. I heard the shower start, so I did what I needed to do. I ripped my underwear down and started stroking hard and fast. With the visual I had just feasted on, it took less than two minutes before my cum was hitting me on the chin and spreading down my chest before finally spreading onto my pubes. I sat there, trying to catch my breath while enjoying the after effects of a great orgasm. I heard the water shut off so I quickly cleaned myself up with my dirty towel and hoped the room didn’t reek of cum. There was no way I could have slept if I hadn’t jerked off. Alex finally came out of the bathroom, still naked, still gorgeous, still making my dick swell. “Are you okay if I sleep naked, Jack? I don’t really have anything I wear to bed.” “Whatever floats your boat, Alex. Good night. I’ll try not to wake you in the morning.” “No worries, Jack. I’ll want to say goodbye anyway.” He settled face down on his pallet on the floor, and I reluctantly turned out the light. I couldn’t see him anymore but I knew there was an incredibly hot naked man a few feet away. I almost had to go into the bathroom and beat off again, but I finally managed to fall asleep. The next morning, I woke up with a raging hardon–nothing unusual. A roommate was lying on his pallet beside my bed, also with a raging hardon–very unusual. It was beautiful. Not much bigger than it was soft, slightly longer and a little thicker. But a whole lot harder. His foreskin had pulled off the head, leaving it more than half exposed. He may have sensed me staring at him because just then, he woke up. At first he was a little disoriented, waking up in a strange place. But then he looked down at his hard cock and it seemed to center him somehow. I understood the feeling. He then looked up at me. “Morning, Jack. I see we both have the same problem this morning.” He was smiling and pointing at my crotch. I hadn’t noticed the comforter was no longer covering me and my hard cock was clearly evident in my underwear. I blushed all over. He got up and headed right past me, his hard cock leading the way straight into the bathroom. I heard him pissing in the toilet and then he popped right back into the room, now somewhat less hard, scratching his belly and chest absentmindedly. “I didn’t flush since I figured you needed to do the same thing. Saves water.” He smiled and bent over to find some clothes to put on. There was his asshole, pink and shiny, staring at me. This guy was totally not self-conscious at all. I had to get out of there quickly before I made a total fool of myself with him. I hobbled to the bathroom and shut the door. It took a while, but I was finally able to get my dick down enough to pee. I flushed, then started the shower. I jacked off again under the hot water hoping it would help keep my mind off of Alex’s body long enough to get dressed and get out of there without causing real trouble. Now back in some semblance of self-control, I completed my morning grooming and repacked all my toiletries into my travel Dopp kit. I put on a clean pair of underwear and hung up the dirty towels–I was leaving those for Alex. I went back out into the bedroom where Alex was now sitting on the floor, fully dressed in jeans and a dark t-shirt, listening to his music. He looked up at me and smiled, then went back to listening. Trying to not be self-conscious of myself, I got dressed and repacked my dirty clothes from yesterday. I was all set. When he saw me start to drag the suitcases down the hallway towards the front door, Alex got up and grabbed the last one and brought it to me. I had the large bag, the medium bag and my briefcase. The Dopp kit I put in the large bag. There was nothing left to do but say goodbye. “Well, Alex, this is it. The apartment is all yours now. I hope everything goes well for you here and you work things out with Rose.” “Already working on it. Oh, Jack. Wait one sec. I almost forgot.” He trotted back to the bedroom and came back a few seconds later, carrying a personal check. “Here, Jack. I figured I’d just give you this now so you didn’t have to be worried about whether I was gonna pay up or not.” He handed it to me with a proud smile. It was a check for the full amount of his three month sublease. “I had four really good sales this week, so between the commissions off of those and some savings, I had the full nut.” “Alex, this wasn’t necessary, but thank you. I appreciate it.” I didn’t tell him I had prepaid the remainder of the lease already myself, so there would be no issues with him having the apartment for the next three months. After the current lease ran out, he could start his own if he wanted to stay. I folded Alex’s check and put it in my wallet. I’d decide what to do with it later. He helped me get the bags to my car, we shook hands and I drove over to the office. I grabbed an envelope containing the title to the car, a bill of sale for a dollar and the keys. I ran all of it inside and put it in Mary’s top desk drawer. Mission accomplished. Back outside, I pulled my luggage from the car, locked it up manually and waited for my taxi. When it arrived just a couple of minutes later, I took one good look around the lot and at the building where I had toiled for over two years. I had enjoyed my time there, but it was time to move on.
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    Chapter 35 The next couple of days passed quickly. Marcus told Mary his plan to have her assume the full Office Manager role and she was ecstatic. She insisted on doing as much of it now as she possibly could so the transition would happen faster. I think she just wanted her raise to kick in sooner but I didn’t blame her. And she caught on quickly to things. In just two days, she had mastered every non-accounting related thing about my job. Which was helpful because I had a lot of accounting work to do. Marcus was right, our sales had picked up and we were creating many more accounting transactions–purchase orders, vendor invoices, sales orders, sales invoices, etc. It all added to my work load. I didn’t mind really. Being busy made the time move faster. On Thursday morning, Todd called to say he had some information about my Hawaii trip. I said I’d call him back at lunchtime–I didn’t need Mary snooping and hearing about a big expensive vacation. She would pepper me with endless questions, showing no mercy. When I got to him, he was full of news. “Jack, I called the place you wanted to stay near Kailua Beach. The family who owns it is willing to rent it to you, but they only have a three week window open starting a week from this Saturday and you have to rent it for the full three weeks. You can’t break it up. But if you take it, I negotiated a much better nightly rate of $1,500.” “Wow, Todd. That’s huge. How did you do it?” “I just pointed out requiring a three week rental when you only wanted one was a difficult burden, so they needed to meet me halfway. I knew they wanted to rent it. They don’t have anybody waiting on such short notice to snap it up, so it’s yours if you want it.” “Yes, I want it! Can I really stay for three weeks?” “Sure, if that’s what you want to do. You can even make it a kind of home base and then, if you get bored, you could branch out and see other islands on day trips, or even some overnights. You can see a lot of the islands if you give yourself three weeks.” “Okay, I’ll do it. I think I can get away from here by then. But how will I get there? Did you work on that, too?” I knew the answer as soon as the question came out of my mouth. “Of course, Jack. It’s what I do. I have a reservation for a non-stop flight leaving a week from Saturday that gets you into Honolulu a little after two in the afternoon. I’ll have a rental car ready for you along with directions to the property management agent who will accompany you to the house and help you figure out where everything is and how it all works. If you want me to set up some kind of butler service at the house for cooking and cleaning, I can do that too.” “No, no. You’ve done plenty. Wow, Todd. Do you always think of everything?” “Yeah, it’s what I do. I enjoy it, what can I say?” “Well all I can say is thank you, thank you, thank you for doing all this for me. I can hardly wait to go.” “You’ll have a great time, Jack. It sounds like an awesome place to hide out for a vacation. Oh, by the way, I got confirmation back from the lender. Your student loan has officially been discharged, paid in full. You should receive a letter stating so on official letterhead in about two weeks.” “Awesome, Todd! Thank you again. But, that reminds me. If I’m leaving here in a week, what do I do about my mail? I mean, I won’t be here to get it anymore.” “Go down to the post office and they will give you a forwarding address form. You can have it forwarded to the address we set up for your trust. We create one for every private trust so any correspondence has an official address to come to. Got a pen?” Todd gave me the address, which I wrote down. I would stop on the way home tonight and fill out the card at the Post Office. He made everything so easy. I hoped he was getting paid handsomely. He certainly deserved it, from my perspective. We ended our call as I needed to get back to work. My mind started racing through all the things I still needed to accomplish before I could leave Chicago. My apartment needed to be sublet–I had three months left on it. And I needed to sell my car. I didn’t want to drive it to Denver. I had no idea how I was going to do either of those two things in a week’s time. I left work a little early and detoured to the nearest Post Office. I found the yellow cards to have my mail permanently forwarded and I filled one out. As I was walking up to the counter to give it to the clerk, I saw a sign advertising Passport applications. I wanted one. When it was my turn, I handed over the yellow mail-forwarding card and then asked for a passport application. She pointed me to a side door off the lobby and told me to knock on it and someone would help me. I followed her instructions and, sure enough, fifteen minutes later I had a passport photo taken, my application filled out and the fee paid. I used the Denver address. I also paid for express processing–I wasn’t sure just how soon I might need it.
