Asher reached out and tentatively knocked on Michael’s apartment door. His heart pounded wildly inside his chest, threatening to smash his ribs into a million pieces. At least it would be a quick end to his embarrassment. For a brief second, he thought about turning around and fleeing towards the safety of the elevator. It was immature, but it would save him from being humiliated if Michael refused to accept his apology. Before Asher could make a fast getaway, the door swung open and Jonesie stood at the entrance of Michael’s apartment with a wad of cash in his hand.
A look of surprise flashed across the man’s handsome face. “Asher,” he grunted, crossing his arms over his chest in a defensive stance as the two men stood there awkwardly staring at each other. “I wasn’t expecting to see you,” Jonesie said.
“Obviously,” Asher mumbled under his breath, remembering the attractive man from Michael’s friendly basketball games at Piperton Club.
“Tell the delivery guy to keep the change,” Michael’s deep voice called out from somewhere inside the apartment. “I’m going to take a quick shower.”
Pain shot thought Asher’s chest. His heart suddenly sank to his stomach. He gasped, trying to breathe, trying to hold back the bile rising and burning in the back of his throat, but it was useless. Asher thought he was going to be sick as he stumbled away from Michael’s front door, shaking his head. “I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt,” Asher said, quickly turning to leave.
Jonesie stepped into the hallway and pulled the door closed behind him. “Hey Ash, just wait a second--”
“You don’t have to explain anything to me,” Asher said, clenching his fists, trying to keep his mind from spinning out of control. He missed seeing Michael in the courtroom the last few days. He should have just called to check on Michael, but secretly, Asher wanted to see him in person. The last thing he expected to find was Michael Waters with another man. Fate was a vengeful prick!
“Dude, it’s not what you think. Philip was worried about Mike and asked me to drop by and check on him.” Jonesie’s khaki pants and polo shirt were slightly rumpled, yet still outlined his well-defined body. The man was smart and super sexy and Asher’s blood pressure spiked at the thought of Michael being with anyone else.
Closing his eyes, Asher relaxed his hands, opening his fists. He took a slow and steady breath before softly asking, “How is he?”
“Honestly, Asher,” Jonesie’s voice was clipped and raw, “He’s an emotional wreck because of you!”
Asher didn’t expect Jonesie’s accusations and was immediately defensive. “Me? I-I-I didn’t cause all of this,” Asher stammered, his face flushing red with anger. “Michael’s the one who decided that I wasn’t important enough to him. He told his boss that I was nobody! I guess I’m good enough to fuck in the dark, but not good enough to tell the world that I’m his man.”
“You’re the one who ran away, jackass!” Jonesie glared at Asher. “You wouldn’t take his phone calls or listen to his pleas for forgiveness. Michael’s not perfect and he knows he made a mistake, so how long are you going to keep punishing him for it?”
“I didn’t come here to fight.” Asher couldn’t believe that Michael had told this guy everything about their break-up. He wanted to punch Jonesie in that square jaw of his; instead, he took several long deep breaths to calm down before quickly asking Jonesie, “Michael hasn’t been in court the last few days. I wanted to know if he’s okay. Is he alright?”
“Yesss,” Jonesie hissed through his teeth. “He is now, even though he’s had a really hard time after losing the man he loved.”
Hearing Jonesie refer to their relationship in the past tense knocked the air out of Asher’s lungs. The two men stood outside Michael’s doorway, glaring at each other for several long seconds, but Jonesie was the first to back down. He rolled his eyes as his voice suddenly softened, “Michael misses you.”
Asher’s voice cracked as it rose in surprise, “Really?”
Nodding his head, the corner of Jonesie’s mouth pulled into a slight grin. “There’s no doubt that Michael royally screwed up, but don’t destroy any chance of a future together over your bruised ego.”
Shocked by Jonesie’s admission, Asher stood there in the hallway with his hands trembling when the delivery-boy brought the package of Thai food Michael and Jonesie had ordered. Jonesie paid for the food, but unexpectedly handed the bag to Asher. “I think it’s time you guys sit down and work things out,” Jonesie said, before turning on his heels and strutting towards the elevator.
Jonesie called over his shoulder as he disappeared down the hallway, “Man, don’t screw this up, because next time I won’t just be a friendly shoulder to cry on. Michael Waters will be fair game, understand?”
Asher let out a dry chuckle, “Understood!”
