Tyler stumbled away from the doorbell when Michael swung open the door with more force than was necessary. The guy quickly glanced at the silver numbers mounted beside the doorframe and then back to Michael. His eyebrows furrowed. “Is Milo home?” Tyler asked while another man walked up the hallway and joined him outside the open door.
“What’s going on, babe?” The newcomer asked, looking back and forth between Michael and Tyler still staring at each other. “Did you check the address that Milo sent you? Are you sure we’re at the right place?”
“Great, the gang’s all here, so let the party from hell begin.” Michael’s words dripped with sarcasm.
Tyler and his friend looked confused. “Come on in and make yourself at home. Milo’s in the kitchen with Ian and the rest of the guests are in the living room.” Michael’s face remained stone cold as he stepped back and waved them inside with a grand gesture.
“Thanks, man.” Tyler grabbed his friend’s hand and quickly slipped past Michael into the condo.
“This might be the right place, but it sure as hell is the wrong fucking time,” Michael muttered. Instead of making his way back inside to rejoin the party, Michael pulled the door closed behind him, making a fast getaway.
The music volume increased when Asher opened the condo door. He leaned into the hall and shouted Michael’s name, “Mikie?” The rest of the building was quiet as Asher stepped all the way into the hallway in time to see Michael walking away. It wasn’t his polo shirt or even the snug fitting, faded denim jeans hugging his ass that got his heart racing, it was the flash of Michael’s dark brown hair as he disappeared around the corner.
“Michael, please wait,” Asher called to him. When he didn’t stop, Asher started running after him. Reaching the elevator, Asher helplessly watched Michael latch the steel cage closed in the old fashion freight elevator. Hurt flashed across Michael’s handsome face.
“Baby, don’t go.” Asher pleaded through the gate as the elevator started to descend. “Ian can be a real asshole. I’m sorry that he said those things. Just please give me a chance to make it up to you.”
Rubbing his trembling fingers over his face, Michael’s smile was forced. His eyes were red rimmed and the skin along his neck was peppered with angry blotchy marks raised from embarrassment. “You should go back to the party with your friends--”
“Oh hell no! I don’t want to be with them, Mike, I want to be with you!” Asher shouted as Michael moved farther away. The old rickety elevator moved slowly.
Michael shrugged his shoulders. “Maybe Ian is right. Maybe this is just a passing phase and you would be better off without me...” Michael’s words trailed off as he disappeared down the darkened shaft.
“Michael!” Asher shouted. “No! Michael!”
Racing down the emergency stairs, Asher took the steps two at a time. He was out of breath when he reached the lobby before the ancient elevator. The sound of groaning metal announced the arrival of the antique lift. Michael unlocked the door and slid the bars back coming face to face with Asher.
“I’m not letting you go that easy,” Asher said, catching Michael by his wrist and pulling him into his arms. “I don’t need someone trying to analyze what is going on between us. As long as it works for us, then it’s nobody’s business, except ours.”
Michael closed his eyes and took a steady breath. When he opened them, Asher saw fear in his dark eyes. “Does he really think that I’m a horrible person, that I would hurt you on purpose?”
Asher leaned closer. His breath mingled with Michael’s. “Almost every gay guy has dealt with someone who’s in the closet, someone scared to death of having their secrets discovered--”
“But I’d never hurt you, Ash,” Michael growled.
“Not intentionally, Mike, but I know guys who try to straddle the lines. They want a wife and kids at home and still want to go out and fuck dudes in the nightclub bathroom until the sun comes up.”
The muscles corded in Michael’s neck. His body stiffened, listening to Asher explain Ian’s point of view. “I can understand that jackass’s concerns, but to convict me of a crime I haven’t committed yet, on the fat chance that I might fuck you and leave you someday is a real shitty thing to do.”
“And inviting Tyler was also a punk-ass move,” Michael said clutching his hands into fists.
Asher winked as he confessed, “You’re right, it was a dick move to invite him, but that wicked right hook of yours totally evened out the score.”
Michael’s expression softened as a grin appeared on his handsome face. His eyelids fluttered into a sexy look that got Asher’s blood pumping. “Well, the night is still young, what do you want to do?”
“I take it returning to the party is out of the question?” Asher teased.
“That’s totally not happening, Mr. Burkhart.” Michael snorted.
“Well then, Mr. Waters,” Asher said, lacing his fingers with Michael’s while pulling him towards the front door of the building, “Let’s see where this night leads us.”
“Are you coming or not?” Asher breathlessly spoke over his shoulder to Michael.
“Yes, just hold on for a second…I’m almost there.” Michael smiled as he jogged, closing the space between him and Asher walking further down the street. It was early evening, yet the streets were completely empty.
“Dude, look at you, get some food in your belly and suddenly you’re a changed man.” Asher grinned. His hair blew around his forehead when the evening breeze began to blow. He turned on his heels and walked backwards so he could face Michael trailing behind.
Rubbing his stomach, Michael told him, “Have I told you that I love Thai food? That was a perfect choice for dinner, but I’m still sorry about you missing the party tonight.”