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    Chapter 30 According to the directory, there was a hair salon in the wing I was already in, so I found a staircase and headed to the bottom level. The entrance had a tasteful air about it, announcing itself as Tricocci Too. I’d never heard of Tricocci One, but okay, whatever. I threw my empty soda cup in the trash and crunched my last bite of ice as I sauntered over to see if they did men’s hair. Until now, I had only gone to a place called Supercuts, $8, no appointment necessary. You got whoever was there that day, usually a very recent graduate of the local beauty school circuit. But it was cheap. And it kept my hair out of my eyes. Couldn’t be all bad. The sign in the window had a long list of services, and at the very bottom, it said “Men’s Haircut - $30”. Crap! I could have my hair cut for half a year at that price. But I was here and it was splurge-on-me-day, so I went in. The girl at the front desk had tri-color hair. I was thinking an experiment gone wrong, dye tubes mislabeled, I don’t know. But the rainbow of color in her hair couldn’t have been the plan, could it? “How can I help you, sir?” She was smacking her chewing gum and holding a nail file. She was all of sixteen. At least she looked me in the eye. “I would like to get a haircut, please,” I said. “Do you have an appointment?” “Uh...no, I don’t. Can you fit me in, do you think?” “I’ll have to look at the book. One minute.” After a quick glance through the register on her desk, she looked up at me. “Looks like Nick can take you next. He’s finishing up with another customer. I’ll have him come out to get you shortly. You can have a seat over there.” She pointed out a bank of comfortable leather chairs surrounded by rack upon rack of beauty products, in every shape, color, and language. I had no idea what any of that stuff was for. I bought Suave Body Wash at Walmart and used it for everything. All these products around me were too complicated. And from the few prices I could see on tiny little labels, too damned expensive. $26 for a bottle of shampoo? Insane. I decided to ignore the product offerings–I was pretty sure they were for ladies anyway–and cool my heels, relaxing to the spa candles lit around the little room. There must have been something to aromatherapy because when a flamboyantly gay hairdresser announced his presence with, “I’m Nick. Who’s my next victim?” I had more than a little trouble focusing. Lulled in for the kill. “Uh...I guess that’s me,” I answered, nervously rising from my seat. “Well, hurry up, honey, we don’t have all day and, from the looks of you, we might need every minute of it.” With that he turned and quickly stepped into the back of the salon. I trotted to keep up. Nick was quite the character. Five foot five max, with a very petite frame and a porcelain face, he had one side of his head shaved tight to his skull, while the top and opposite side had beautiful, straight black hair styled in long layers. He had a tiny gold ring in his left eyebrow and the only thing about his look that really tore it for me was the grommet through his right ear lobe. It always looked freaky to me. But hey, maybe he needed a place to hang things, who knows? He stood behind a padded chair in front of a mirror and told me to take a seat. I did, then he immediately turned me around so my back was to the mirror and I was facing him. “So what are we going to do with you today, Sugar?” “Well, I can’t see without the mirror, so if you could...” “Nuh uh, honey. There ain’t nothin’ in that mirror that needs to be directin’ this here effort today. Boy, that hairstyle is two decades old at least. And what is this color? Did you get it out of a box at K-Mart or somethin’? And besides, between you and me, I am way better lookin’ right now than that sorry mess on your head, so make yourself happier and just look at me and let me think of somethin’.” I shut up, scared to speak now. I was so doomed. I thought about making a run for it, but he was holding a big pair of scissors and well...he had mentioned victims. After pacing back and forth a minute or two, occasionally looking at my head and violently shaking his head, his eyes sparked up and he leaned in. “Okay, Sugar, here’s what we’s gonna do. I’m gonna make you a star today, baby, because I can do that. This is not too hard for Nick. Nick can do the impossible. He’s done it before.” I hoped he was convincing himself, because I wasn’t there yet. He snapped his fingers twice, like he was doing magic or something and then shouted, “I got it. This is it. We’s gonna make you all better, baby. First we gotta take like most of this mess off, cuz it’s just nasty. I bet some of this nasty hair is older than my three year old niece, Jasmine. And we’s got to do somethin’ about that color. No worries, Sugar, we’s gonna make it all better.” He was standing up straight in front of me, index finger extended up like a school teacher correcting an errant schoolboy. “But you got to trust Saint Nick, now, you hear me? No fussin’ and askin’ to see anything until it’s all perfect, alright?” I just nodded, grinning at him. I was starting to see his true good humor. For some reason, I really did trust him. Besides, I could always get one of those knit skull caps which were all the rage right now. “What’s so funny?” He eyed me warily. “Nothin’. I trust you...Saint Nick.” I grinned. He blushed a little. “Seriously Nick, you can’t be but a few years older than me. Right?” “Twenty-nine.” He leaned in and whispered behind his hand. “For the fourth time, and don’t you dare tell any one of these heifers in here I told you that–it’s our secret. Around here, if you turn thirty, you better have your funeral paid up and the last rites scheduled. And if you take too long gettin’ in the grave, one of ‘em is likely to give you an assist.” He made a jabbing motion with his curling iron. “Surely it can’t be that bad.” “That’s what you think, Sugar. You gotta cut a bitch, ’scuse my French, if you wanna chair in a place like this. Took me six years of shampooing nasty heads to get this chair and the only way they’s gettin’ me out of it is my dead body layin’ up across it like last week’s meat delivery.” I swallowed hard. Nick was funny, but kind of scary at the same time. “Oh relax, honey. I’m just carryin’ on with ya. Passes the time betta. Now let me go get my big scissors, cuz that mess on your head has done seen its last days.” True to his word, Saint Nick cut away a lot of my old hair– a lot of it! It fell in piles all around me. He was right about the color too. Laying on the black smock around my body, it looked kind of mousy brown, not exactly young and studly. Just when I thought he must be close to finishing, he fired up the electric clippers and did some more work around the edges. Surely there couldn’t be much left to cut. I hoped I wasn’t going to come out of this bald. Finally he put the clippers and the scissors down and squatted down in front of me. “Now, Jack, you look straight ahead. I gotta figure out the color we’s gonna fix you with. Hold still.” He held up different color sticks to my eyes, my cheeks, even my neck. I stayed still. This was the scariest part of all for me. Hair would grow back. I couldn’t stand the idea of looking like front desk girl with multicolored hair. Nick left and returned a few minutes later with fresh smocking, a water bottle and a bowl of the ugliest dirty blonde pudding-like substance. “Uh, Nick. I know I agreed to no questions but...” “Ahk! You promised, Jack. You trust Saint Nick. I’m gonna fix you. Don’t you worry. I can already stand the sight of you now. So we’s makin’ some progress.” He winked at me and picked up a brush. He painted that butt-ugly concoction all over my head, including my eyebrows. At one point, he grabbed tweezers and starting plucking eyebrow hairs at random until I threatened to kick him in the nuts if he didn’t stop. Geez, that hurt. “Now you sit there, Jack, and be a good boy. I’ll be back in twenty minutes and we’s see how it looks, okay?” “Um...okay, I guess. Whatever you say. You’s the boss.” I winked at him, mocking his fake speech pattern. He smiled. I think he liked me. The waiting started to get tedious. I tried to stay still but I wanted to turn the chair so badly so I could see just how blonde he was making me. He never even asked me if I wanted to be blonde—I really didn’t. I liked blonde guys. I liked brunette guys. Okay, I liked guys period. I just kind of preferred staying the same color. Maybe less mousy though. Just when I thought I couldn’t stand it anymore, Nick came back and started poking and prodding around on my head, making incomprehensible noises. He seemed satisfied. “Okay, Jack. You follow me back to the shampooing area. And be nice to Carla. If anybody deserves a chair in this place, it’s her. Nicest heifer you could find in this barnyard of beasts.” He handed me off to Carla, who really was as sweet as she could be. She was younger than me and very focused on her task. She rinsed away the color goo and then started shampooing. On the second go around, she used some kind of conditioner that tingled all over and smelled of peppermint. She kept massaging my head with her fingertips. I decided the scalp massage may have been the best feeling I had yet to experience, barring an orgasm. And this lasted longer. She was toweling me off when Nick reappeared. We walked back to his chair and he pulled out a brush and dryer to begin styling my hair. Since it was so short–I could feel that much–it took very little time to get it just right. He put the dryer down, clipped a few stray hairs with the scissors and pronounced he had done it. Another Saint Nick miracle! “Are you ready for your reveal, Jack?” He was giddy with anticipation. I so hoped I liked it, mostly for his sake. He’d put a lot of effort into it. So I closed my eyes and nodded. He slowly turned the chair around, and then whispered in my ear, “Open, Sugar.” I was stunned. Then I started crying. Not bawling, not sobbing, just happy and amazed, oh-my-God-how-did-you-do-that tears. My hair was short on the sides, longer on top and styled to look modern but still conservative. I looked young and distinguished at the same time. It would look good for fun or work. And the color was unbelievable. It was a bit darker than it had been, but with tiny little flecks of different shades that made it look more real, more vibrant, almost alive somehow. It was magical. “Nick, God himself couldn’t have made the color more perfect. It’s like what I was always supposed to be. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I love it. And I love you!” I jumped up and gave him a big hug. The other stylists around started clapping. Nick was trying not to cry himself. He had a hard image to uphold. But I knew underneath all the talk was a heart of gold. He really was a miracle worker. I wanted to praise him in front of his co-workers, so they knew they were up against one of the best. “I’m so glad I came in here today, Nick. You are a true artist and I am grateful to be your canvas today.” Now he really was going to cry, so he grabbed me and dragged me back up to reception. I left there $300 lighter in my accounts, including a $50 tip for Nick, with bags of hair products that Nick assured me were the only thing that would keep my beautiful hair from falling out of my head. I knew it probably wasn’t totally true but no way did I want to take a chance on ruining his creation. I owed him for the artist he was. No more Supercuts for me.