After carrying the bag of food into Michael’s apartment, Asher went about setting the table for dinner. He filled two glasses with wine and carefully placed silverware on linen napkins beside the fine china he found in a cabinet.
Jumping at the sound of Michael’s raspy voice, chills raced down Asher’s spine as he turned around, coming face to face with the man he lost, the man he was desperately trying to win back. Michael’s expression was dark and unreadable as his eyes quickly glanced around his apartment.
“What are you doing here?” Michael asked.
Asher froze. He didn’t know what to say. He had an entire speech rehearsed before he got here, and now that Michael was standing right in front of him, Asher couldn’t remember a damn word. Nervously biting at his bottom lip and running his shaky fingers through his hair, Asher forced a weak smile and tried to look anywhere but at the tight material covering Michael’s sexy chest. Water droplets matted the dark hair curling from under the neckline.
Wearing a formfitting tank-top and a baggy pair of sweatpants, Michael stood in the doorway to his dining room looking like he was ready for a quiet evening at home. When a lock of Michael’s wet hair fell across his forehead, Asher fought the urge to push it away from his handsome face.
“Where’s Jonesie?” Michael asked, suddenly breaking the spell Asher was under.
“I hope you don’t mind, but Jonesie left. I wanted a chance to talk to you… alone.”
Michael crossed his arms over his chest and cocked an eyebrow, “I’m listening.”
It wasn’t the reaction Asher expected. He pointed to the food arranged on the table and invited Michael to join him. When Michael hesitated, Asher started to wonder if coming here had been a mistake. Michael shifted his weight back and forth between his bare feet for a few long seconds before reluctantly pulling out the chair across from Asher and having a seat.
“You haven’t been in court the last few days,” Asher said.
Michael nodded his head as he spooned some beef noodles onto his plate.
Asher waited for Michael to explain, but when he didn’t, Asher nervously continued, “Petersen made a spectacle in court today. He called two alibi witnesses for the defense. A waitress and some old guy who both swore they saw Douglas Allen at the same time as the shooting, but in completely different places.”
Michael looked shocked. “Petersen actually convinced people to lie in open court for that asshole?”
“Not quite,” Asher said, “Petersen is trying to set some sort of precedent. He’s trying to challenge my eyewitness testimony by putting people on the stand to say they ‘think’ they saw Allen--”
“But that’s perjury!”
“Not if these people really believe they saw him. The waitress swore she saw Allen leaving a restaurant in mid-town at the exact same time the old geezer claims to have passed him on the ninth hole on the back-green at the Arcadia Country Club. Both claim to have seen Allen from a distance, but didn’t actually speak to him. Since Allen has never admitted exactly where he was that day, I’m sure this will cause some reasonable doubt with the jury.”
“Cut the crap, Asher,” Michael growled. “You didn’t come here to give me an update on the trial, did you?”
“I wanted to talk to you.”
“Why? You weren’t interested in talking to me when I was leaving hundreds of messages for you, begging you to forgive me.”
Asher winced. “I know, Mikie, and I’m sorry.”
Michael’s sudden gasp for air proved that Asher had struck a chord using his nickname. Twisting the napkin between his hands, Michael sat silently and listened to Asher’s attempt at an explanation.
“I was angry and felt betrayed that day in the park, but I never should have shut you out like I did. It was wrong of me, Mike. I was so worried about the trial. I thought you would be a distraction. I should have realized you were my salvation from all the craziness around this stupid trial. Even after I was a jackass to you, you still came to court to show me your support.”
Michael remained silent. He stared at Asher with a blank expression veiled behind a stone-cold mask. The seconds were relentless. They stretched on for infinity.
“Say something…” Asher begged Michael.
Michael balled up his napkin and threw it down on the table. Shoving his chair backwards with too much force, he shook the elegant table. Turning on his heels, Michael quickly left the dining room.
Asher was crushed! He couldn’t believe it was really over! Was that it? Asher came here to win back the man he loved, but instead, he sat there helplessly watching Michael walk away.
“I’m not chasing after you this time!” Michael said, suddenly reappearing at the doorway. He grabbed the hem of his shirt and pulled it up and over his head, tousling his hair in the process.
“What?” Asher muttered. He couldn’t take his eyes off Michael’s bare chest.