“I’m not. Ian was being an ass, and besides, this way I get you all to myself, and I don’t have to feel guilty about it,” Asher said winking at Michael.
Even with summer drawing to an end, it was still a warm evening. A strong and steady wind blew, whipping between the buildings in Onyx Hills. The air had been muggy earlier in the evening when they headed across town to the party, but after the sun disappeared into the horizon, the temperature started to drop and the wind picked up.
As they rounded the next corner, they were hit with the heavy scent of popcorn. Lights suddenly flickered in the night sky. As they got closer to the park, the flashes were joined by the sounds of laughter.
Asher’s eyes lit up. “Tonight must be ‘Movie Night in the Park.’ That explains why all the streets are empty. Everyone’s at the park.” He grabbed Michael’s hand and hurried them towards the flurry of activity across the street.
Food vendors were selling every tasty snack from hotdogs and pretzels to fresh popped popcorn, but the largest crowd was surrounding the ice cream stand. Children happily licked their frozen treats before they melted into a milky mess.
Asher chuckled as he pulled Michael further along the jogging trail. “They are so sweet and innocent at that age.”
Michael nodded and agreed. “My sister has two little ones, Travis and Brady. They’re so much fun. I’ve always wanted--”
Asher interrupted Michael when he saw Mrs. Nguyen with a crowd of children sitting on the path. “Wow, Mrs. Nguyen, that is amazing.” Asher marveled when she looked up from her work. The beautiful butterfly on the young girl’s cheek looked like it had simply landed on the child’s face.
“Thank you, Asher,” The older woman beamed as she admired her creation. “I was an artist back in Vietnam.” She had a long line of children patiently waiting their turns to get their faces painted.
“Do you boys want to get your faces painted too?” She teased.
The tiny woman was one of the reasons Asher loved this neighborhood so much. She and so many of the residents of Onyx Hills made it a true community. “Maybe later,” Asher answered her with a wink.
Asher and Michael continued along the path to the main activity, near the center of the park. Dozens of blankets covered the sloping hillside. Parents snuggled with their children. Lovers held hands. The entire neighborhood watched the film projecting on a white screen secured to the high fencing surrounding the tennis courts.
The park’s usually bright lights were dimmed tonight. The diminished light cast long shadows, yet it still provided enough privacy to stroll through the park, hand in hand, without being noticed. Asher led Michael to the far side of the hill. It was a poor angle for viewing the movie, which left them secluded from the main crowd.
“This is so cool,” Michael said as they settled onto the grass. He didn’t pull his hand away from Asher’s, leaving their fingers twined together. It was the only connection between them as they sat watching several minutes of the movie in silence.
Asher made the first move. He inched closer until their outer thighs were pressed together from hip to knee. It was a simple touch, but touching Michael in public got Asher’s heart racing with excitement. Rubbing his thumb in a small circle across Michael’s moist palm, Asher grinned when he saw the man shudder.
The movement started slow, but when Asher suddenly unlocked their hands, Michael frowned. Before Michael could protest, Asher placed his hand on Michael’s thigh and squeezed.
“What the hell?” Michael sputtered as Asher’s fingers inched towards his groin.
“Do you want me to stop?” Asher whispered in the dark.
“No.” The word was a breathless plea.
Asher took that as approval to continue and rubbed his hand over the bulge forming in the front of Michael’s pants. Palming his erection had Michael’s breath coming in short gasps.
A flash of lightning instantly illuminated the sky followed by a loud clap of thunder. Several of the younger kids started crying. As parents soothed their frightened children, the sky unexpectedly opened up with a torrential downpour.
The park turned into a frantic rush of people fleeing the heavy rain. There was chaos surrounding them. Michael started to get up to follow the crowd, but Asher caught his wrist, pulling him back to the wet grass beside him. “Where do you think you’re going?” Asher teased, while warm droplets splashed overtop of them, soaking them, clinging their wet clothes to their bodies.
“So?” Asher challenged. He tipped his face up to the sky and smiled.
“So?” Michael laughed. “I’m soaked. Even my underwear’s getting drenched.”
Asher playfully waggled his eyebrows. “Oooh, tempting! Is that an invitation to get you out of those wet clothes?”
Michael rolled his dark eyes. “Maybe, but not here.” He glanced up at the nearby trees. “We might scare the squirrels.”
Moving closer, Asher watched the rain washing over Michael’s handsome face. Water droplets clung to his dark eyelashes. A thick rain drop quivered before it fell from Michael’s nose and splashed over his plump red lips then raced down his chin, disappearing into the collar of his shirt. Asher was jealous. He wanted to trace that droplet along Michael’s skin to see where it led.
“You are so sexy,” Asher said, running his fingers through Michael’s soaked hair. Another clap of thunder shook the park. Both of them jumped from Mother Nature’s amazing display of power.
“What do you say we get out of here?” Michael’s dark eyes skimmed down Asher’s body.
Asher scrambled to his feet, pulling Michael with him. “Mr. Waters, I thought you would never ask.”
Yep, I'm back from vacation! It was great spending some much needed time with my family, but now I'm ready to get back to writing. I hope Chapter 18 was worth the wait. I'd love to hear from you. Let me know what you think.