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    We could have new possible allies with the agents of the Military Intelligence. Jerry would soon be on the serum and maybe, just maybe, he’ll be able to speak. I needed sleep! I had been up since the beginning of evening the day before. I did sleep hard. It was three the following afternoon when I woke up. Yet, I wasn’t alone. I rolled over to see Colin sitting up in bed reading. “You didn’t have to stay in bed.” I said smiling at Colin. Colin smiled down from his book. “No, I didn’t.” He quickly checked where he was in the book and then tossed it aside. Literally, he tossed it aside. “I also didn’t have to get up.” He stretched out beside me. “It’s Sunday afternoon and we don’t work until tonight, so I stayed with my favorite person.” He smiled kissing me. I brought him down closer. “You’re my favorite person, too.” We began to make love. “This is a nice way to wake up.” I grinned. We finally got up and came down about five o’clock. Of course, Colin was ravenous. I chuckled as he was eating. “Don’t let it get away.” I patted his hand. Colin shrugged. “I’m hungry.” I smiled touching his face and kissed him while he was chewing. “I know.” “So, what’s on the agenda for Jerry?” I smiled when he said that. “You’re really wanting to work with Jerry?” Colin smiled a little guiltily. “I think I need to.” He looked at me. “I am still a little jealous of Jerry.” He put a hand on my arm and raised his hand to stop the objection he knew I’d have. “It’s stupid, I know. We don’t need to rehash that. I think maybe if I spend time with Jerry, I’ll see him as you do.” I thought about what he said. “So, he’s not just a wild vampire to you now?” “No.” Colin said. “I’m seeing him as a victim. I don’t see him as a child, but…” I took a deep breath. “He is a child right now. He doesn’t talk, but he understands me. Since I’ve been taking his blood to him when he wakes up, he doesn’t hiss or growl or anything aggressive.” I tried to get him to see that. “Other than Dave and Debbie coming at the time of feeding, he reacted violently to them because they are a target. Taking that urge away, he is a very nice guy…he expresses emotions. He laughed the other day! He saw me last night and he hugged me!” Colin looked startled. “He hugged you?” “He was glad to see me. He was worried about me coming back.” I explained. “Does a wild vampire worry about anything other than getting blood?” Now Colin was thinking what this meant. “I don’t know. I never tried to find out.” He looked at me again. “He doesn’t talk but he communicates?” I shrugged. “He doesn’t have to talk. I can tell what he means or wants. He smiles now and he is calm. He’s in there, I just want to reach him.” Now Colin’s smile softened. “I can’t imagine anyone else can, but you. What can I do to help?” I shrugged. “He’s only been here a week, but he’s improved so much even without the serum.” Colin laughed. “Maybe my jealousy was a little justified. You really like him.” I couldn’t believe he said that. “I do. You will, too. Just spend some time with him.” I suggested. “And you have nothing to worry about. You’re my husband. You come first.” Colin nodded as the others came in for dinner. “Hi, guys!” Chuck greeted as he sat down. “How are things?” “Fine.” Colin smiled. Shelly also sat. “About Jerry...” She started. I looked at her. “What about him?” “Chuck was telling me…he may not have been that wild.” She said hesitantly. I laughed with a doubtful expression. “He was wild. He was very wild, but he’s coming along nicely.” She sat forward. “The reason I ask…he wasn’t hunting any person when we caught him.” “He wasn’t?” Colin asked. “He was feeding on a sheep.” Shelly began. “He didn’t take much to get him corralled and in the cage.” “Really?” I sat back. “Maybe if I’d given that vampire a chance before…” She began. I shook my head. “No, Shelly. Don’t start second guessing.” I said firmly. “The vampire we encountered with that runner was after that woman and we know it.” Colin raised his hands to stop the discussion. “We may want to rethink our patrols.” He said simply. “Give the wild vampire an option.” “Like what?” Shelly asked. “I suggest you take blood with you.” Colin said. “Like Jerry, he may not recognize what a bag of blood is. There has to be available blood to lure the vampire.” I thought. “Of course, it they are clearly in pursuit of a human they need to be stopped whatever the cost. If it’s like Jerry, offer the option.” I looked at the clock. “Oh! It’s nearly sunset. There’s a vampire that needs his blood.” Colin smiled. “I’ll be with Jerry and Devon tonight.” He told them and came with me. I got the blood and we just made it before the last of the sun went below the horizon. We watched as Jerry began to wake and stretch. He sat up and looked around, not anxious at all. His gaze came to me and he smiled. “See?” I said to Colin as I waved at Jerry. “He smiles!” The cage door was open all the time now and I just walked in taking the blood bags out of the canister. “Hi, Jerry!” I was stunned when he opened his mouth and attempted to reply. I touched his shoulder. “That’s okay. You’re trying. You will talk when you’re able.” I said handing him the blood. “No pressure from us.” I used association with him. Showed him pictures of things and waited for a response we could see. I watched as Jerry kept looking at Colin. He wasn’t sure about Colin. Perhaps because Colin was always seen with me, Jerry thought he should risk trust. George was continuing to work with what he could get from Jerry. He came over to me and tapped me on the shoulder. “I need to speak with you.” “Sure.” I said getting up. I always left Jerry with a touch. “I’ll be right over there.” George got me away from Jerry. I smiled as Colin moved closer to Jerry and began talking to him. “I don’t know how he will react to the serum.” George confessed. I frowned. “Was there a problem with the sample you took? You put the serum with the sample, right?” He nodded. “Yes.” “Will it work?” I asked. He gave a hesitant nod. “Maybe.” He sighed. “The human parts of his venom may help the reaction. Ours does. He just doesn’t have that much.” He explained. He looked at me. “It will hurt.” I nodded. “It did with us.” He shook his head. “I mean, it may hurt longer, perhaps more.” He shrugged. “I tell everyone before and they accept the chance. How do I ask Jerry if he wants this?” I looked at Jerry. “He doesn’t deserve this.” I said sadly and sighed. “I can get through to him on some level. I’ll tell him.” George nodded. “You may want to wait until Monday night.” “Because of the doctor Dave and Debbie are bringing?” George shrugged. “Seeing Jerry will add credence to our claim.” I nodded. “I’ll wait until then.” I smiled as I saw Colin laughing at something with Jerry. “I’m glad Colin is relating with Jerry. I’m glad Jerry is relating to Colin.” I looked at George. “He tried to speak tonight.” George’s eyes widened. “Did he?” He smiled looking at Jerry. “I’d love to do a brain scan.” My eyes widened. “You mean like a CT or MRI?” George shook his head. “Nothing that traumatic for Jerry. I have skull cap he can wear. It will measure the areas that are active in his brain when we stimulate him.” I shrugged. “We can do that. There are a few hours left. Do you want to do it now?” George nodded. “Why not?” He went to his lab table and brought out this soft, cap thing. It had electrodes on it. “You put it on him.” He handed me the cap. “This goes in the front.” I shook my head. “He won’t hurt you, George.” I reminded George. George smiled. “He probably won’t, but I know he won’t hurt you.” I held the cap up. “No wires?” “Wireless.” George said going back to the computer. Going to Jerry, I sat by him. “Jerry.” He looked at me. “We are still trying to help you.” Jerry smiled and nodded. “Good. What we’d like to do, is find out what’s going on in your head.” I had to laugh when he looked puzzled and covered his head with his hands. “No, we’re not going in your head.” I held up the cap. “I’d like to put this on you. It will tell us what’s going on. No pain.” Jerry relaxed and nodded. “Thanks, Jerry.” We again used some pictures and things to see if he’d react. After a few hours of this I saw Jerry yawn. I looked at the clock and realized it was nearly sunrise again. We had a good night. Colin was more relaxed and Jerry was, too. I grinned at Jerry. “It’s nearly bedtime.” Colin looked at me. “Aww.” He said disappointed. I chuckled. “You boys can play again tomorrow.” I shook my head. Jerry smiled and stood up. We watched as he struggled, his mouth was working. A second or two later… “…ank ou.” I was startled, but then… “Holy SHIT!” George exclaimed suddenly. He turned to us. “What did you just do?” Colin looked puzzled. “Jerry just said something!” George looked back at his screen. “That explains it.” He pointed. “The scan was pretty active, but just now the area of his brain…the speech center went crazy!” I went to the computer and watched the scan. “Sorry, I can’t read that.” He pointed to the computer screen. He pulled up the 3D image of Jerry’s scull. “The areas active is highlighted in red. When he spoke, the areas of the brain, the area that controls speech lit up like the fourth of July!” I nodded. “His brain is working!” “It’s working overtime.” George said nodding. “This so interesting!” He sat down and began looking over the scan. “It’s almost sunrise.” I said. “Jerry is tired.” George nodded and waved. “That’s okay, I’ve got hours of information to sort through.” Colin came up behind us. “George.” He said putting his hand on George’s shoulder. “Do not forget Burke.” George looked torn now. “But this is…” he looked at the screen. “…not going anywhere.” I finished. “It’s saved on the computer, isn’t it?” George looked disappointed. “Yes.” He said sadly. He stood. “Fine. I’ll do it this afternoon.” I walked back to Jerry and pulled the cap off his head. I grinned at Jerry. “You did great, Jerry!” I hugged him. Jerry smiled to me. “…ank ou.” Jerry said again. I hugged him again. “You are so welcome, Jerry.” Jerry smiled and this time struggled another time. “No…erry.” He said. “I…ayne.” I smiled more. “Duane?” He shook his head. “No…w.w.wayne.” I looked in his eyes. “Your name is Wayne?” He nodded. I took his hand and shook it. “It’s nice to meet you, Wayne.” Colin had come up behind me. He was smiling at Jerry…or Wayne. “You can talk!” He smiled at Wayne. Wayne was working to get it out. “Hard.” I smiled. “But it seems to be getting easier.” I looked at the clock. “I’ll be back, but you need to rest.” I pointed to the clock. “It’s sunrise.” Wayne nodded. “I look forward to hearing more.” I said to Wayne. After Wayne was resting as peaceful as a vampire can, we went back upstairs. Once Colin had consumed a good meal, we went upstairs to bed. I waited for Colin to finish in the bathroom. When he came out he was smiling. “You were right.” Colin said as he came to get in bed. “Wayne is a nice guy.” I smiled as Colin stretched out beside me. “I’m glad you see that.” “He spoke.” Colin said amazed. “I have no doubt that was because of you.” I shook my head. “He did that on his own. I may have helped him get to that part of himself, but it was all him.” I sighed. “This is one of the first times…other than Gabriella…I feel like I’m doing something positive.” “Later today, we have people coming from MI5.” Colin said, but his face was not saying it as a necessarily good. “I hope I was right trusting Dave.” “We need their backing.” I nodded. “We should contact Ruben, Congresswoman Chance and Senator Cook. Get them ready.” “Good idea.” Colin smiled as he kissed me. When he quit, I chuckled as he yawned. “We’ll pick things up from this point after a few hours’ sleep.” I suggested kissing Colin. “See you later.” At dinner…or in our case, breakfast. We gathered waiting for Dave, Debbie and whomever they brought with them to see what we were doing. It was decided to not go patrolling tonight. We had asked Dave to make it as near sundown as he could make it. It was Nigel that brought not three guests, but four. We all rose as the new guests arrived. Dave Burrows smiled, but he was a bit…cautious. He waved at a woman who was…almost a little plump. She was in her late fifties, but tried to look forty. Her hair was grey done in an attractive style and she was about five feet and five inches. The word matronly was the best descriptive term. The other was a man…the word for him…was bored. “This is Doctor Hathaway. Dr. Jolene Hathaway. She’s been utilized from everything from Forensics to possible contagions and germ warfare.” Then he turned to the man. He was in his late forties, balding with hair that was turning grey at his temples and dusted in his formally black hair who wore a nice suit I knew wasn’t off the rack. “This is Eric Maddingly. He is…my Unit’s Director.” Dave looked at us. “He insisted on being included.” “Why, may I ask, was it important that we come at this hour?” Director Maddingly asked gruffly. I didn’t need Colin’s abilities to sense this would be a tough man to convince. “Boy, you don’t waste time.” I growled. Director Maddingly frowned. “My time is valuable.” Colin nodded. “And so is ours.” He said with equal gruffness. “If you’ll come with us?” I said coming around the table. “I’ll show you why it was important you came at this hour.” I smiled. “I need to get something.” Nigel and his wife knew to have the canister needed ready which I got. I was hoping Wayne would react to these people true to his nature. We began walking to the barn. “What have you been told about what we’re doing here?” Colin asked. Director Maddingly was outwardly appearing put upon. “David said something about a contagion? That you were working on something to battle it? His lack of information about what sort of contagion was trying my patience.” “Seeing is believing.” I said leading them down to the storage area. I smiled to see that Wayne was up and looking for me. I wasn’t disappointed as Wayne’s nose twitched and he caught their scent immediately. He instantly threw himself violently against the bars and hissed reaching to grab them. George had locked Wayne’s cage when he went down for this reason. What I liked was Dr. Hathaway’s lack of reaction. She didn’t scream or even jump, but Director Maddingly did jump back. “Good GOD!!” Director Maddingly said in shock. “What the devil…” “Not the Devil, Director Maddingly.” I said. “This is Wayne. He is a vampire.” I waved at Wayne who was now hissing and showing his fangs. “Intriguing!” Dr. Hathaway said and even came closer to Wayne. She was fascinated. “A real vampire.” It wasn’t a question. She knew what Wayne was. “He’s dangerous!!” Director Maddingly said and looked like he would go forward to stop Dr. Hathaway. “Don’t be silly, he’s in a cage.” Dr. Hathaway said logically. “These people seem to have him controlled.” I grinned at her. “I’m glad you see that.” I looked at Wayne. “What did I ask you not to do, Wayne?” Wayne looked at me and sort of stopped hissing, but he still bared his fangs and was still silently hissing. “His name is Wayne?” Dr. Hathaway asked. “I’d called him Jerry before I found out.” I said. “I’ve made some good progress with him the past week.” “Progress!?” Director Maddingly asked stunned. “He should be destroyed!” I looked at the man. “Why?” I backed up until I was next to Wayne’s cage. Wayne was right next to me. “He’s not threatening me.” Colin walked next to me as he smiled. “He doesn’t threaten me, either.” I opened the canister. “I have what he needs.” I said as I offered a bag of blood to Wayne who simply took the bag and started consuming the blood. “But he would have attacked you.” Colin said. “You are a target. We’re not.” He smiled at Wayne. “He is a vampire. We’ll show you the evidence. He would be dangerous.” He said watching Wayne consume the whole bag and I offered him the second bag. “There are other vampires here.” He said, “…in this room.” Director Maddingly was looking around to see another like Wayne. “Where?” Colin smiled. “That’s the point. You can’t tell.” George came up to us. “We’ll tell you, when you’re ready to listen.” “He should be in a controlled lab at least!” Director Maddingly said still unnerved. “He is.” George said. “In my lab.” “What credentials do you have?” Director Maddingly asked. I smiled. “He has quite a few.” Colin nodded. “Anyone who knows me, knows I hate this period where there are questions to get up to speed. So, here it is. Vampires are a worldwide problem. They are in the United States and in every corner of the globe. They aren’t monsters, but victims of a venom. Innocent people who were bitten and now carry this condition. There is no one better to deal with it than we are.” He patted George’s back. “This is Dr. George Holm and he has worked with this all his life. No one is more acquainted with what’s going on than he is.” He looked back at Director Maddingly. “You have them in England.” Colin laughed. “You have a lot of them in England. We’re treating them.” Now Director Maddingly was again the proud man he appeared to be when we first met him. “Well, if you’re expecting any government funding… “Wrong.” Colin said. “We’re not asking for a dime. We’re simply wanting government awareness.” He explained and went to George’s table and got some papers. “Here is the contact number and email addresses for Congressional contact in the United States; also Senatorial contact and FBI. Have them checked out, but contact them, they will tell you. They have been backing us for some time now.” Director Maddingly took the pages as he read them. Dr. Hathaway was still more interested in Wayne. “You have a treatment? Can he be cured?” George shook his head. “No, but we can take away the threat.” He then explained about the venom, how Wayne’s venom was working as far as he had found out. He explained about the others that were being treated. They began to talk about more scientific findings and treatments. Director Maddingly was listening, but he still wasn’t quite there. “Your knowledge is good.” He said. “You could assist Dr. Hathaway.” George smiled. “No, she could assist me.” “She has two doctorates!” Director Maddingly said. Colin grinned. “George has six.” George smiled. “Well, really seven, but that field was unrelated.” “Seven!?” Dr. Hathaway asked as her eyes grew. “But you’re so young! Even exceptionally bright people need time.” George smiled scratching his ear. “Well, I’m not that young. I’ve been a practicing physician over ninety years. I’ve been working on this for about sixty years.” Director Maddingly frowned. “Don’t be ridiculous.” “I’m a vampire, too.” George said. Colin smiled. “So am I.” “Me, too.” I said waving. Now Director Maddingly was looking more astonished. “But that’s…you were eating! You were in the sun!” George nodded. “And under treatment.” Director Maddingly was still trying accept this new information and was struggling. “We’ve come to weddings here. There were vampires here all along?” “Not just here, but in London, too.” Colin said. “We rescued a young woman, a vampire, Saturday night that was in London. There is a few there as well.” Now Director Maddingly had almost reached his limit. “All this can be proven?” George nodded. “I have the readings, scans and findings.” He waved at the computer. “Not only here in the database, but in my head.” “Wayne will be treated, but we need more information to deal with this threat.” I said. “He is not going anywhere. If we let you have him, you’ll be starting at the beginning. By next week, I hope he will take the treatment well and be like us.” Dr. Hathaway was now looking at Wayne more intently. “But he’s very primitive. If you were the same as he is, how could you come up with this?” George smiled. “Well, Wayne’s venom is different.” Then he went on to explain the differences he found and theories. I smiled and went to the door to the cage of a now much calmer Wayne. I opened the door and saw Director Maddingly look in fear as I entered the cage. “Hello, Wayne.” Wayne looked at me and smiled. “De on.” He said. I smiled at attempt at my name. “We’re going to be doing something soon.” I began. “We have a medicine for you.” I said sitting on the cot by him. “We need to talk about that first.” Wayne nodded. Colin came in with us. He knelt in front of Wayne. “This medicine should help. I took it. Devon took it. It made us better.” George came in as well. “I’ve studied what we got yesterday. Whatever venom he got…it seems to block neurotransmitters in the brain. The venom allows his visual and motor control, but inhibits his speech center.” He sighed. “It is amazing he can talk at all. I guess when the venom isn't needed to find the blood, it relaxes. That’s what helped Wayne to be able to use that previously unused portion of his mind.” I took Wayne’s hand. “I won’t lie to you, Wayne.” I said softly. “It hurt me. I watched it hurt Colin. It will hurt you, too.” “Understand.” George said to Wayne. “We’re not talking about a short run pain. It will last several hours. We’ll have to do it every day for a while.” Colin nodded. “But, if it works…it did for me…it will take away this hunger for blood. You’ll be able to go outside in the day.” He smiled. “Perhaps even think clearer.” “We want to give you a life back.” I said. Wayne looked from George to Colin and then to me. I’ve said it before, if he had the tears that could come, he would be crying. “..ease.” He begged. I nodded. “Then, we’ll get ready. We’ll begin tonight.” Before I could move, Wayne grabbed me in a hug. He then grabbed Colin and did the same and with George. “I’d say he knows and wants this over.” I said to George as I was hugging Wayne. George explained what we were going to do to Director Maddingly and Dr. Hathaway. He picked up a bottle of the serum and a syringe. “This will be hard for Wayne, but he knows what, but just not the extent. You’re welcome to stay and watch.” Dr. Hathaway looked at this as exciting. “I can’t wait.” George smiled at her and went back in the cage. He opened Wayne’s shirt and prepped his chest. “Okay. I have to stick this in your heart the first time. It needs to restart your heart.” He explained. “It will hurt.” George said sadly. “I’m sorry.” Wayne nodded. George took the syringe and inserted the needle and pushed the serum in. I had seen others react, but this time, Wayne arched his back it hurt so much. Colin and I both were instantly by Wayne’s side each taking a hand of Wayne’s each. It was so extreme and like others like Colin and Gabriella, it hurt me to see. “We’re not leaving you, Wayne.” I assured. “We’ll be here the whole time. You’re not alone.” I had tears and I was crying. I saw that Colin’s face wasn’t dry either.
  41. 33 likes
    We went with Tad Morsi to the remote site and I scanned the writing there on the walls. Once that was done, Colin and I were done. The computer did its job reading the writings and we even printed out the translation. We also said we had a little business to take care of, we might have to go somewhere, but would be back. “Business?” Dr. Morsi asked. “Definitely.” Colin nodded. Stan did scan the map to Buddy and used his own digital map to see the land better. He then saw the topography and saw the terrain. “It is several hundred miles away. Looking at the map, it will take a couple hours to get there.” He looked at Mark. “A few hours before sunset should have us there on time.” He pointed to the map. “This is all desert.” Colin nodded. “We’ll be in SUVs. We got those big balloon tires, we get through anything.” He shrugged. “We’ll be ready for whatever.” He looked at George. “We’ll need our sun guns and all the equipment. Serum?” “I’ll bring it.” George said. Colin gave Stan a smile. “And unfortunately, you have to stay and man Buddy.” Stan nodded. “Yea, I knew that.” He sighed. Mark nodded also. “And he can’t be alone, so I stay, too?” Colin nodded. “Yep.” Mark put his arm around Stan. “It will just be you and me here.” “I’ll be working!” Stan smiled. “But glad you’re here. I’ll keep a fix on your location the whole time.” He said to Colin. Mark became serious. “But keep in touch!” He held his satellite phone up. It was a five in the afternoon when we headed out. The driving was done by Colin and Chuck. The SUVs had large tires for traveling in loose sand. We didn’t know what we’d find. We made our way with me looking at a computer screen to see the best route and whether we were heading in the right direction. The computer was determining the best route as we left a “road” behind. I had visions of camel ridden caravans going across the sands. To my surprise it was mostly rock where we went. It was after sunset when we got close to the area we were supposed to meet Amasis. “I assume we’re being watched.” Colin said to everyone and no one. I nodded and looked at the map again, zeroing in. The mountain was a big pile of stone, windblown sculptures in the rock of a mound that stood several hundred feet. It could be a forgotten tomb. It wasn’t too large, so we traveled around the whole thing. Colin pulled to a stop and put the SUV in park. It was night now, so we could only see limitedly, but the stars were out and the moon was half full. It was a few minutes later we saw three dark figures come out from somewhere. “Here we go.” Colin clipped his translator on and turned it on. We all did. The earpieces in our ears, we were ready. When the figures got closer, we saw one was Amir. He was dressed bare-chested, but had white cloth around his waist and a gold belt. He carried a tall…something with a wide blade. He had on a folded head covering in a blue cloth. Around his neck was a decorative something in gold. He also had a sword strapped to his waist. He was clearly a guard. The other two men were dressed like him, with some other decorative neck ware. The rank? Amir bowed slightly. “Amasis will see you now. If you drive this way, we’ll show you where you can secure these vehicles.” He turned and began walking away. Colin started the SUV and we did follow Amir. The truth was, if he hadn’t led us, we never would have found the entrance to this cave. I guessed it was a cave. It did not look manmade, or maybe it was to make it easier to hide. We drove around an outcropping and turned back in. Never would we have seen the cave opening. We drove deep into this cave, the headlights showing where to drive. The floor of this…cavern was bumpy, but well-traveled by foot. Then I saw there were torches as we got further in. Amir held his hand up for us to stop and we got out. Then he turned to the other two men and spoke to them. I glanced at my portable screen and saw the computer working on what Amir had said. He continued to speak to these other two men, who walked behind our vehicles, took a stance and held their spears firmly. No one would get these vehicles! “They’re speaking an ancient form of Arabic.” I said quietly to Colin. “The computer at home is searching for any spoken form and getting the resources.” Colin nodded at me and smiled. “I hadn’t thought to do that. Good thinking.” I grinned and pulled his portable screen up. “But you did.” He showed him the screen as it worked on the language. “Buddy will be accessed by all of us.” I whispered. I looked again at the screen as it needed more information. “We need more input.” “Amir.” Colin said making Amir look at him. “Could you say more in that language you used with those guards?” Amir looked at us puzzled. “Why?” “So we can learn it.” I said. “Is this the language that Amasis uses?” He nodded. “He can speak a little English, but I translate for him. That’s why I send the emails. He cannot read English or write in that language.” Colin smiled. “But we will speak in his if you give us more.” Amir looked doubtful. “What should I say?” “Talk about your day.” Colin suggested. “Or tell us about Amasis.” Amir began talking. I could see a few words appear on the screen, but it was still working. “This is an old form of Arabic.” I said to the others who were looking at their own screens. I smiled when the screen soon came up with complete sentences. I grinned. “You just told us about what you had for lunch.” I said and heard it spoken from the speaker on my device. Amir looked shocked again. “You guys eat camel?” Colin asked and I heard it in the old Arabic. Amir’s eyes widened. “Yes, but only young ones. The older ones are a little tough. It’s pretty good.” He grinned. “Amasis will be pleased with this.” “We have the backup batteries.” I grinned at Colin. Wayne was right behind us. “We have the solar chargers, but we need the sun for that to work.” He looked at the surrounding rock of the cave. “I feel like I’m back in a mine.” I patted his arm. “It will be fine.” I chuckled. Amir led us deeper in the tunnel. We traveled a long way. Torches were lit at various points. Then the torches became small bowls of metal that burned brighter. The ground now was not a slant like it had been, but steps that at last flattened out to a floor that had been smoothed down. Going in more, the cave tunnel widened and then suddenly, we were in a vast cavern with a very high ceiling that was jagged rock, but before us lay a polished stone floor. It was like someone poured liquid rock from wall to wall and it was frozen solid and it shined. There was a decorative pattern to the dark stone floor. Then we saw what had to be gold thrones sitting on a raised section of floor. There were two thrones at the other end unoccupied. Beside the thrones were tall gold lamps that burned with flame. Two grand statues of a gold something, it had the head of a dog or some canine, a jackal? It had the body of a human male garbed with the cloth in gold around it’s waist like Amir had on. They also held spears. “Oh, boy.” Colin grumbled to me only. “Whoever this person is…he has a very high opinion of himself.” I nodded. We watched as several people came from behind the throne dressed in white, with the decorative neck pieces. Four were females and two were males. The men were bare-chested like Amir. Like Amir, they were handsome. All of them. The women were very pretty and the men were very handsome, but clearly Egyptian. The men had shaved heads. The women had long black hair that had gold bands in their hair. Not one of them was a vampire. A man and woman came from behind these people and they were vampires. They both had the eyes of vampires and even though their skin pigment was dark like Egyptians, the skin was paler than the others. “This must be the bad version of the Ten Commandments.” I said to Colin who smiled at me. “Or a weird episode of Stargate: SG1.” That made him chuckle. “You and TV and movies.” Colin said. “I have an addiction to coffee you tease me about?” The man had on the headdress of a pharaoh and the woman had a crown of gold. He was bare-chested, but he had more around his neck and waist. He also had those two things I would find out was a crook and flail later. I looked it up. Even though he was a vampire, he was very, very handsome and became a vampire in his thirties. The headdress hid the fact that his head was also shaved. He had a nice chest with no hair of any kind on it. She was breathtakingly beautiful. Supermodels should look as good! She looked to be in her early to mid-twenties. Her long dark hair fell below her shoulders and she wore a white gown. Also a wide neck piece covered the front. She sat, but the man remained standing. “I am Amasis.” The man said loud. He waved to the woman on the throne. “My wife, Queen Nabia.” He said it in English. Colin walked a little closer and the two males came down to stand between Colin and Amasis. Colin chuckled. “Sorry, I didn’t think of the protocols.” He said quietly, but his translator said in old Arabic louder. Amasis’ eyes widened as he heard it. “You speak my language?” Colin shook his head. “I don’t, but this does.” He held the translator out a little. Protocol or not, Amasis came down staring at the translator. “What magic is this?” He asked amazed. Colin shook his head again. “It isn’t magic. It’s science. We had Amir teach this device to speak your language.” Amasis looked at Colin and sniffed. Then he walked past Colin to me and then looked at the others with us. “All but two of you are…like me.” He looked at Colin. “But not like me. How?” Colin waved to George. “This man came up with a medication we all take.” He brought George forward. “He can explain better why we’re no longer like you.” George looked questioning at Amasis. “Do you know what you are?” Amasis frowned. “I am a resident of the Otherworld.” “You consume blood.” George said. “You must drink that daily. Isn’t that true?” He waved at the others on his raised dais. “They provide me with my nutrients; as they do with Queen Nabia.” George nodded. “You don’t know about the venom or what you became?” Amasis frowned. “I am a god.” He said simply. Colin rolled his eyes and muttered to me. “Here we go.” Colin walked forward. “How long ago did this…trip to the Otherworld happen?” Amasis looked around. “I’ve always been here.” Colin nodded. “We were all like you are now.” He waved at Amasis. “Are we gods as well?” “You’re here.” Amasis reasoned. “You must be something like that. How else would you get here?” Colin shook his head. “We’re from a whole other world.” He looked at Amasis. “Do you know about this world?” Colin pointed down to the ground. He waved at the others there. “These people are human. Where did they come from?” Amasis looked at his servants. “They were sent to serve me. Every so often new ones come to take the place of those less worthy.” He looked at Colin. “Why are you asking me these questions?” “To explain what we do and what we are, we need to understand what you know about your life.” Colin said. “Do you ever go above?” He asked pointing up through the cavern roof. “I cannot go above.” Amasis said. “But we can.” Colin said. “We can make it possible for you to do the same, but we need to instruct you.” “We need a little history from you.” George said. Colin looked at the people here. “How are you feeding these people? They have to eat. They have color, meaning they go out above. Where do they live?” Amasis looked at the others. “They come and work. Others come at different times and it rotates.” “How do they do that?” I asked. “There are tunnels they go through.” He waved at his wife. “She is from those tunnels. I gave her the gift of life for this Otherworld.” Colin nodded. “You bit her.” He took a deep breath. “Do you know the word vampire?” Only the translator didn’t have that word. Amasis’ eyebrows came together. “I do not know this…vampire.” Colin looked at Amir. “How can he not know?” He asked Amir in English. “How long has he been down here?” Amir looked at Amasis concerned. “Forgive me.” He bowed to Amasis and spoke in old Arabic. Then he looked at Colin. “I do not know how long. He’s always been here. He had many wives.” He thought. “It’s said he had a thousand; just not all at one time.” “A thousand!?” Colin looked at Amasis shocked. He spoke again in old Arabic. “You’ve had a thousand wives?” Amasis nodded. “Some were like these are now.” He pointed to his servants that were human. “I gave the gift to a couple, as I did with Queen Nabia.” Colin looked at Amir. “How can he not know what he is?” Amir shrugged. “He knows what he is. He’s a god.” “How is he supporting all of you?” Colin asked. He waved at the gold. “I see gold, but how does he support these people?” Amir shrugged. “There were more servants before. There were soldiers.” He explained. “They would seize and take what is needed. Our treasury is well stocked.” I walked over to Amir. “Fine. You know what he is.” Amir shook his head. “I know what he is.” “You have access to the Internet?” I asked. Amir looked baffled. “I receive messages from the others. I’ve heard of the Internet, but I don’t access it.” Colin walked over to Amir. “But you were working in the house we were staying in. You were out in the world. You know this isn’t the afterlife or Otherworld.” Amir looked at the Queen. “I know what my mother taught me.” He waved at Queen Nabia. I nodded. Here was the age thing again. She looked several years younger than Amir. “I see.” “I was raised to do this.” Amir said simply. “So were they.” He pointed to the other Egyptians with him. “The guards as well.” “You’re in contact with other groups.” I said to Amir. “You tell him what they say?” I pointed to Amasis. Amir nodded. “I maintain contact with the others, I can read some of their languages like I do English. We had contact in the past. They received things written on parchment or paper. Now, a man told me about this email. I had a man I thought was a friend set it up for me.” He looked sad. “He was killed in a conflict near here.” He frowned. “But he was a thief!” I walked to Colin. “This may take a while.” Colin nodded. “It’s going to.” He sighed. He looked at Amasis. “So, you’re Amasis?” Amasis nodded. “THE Amasis?” Colin wanted to clarify. “Named after one that died before I was born,” He said, “when I was in the world.” I frowned. “That was over twenty-five hundred years ago.” I hissed at Colin. Colin nodded. “Yes. We’ve got nearly three thousand years of history to tell him about.” “And tell him what he really is.” I added. I shook my head. “Two thousand years below ground? I’d go crazy!” Colin nodded. “Maybe he has.” He walked closer to Amasis and the two males stepped in front of Colin. “Come on, guys!” He said to the guards. “If we wanted to hurt him, what would you do? We want to help him! Why do you think we’re here?” Amasis looked at the men and nodded his head away for them to back off. “They are my protectors.” Colin nodded. “I have them, too.” He waved at Shelly and Chuck. “I also have the ones like me. They don’t just protect me, but all of us.” He smiled. “We want to help you.” He said to Amasis. “We’ll begin teaching about the real nature of this world.” Amasis nodded. “You have been out there. I have not.” He looked at his surroundings. “If I can leave here, that would be wonderful. I’ve been through the tunnels, but I can’t go up.” He smiled at us. “Of course, you must stay as my guests.” He chuckled. “I haven’t had that many guests.” He looked at Burke. “I had a few down here with hair like yours. They wore strange clothing, too. But they were military.” I nodded. “Nazis?” I speculated to Colin. “That was a while ago, wasn’t it?” Amasis nodded. “It was just a while, but they didn’t speak my language. You do.” He looked at our translators. “They didn’t have your science magic.” We talked some more, but was beginning to get near dawn. There was no sun down here, but there was still a schedule. Amasis took us to another chamber where showed he had food prepared. “I understand you eat.” Amasis said. “We do.” I patted Colin’s stomach. “Some more than others.” Colin looked warily at Amasis. “This man is my husband.” He wanted to see if that bothered Amasis. Amasis nodded. “Some of my wives were male.” He wasn’t bothered at all. I tapped the translator to see if I heard right. The food was pretty good! Well-cooked and tasty. We showed Amasis our devices which fascinated him. He wanted to know how it worked. How do you explain to someone who didn’t even seem to know about electricity? Nabia didn’t say much. She hardly spoke at all, but listened. My mother and Gabriella came to speak with her. She spoke in hushed tones and not much even to them. Nabia knew Mom and Gabriella were vampires like she was…or had been like she was. Later we were shown where we would sleep. The chamber Colin and I were taken to was pretty big. The floor again was smooth like stone poured over the cave floor and gleamed. There were a lot of pillows and coverings to keep warm, not that it was cold underground. It looked comfortable. “Wow.” Colin sighed sitting on a thick pillow and nearly landed on the ground. “Whoa.” He chuckled as he steadied himself. Then bounced a few times. “This is comfy.” But I was thinking about what we’d seen and learned. “How could this…possibly evolve?” Colin looked up at me. “I don’t know, but it did.” He pointed out of the chamber. “That guy is the real Amasis!” He rolled his eyes. “I thought being two hundred was old, but if he is, he’s ancient!” I nodded. “But these people serving him aren’t!” I began pacing like Colin did in a circle as I thought. “They lived in the world! How can they not know? Amir came and went those hundreds of miles. He got there by camel!?” Colin leaned back on his elbows and smiled. “We’ll have to find out.” “And if he granted this gift to other wives…where are they? Are they still around?” I asked. “He doesn’t even know he is a vampire! He thinks this is the afterlife and he’s a god!” Colin nodded. “I heard. He does think he’s in his afterlife.” “And Amir?” I asked. “He’s smart. He got this friend to hook up something to get emails, but Amir is pretty unsophisticated on many things!” Colin nodded. “Whose mother is now Queen!” “Which means she was turned after Amir was born.” I said. “Where is natural father?” Colin shook his head. “I have no clue.” Then he grinned as I walked past him thinking more in my circle. He grabbed me down and threw me on the pillows. “The problem for you is there aren’t any instant answers. You’re used to hitting a browser and the answer is delivered to you.” He smiled. “We’ll have to get to know them.” He chuckled. “There were areas in the South where homes didn’t have electricity until the 1960s or 1970s! Or plumbing! This area is even more isolated!” I nodded having heard that. “There still are.” I grinned. “Wait. You didn’t have plumbing at Wentworth?” “Nope. We didn’t have electricity.” “Plumbing.” I growled. “I know you couldn’t have electricity. You didn’t have plumbing?” “Oh,” he smiled. “No, the old place didn’t have that. Plumps and outhouses.” He smiled. “If it was just pee, a chamber pot.” My eyes widened. “You didn’t have toilet paper then either?” He shook his head. “No. We had shitrags!” He grinned more. “If they were clean and available, that is. Why do you think it was important to have a bath before sex?” He brightened. “Now, the bidet! That was a great thing in Europe and fancy houses in New York of mansions in other places. Rinsed your ass clean!” I grinned, but groaned. “That’s disgusting!” I laughed. “We don’t know how isolated these people are. We drove a long way through desert. They might not have electricity yet or if they do, no TV.” Colin reasoned. “Amir does. We need to find out how and how he got to work and back.” “How is that going to help us find those other vampires? I know the answer is here.” I said to his smiling face. “We’ll have to find out.” Colin said simply with a shrug. “And you will be the one to talk with Amasis, Nabia and Amir.” I looked surprised. “Me?” Colin rolled his eyes. “Yes, you.” He grinned. “No one can resist the Devon charm.” He smiled kissing me. I pushed him back a little. “You’re not bothered by this?” Colin shrugged. “Sure, but worrying over it isn’t going to the answers.” He smiled. “Nabia was gorgeous.” My eyes widened. “You think so?” Colin nodded. “Sure. For a second she even tempted me! Now, Amasis, he was scrumptious!” He grinned a little evilly. My eyes widened even more. “Is he?” “You think so, too!” Colin said. “I’ll be letting you get close to Amasis and Amir and Nabia. They’re all tempting.” I grinned. “Nah.” I said pulling Colin closer. They don’t have what you do that I love.” I said slipping my hand in his shirt. “They had nice chests, but yours is so much nicer.” I said as my fingers went through his chest hair. “And there’s one more thing.” Colin grinned. “What’s that?” “I love you.” Colin smiled. “I know. I love you, too.” I grinned kissing him deeper. “I know.” Then my hands went to the pillow we were on. “This is comfy!” Colin pulled his shirt off. “Let’s test it out!”
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    Chapter 32 I spent Sunday just chilling in my apartment. After a neighbor upstairs helped me with the WiFi password for the apartment complex, I was able to get my iPad going and I spent hours surfing the internet and downloading music on iTunes. I even did a little porn watching and the usual related activity, just to pass the time. It felt good for a moment. But two dimensional sex was losing its appeal–I had my heart set on the real deal. Hopefully soon. I also did a lot of thinking. My mind seldom shuts down, even when I am doing relatively little else. It’s always working on something. Now, it was stuck on the nagging feeling something was missing in my life, beyond the obvious no boyfriend and no sex life. Sure I had money now–more than I could ever spend–but money doesn’t buy everything a man needs. It was a deeper thing and it was nagging at me just beneath the surface. Like most guys, I can only really focus on one thing at a time. So when I started getting frustrated with the “something’s missing” problem, I shoved it into a mental box and focused instead on something I had wanted to do my whole life but never had the chance to before–travel. It was Sharon’s fault. She planted the idea of a get away. I justified it by telling myself I needed time to myself to process everything that had happened. I had never seen the ocean in real life–at least not since I was an infant and I’m not sure even then–so a beach held a real attraction for me. Plus I was wanting some sun. Our Chicago winter had been particularly harsh this year with much colder than normal temps and a crap load of snow. They were calling for possibly more tonight. It was the beginning of April, for crying out loud! I was cold and wet and I wanted out of it for a while. I sat on my bed and opened my iPad again. One of the great things about the internet is you can find pictures of whatever you want with a simple Google search. So I typed in “beach”, “sun” and “sand” and was taken to hundreds of matching images. One in particular leaped off the screen at me–Kailua Beach in Hawaii. It sparked a search for the best beaches of the world, and surprise, Kailua Beach was on the list, though not the top pick. Most of the really high ranked beaches were in other countries and while I had the means to get there, I did not have a passport, so leaving the country was out of the question for now. I was thinking differently about the money, too–which concerned me a little. It was starting to become almost like Monopoly money to me. If I didn’t watch it, I could see myself doing really stupid, wasteful things with it. There is a thrill you can get when spending it, almost like what you get riding a roller coaster or something similar. There is a rush of pleasure in the purchase. But then it’s over and you’re left with whatever you bought, or worse, nothing tangible to show for it at all. I needed to find the balance between fearful miser and foolish spendthrift. I didn’t want to break the bank my first week, but I also wanted to live a little, too. So I spent Sunday afternoon researching options for a vacation in Hawaii. It is a tropical paradise, but still in the United States. There were lots of accommodation options, yet the ones which appealed to me the most were, of course, the most expensive–private homes for rent. Some of them were mansions, exquisitely beautiful with private pools and extraordinary views. A few rented for as high as twenty grand per night! Way too much for just me. The one I really wanted to stay at wasn’t cheap though–it was $2,500 per night. I would have to ask Todd if such an expense was okay, as I wasn’t comfortable with making the decision to spend such large amounts of money on my own. I hoped he would say it was fine because I was craving the privacy you can get with a private house set apart by itself, versus a resort full of people. I needed some time to figure out what my next steps were going to be. And the house I picked out sure looked like a little bit of heaven on earth on the website. Somewhere in all the travel planning, my “something’s missing” problem jumped back into the frame. I stood up, dropping the iPad on the bed. I started pacing, pinching my lower lip. Was I changing locations to avoid facing the truth? I sadly realized I had had more fun and excitement and real conversations about real subjects in my two days out in Denver than I had had in Chicago in over two years. Well, maybe it was an exaggeration but things in Chicago had really never happened for me. I was still in the same place I was when I first moved to town—in every area of my life. Then I had an epiphany–I knew what was missing from my life in Chicago. It was a single, simple thing. Hope. Hope was missing. Hope for a future, hope for a relationship, hope for a career, hope for a real purpose in life. My life wasn’t bad or totally pointless—it just didn’t have any energy to it anymore. Hope provides the energy and drive to keep moving forward toward the things hoped for. Somewhere along the way, I had surrendered hope altogether and settled for going through the motions to nowhere. I looked out my bedroom window at the leafless trees reaching into the gray sky. Where do you find hope? I was pretty sure you couldn’t buy it. Was hope hiding somewhere else? Was the problem rooted in my location, my job, or with the people in my life? Maybe the real issue was family. Finding out the truth about my birth parents stirred up a host of identity issues. I now realized why I never fit in with my adoptive family. I was different. My brother was much more like my cousins and other extended family members. I had almost nothing in common with any of them, and to be honest, I made them uncomfortable. They didn’t know how to interact with me, or me with them. Differences led to violence because my family couldn’t handle different. Different anything. They all drove the same model trucks. They played football, not baseball. They drank Bud, not Miller. Coolers were for keeping beer cold and fish on ice, not for ambrosia salads and cucumber sandwiches. I remember two of my uncles fighting in my grandmother’s driveway until bloodied over the “family-approved” brand of cigarettes. Insanity. But I missed my mom. Sort of. Maybe I missed the idea of her. The reality still came up a little short. But maybe that was my fault. I know I blamed her for allowing my brother to torment me for all those years. She couldn’t say no to him. She was his mother. So I said no to her. I had moved to Chicago to escape the volatility and uncertainty. But it had been two years. Maybe things were different now. Maybe my family was ready to accept me. Maybe it was time to try again. I found my phone and dialed. My mother answered on the fifth ring. “Hello?” she shouted. “Hey, mom. Whatcha doin’?” I said. “Watching TV. What do you want?” I could hear the TV in the background. The neighbors could probably hear it, too. “Can you turn it down for a second? I want to talk to you about something.” “Can it wait? My show’s almost over. It’s got ten minutes left.” I sighed. “Fine. I’ll call you back.” I hung up without hearing what she said back to me. While I waited, I watched two ducks swim in the small, muddy retention pond outside my window. They paddled back and forth, going nowhere. Seemed like the story of my life. Going through the motions of living but never getting ahead. Improving one’s self was frowned upon where I came from. Going to college was considered uppity. Driving a brand new car, the same. Moving to a nicer neighborhood was allowed, so long as it wasn’t too nice. And you didn’t make people smoke outside. If I moved back to St. Louis, I would have to be very careful to not reveal the extent of my finances. If word got out I had money, I would suddenly become the most popular family member of all time, for all the wrong reasons. The trick would be to appear to have just enough to live on my own, but still be struggling to make ends meet. That’s how the whole family did it—life on the razor’s edge of sobriety and financial solvency. I was good at pretending. I might pull it off. And it might make my mother happy. I could maybe find ways to help her financially here and there without raising too much suspicion, which is what Amanda said I should do, right? I checked my watch and called my mother again. This time she was waiting. “Thanks for letting me finish my show. You were saying?” she said, lighting up a cigarette. I heard her blow out the first big puff of smoke. I swear I could almost smell it through the phone. “How are things down there?” I said. “Same as always. Why?” “No reason. Just checking on you.” “On me? Since when? I don’t hear from you much unless you want something. What do you want? If it’s money, don’t even ask. I didn’t get the raise my asshole boss has been promisin’ for the last two years. I have half a mind to up and quit tomorrow. Serve his sorry ass right. Let him try to find someone else to put up with his shit.” “Uh, I don’t need money, Mom. I was...um...well, I was thinking...well, that is to say, I was thinking about coming back home, and...” “I’m gonna stop you right there, son. I don’t have room for you, plain and simple. Your brother’s here pretty steady these days. They made him foreman at the roofing company. Doin’ very well for hisself. Has a nice girl he brings over once or twice a month for dinner. And your cousin Ronnie is gettin’ married next month. He and his bride are movin’ into your old room until he can get on his feet. Their baby is due in June. Which reminds me, I got to look in the basement for the old crib. I’m sure I never threw it out.” I shook my head in disbelief. Some things never changed. “I see. Sounds like you’ve got your hands full, then.” “Always. Since the day your grandmother made me get a job, I’m always takin’ care of someone else. My lot in life, I s’pose.” “Or you could just say no, and not take on the burdens of someone else’s irresponsibility,” I said, instantly regretting it. She started coughing, and I had to wait it out. It was getting worse. “I don’t want to hear it, Jack. No one’s ever good enough for you. Not me. Not your brother. Not the rest of the family. We all come up short. That why you haven’t found a girl of your own yet? They don’t have anyone good enough for you up there?” I sighed again. “No, Mom. It’s not...ugh. Why are you always twisting what I say? I don’t think I’m better than anyone else. Far from it.” “Then what the hell’s your problem, boy? Don’t tell me you’re one of them queers.” I stopped breathing. Do it afraid. It was now or never, while I had the safety of three hundred miles separation. “Mom...” I started. She interrupted me. “No, I mean don’t tell me. I mean really...don’t tell me. I don’t want to know. That would be all I need. Bad enough I gotta deal with your brother’s never ending shit. You bein’ queer would put me in my grave faster than one of my daddy’s shotguns. No, if you come back home, you best have a wife on your arm and your own place to live. Otherwise, you ain’t welcome back here no more.” I stared at the handset, shocked by her comments. But deep down I was not surprised. “Hey, mom, listen. Um...I gotta go. I’ve got early work tomorrow. Take care of yourself. I’ll call when I can. Good night.” “That it? I thought you said you had somethin’ you wanted to talk about.” She started coughing again. This time I didn’t wait it out. “It can wait. Bye.” I hung up. It would wait forever. There was no acceptance in my past. Certainly no hope, and no easy answers. Hope for me had to be somewhere else, with someone else. My mother and I were done. She had effectively closed the door in my face forever with her ultimatum. So be it.
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    “Those hinges are going to squeal like a bitch,” Landon cursed softly. “Shit.” I debated on the best course. Throw the door open fast and be sure to make a huge racket, but be able to face what was on the other side quicker, or try to ease it open and reduce the noise, but leave whoever might be on the other side time to attack us? “They have to know we’re coming. I’d have someone on the other side of this door.” “Several someones, and we’re choked down here.” There was maybe room for three men to stand abreast, and they’d have to be back far enough to avoid the door which swung into the tunnel, by the shape of the hinges. Damn inconvenient. A slender wolf came through the crowd of guards. “Let me take point.” I raised my eyebrows. “You.” “Along with this.” He pulled out a beefy gun from that hung down his back on a strap. “What the hell is that?” Landon asked. “The Uzi Pro with a thirty-two round magazine. And I have spares.” The wolf smirked. “I might not be the biggest in my pack, but I’m the deadliest. Claws and teeth only take you so far, and the humans have guns—so should we.” I shook my head. “Damn, man. Okay. You take point on the right, Landon and I will get this door open, then we’ll stagger behind you as we come out. Everyone watch for ferals, and don’t take out someone on our side.” My orders were passed along the ranks in whispers. “What’s your name?” I asked the wolf while everyone get into the best position to storm through the tunnel exit. “Wilbur.” “Really?” “Yeah, my mom had a thing for the book. A wolf named for a pig.” He grimaced. “I had to figure out some way to scare the fuck out of the bigger wolves just to survive.” He lifted his Uzi. “Found it.” I fought the urge to laugh. “Yeah. You ready?” He braced himself along the wall, holding his gun at the ready. “Let’s take these fuckers out,” he said. Landon and I grabbed the metal ring and on the whispered count of three, pulled back. The metal screech hurt my ears, but it was drowned out by the rapid rat-a-tat-tat of Wilbur’s shooting. He sprayed the space through the door, then stepped forward. Landon took up a place on his left, and I waited two more steps before I took the right. Moving as a unit through the door, I immediately had to step over a body. I spared a single glance down—werekin. But not all of them. I also saw two pure humans in all black. Guards? The florescent lights overhead flickered, then grew brighter. I squinted. “Fuckers.” Darkness wouldn’t stop werekin senses from operating, but too much light? “Incoming.” I could still hear, and the pounding of booted feet coming our way was unmistakable. We were sitting ducks in the hallway. We’d take out some of them, but they’d probably take us out too. “Try the doors.” There were three doors in the hall. “Storage.” “Damn.” We took the one farthest. “Everyone inside.” These rooms weren’t really any better. “I might have a few other things that could help, but we’re underground, so it might also bring a shit ton of earth down on top of us.” I wish Wilbur hadn’t reminded me of that. I hated the feeling of being hemmed in, and knowing there was a lot of soil and rocks above us didn’t help. “What?” He pulled out two grenades. “This is my last resort.” “Seriously?” Landon’s eyes were huge. “Dude, what the fuck do you have grenades for?” “I like to be prepared.” Wilbur’s eyes gleamed. “And blow shit up.” This fucker was crazy—but he was on our side, at least. Did our phones work? I pulled mine out. “Thank god.” How they hell they got cell service down here, I didn’t even want to know. He answered on the second ring. “Yeah?” “Take cover, pass it along. This wolf brought some grenades.” “Holy shit. All right. There’s an adjoining door between us and the storage room behind ours, so we’re all together. Be careful, Park. I don’t want to tell my mate his brother got blown to pieces.” “Doing my best.” I hung up. “Let’s do this.” Landon was peering through a crack in the door. “We got humans. More like those ones before. They’re spreading out, and they have major weaponry and shields.” “Shields won’t help them with this.” Wilbur took Landon’s place at the door. I couldn’t see what he was doing, but I heard him counting, then the door open and slam. “Take cover!” I crouched down and covered my head. There was a loud bang and then walls shook. Screams filled the air, and the stench of chemicals and blood followed it when Wilbur opened the door. We took point again, but guards poured out of the second room when no one opened fire. “I don’t think they were expecting that,” Landon said. Wilbur lead the way and Landon followed. They stood next to the edge of the hall, then peeked around the corner. “It’s clear over here.” “No, I don’t think they were. Help me out here.” I crouched next to a human who was unconscious… nope, dead. A chunk of metal was lodged in his throat when I rolled him over. I started searching through his pockets. “What are you doing?” Durant asked. “Wilbur and Landon are covering it. We need to see if there’s any information we can find on these bodies. These are pure humans and they’re wearing uniforms with military-style guns.” “They could be mercenaries,” Deke said. “They could be government.” That got everyone’s attention.
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    I went to get Mitch’s latte…and mine. Bertie quickly shooed me out of her kitchen and promised to bring us coffees. I went back to the library where Colin and Mitch were getting more acquainted. They were sitting apart as if Colin didn’t quite trust this new guest. I frowned at Colin as I sat beside him on the sofa. “I hope you like a big coffee, I got us both large ones.” I said smiling. “I do!” Mitch nodded. “At Starbucks, I get a venti every time.” I smiled. “Wish they had venti, ventis.” “So, you live in Charleston?” Colin asked. “I was born here.” Mitch grinned. “Tony’s from New York. He grew up on Long Island.” I nodded. “We spend half our time in Manhattan!” Mitch looked surprised. “Really?” He looked at the house. “Well, I can see you’re pretty wealthy, so I guess the cost of living there is not a problem.” “I have a lucrative business there.” Colin said smiling. “Pharmaceuticals.” “Drugs?” Mitch grinned. “More like treatments and yes…drugs. All prescribed and used to help.” Colin said carefully. Mitch nodded. “I see it’s payed off.” I noticed Mitch was still wearing a wedding ring. He was twisting it almost without thought as he sat there. “This program you have that translate...” Mitch appreciated the subject change. Even though he’d lost Tony so long ago, he was still married to the man in his heart. “Yes, it’s very good. It is also a learning program.” He smiled. “Learning?” Colin asked. Mitch nodded. “Every language has dialects. There are words people will use uniquely for an area. That influences language and changes it. The program hears the accent and learns what words should be used.” “Like truck and lorry. Loo and bathroom.” I chuckled. “We just experienced that.” Mitch nodded. “And there are other words, like the word can.” “Can?” Colin asked. Mitch nodded. “Am I using the word to say I can do something? Or am I referring to the metal container? Or am I referring to a bathroom or loo?” I nodded. “Where’s the can? What’s in the can or…I get it.” Mitch smiled. “So, as good as my program is…there will be times it will stumble.” Stan came rushing in the room. “He’s here?” He asked and then stopped looking at Mitch and his eyes grew. He looked at Mitch and then me. “Yes, he’s here.” I said rising and nodded. “We know we look alike.” I pointed to Stan. “Mitch, this Stan, our computer genius.” Mitch nodded and stood up. “Yes, we texted and emailed each other.” He said shaking Stan’s hand. Robert came in carrying a tray of the lattes. “Two vanilla lattes and one Death Wish.” I took the lattes. “I could have gotten it.” I said to Robert. “And what would I do? You hired me to do a job and I’m doing it. Don’t get me fired.” Robert smiled. He jabbed Stan in the side. “Wild, isn’t it?” He jutted his head toward Mitch and me. I chuckled shaking my head again. “Thanks.” Mitch took his latte, sat down and sipped enjoying the taste. “Now, hieroglyphics? That’s a first.” Colin smiled at the question. “We’re…investigating some areas…” “Which has a lot written in hieroglyphics.” I finished. “So, why not get someone that can read hieroglyphics?” Mitch asked. “We won’t have to. That’s why we’re getting your program.” I said. “Can your program do that?” Mitch nodd