Michael stood there in the doorway with a coy grin. The sweatpants he wore hung dangerously low on his hips, threatening to reveal the bulge growing in the front of his pants. “Ash, I’ve been chasing you ever since I woke up on that god awful couch of yours. At the time, I didn’t know I was gay, but did know that I wanted to be with you. Dude, you got me so fucking stirred up that I couldn’t tell if I was coming or going. All I knew was that I needed you in my life…and I still do.”
“Really?” Asher asked, his mouth going dry as he stared at the gorgeous man in front of him.
“If you want me back, Mr. Burkhart, it’s time for you to chase after me, and I can think of a dozen different ways for you to apologize to me, once you catch me,” Michael teased with a playful wink.
Asher jumped up from the table, toppling his chair backwards as he ran towards the man he loved.
Asher grinned, nestled in Michael’s warm bed with their arms and legs twisted in a tangled mess of sweat-soaked sheets. He could hear the steady thump of Michael’s heartbeat slowly returning to normal. “God, I’ve missed you,” Asher said, threading their fingers together.
A low growl rumbled through Michael’s chest when Asher lazily draped one of his legs over Michael’s body, letting his semi-hard cock rub against Michael’s thigh. “I can tell,” Michael’s throaty chuckle sent shivers up Asher’s spine.
Asher pushed up to his elbows and stared down at Michael, only an inch away. His breath was still spicy from dinner. Wanting to explore Michael’s warmth all over again, Asher leaned in to taste the saucy mixture of exotic spices and salty cum on his lips, but was stopped by Michael’s confession.
“You’re right. I should have defended you in the park. I should have told that old bastard that you’re my guy. I’m sorry that I didn’t announce it to the world,” Michael softly admitted, as the sheets slid lower on their naked bodies.
Asher caught Michael’s chin, forcing his dark eyes to look at him. “It’s okay. I shouldn’t have tried to make you to come out when you weren’t ready. I promise I will stay by your side and whenever you decide it’s time--”
“I’ve already told my family about you,” Michael interrupted.
“W-w-what? When?” Asher opened his mouth then quickly shut it again.
A sexy smile curled Michael’s swollen, red lips. “I told them over the Thanksgiving holiday,” Michael said with a slight shrug. “I also confessed how badly I screwed things up with you.”
“What did they say?”
“My sister’s exact words were, ‘Go back and make it right, fool!’” Michael chuckled. “Which I was trying to do, but seeing you in that courtroom and not being able to do anything to help, I couldn’t touch you or comfort you. It was torture! I didn’t want to put more pressure on you, so I was trying to give you some space and wait until the trial was over, but not being with you was killing me. That’s why I haven’t been there these last few days.”
Asher bucked his hips forward. “You missed touching me?”
Michael bit his bottom lip as he simply nodded his head, his eyes filled with lust.
“So, what’s stopping you now?” Asher playfully taunted him.
In one swift movement, Michael straddled Asher’s waist and starting to grind his hips. Michael moaned, rubbing his erection against Asher’s hard cock. The friction was electric. Asher trembled underneath Michael’s weight. It was dizzying. He couldn’t breathe, but the pain was intoxicating.
Suddenly, Michael grabbed both of their dripping cocks and stroked them together between his slick, cum-coated fingers. Asher pushed forward, deeper into Michael’s touch.
“Don’t stop,” Asher begged, while Michael continued to jack them off. “Don’t ever fucking stop!” Within seconds they reached another climax. A guttural moan filled the bedroom as Asher dug his fingers into Michael’s back and they rocked into a heated eruption of bliss.
Warren Everett stood behind the prosecution desk. He smoothed down the front of his navy-blue tailored suit as he crossed the courtroom, taking center stage. “Ladies and gentlemen, July 17th started out like an ordinary Sunday. The sun was shining. The summer sky was a brilliant shade of blue. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky. It started like an ordinary day for me, for you, and for Asher Burkhart, too. He woke up, went to work, and was busy at his job as a bartender at Chapel Chase. It was completely ordinary, or at least it was until Douglas Allen made the fateful decision that changed Mr. Burkhart’s life forever.
“Mr. Petersen has used elaborate smoke and mirrors tricks to convince you that Douglas Allen is innocent of this crime, but the facts are very real. Mr. Allen was a jealous man. When he found out his wife was having an affair, he took matters into his own hands. He didn’t file for divorce or seek marriage counseling. Instead, he took a gun to Chapel Chase to kill his competition. Unfortunately, that afternoon, Douglas Allen shot an innocent man.
“There is only one fact Mr. Petersen has correct; there’s no gun to conduct ballistic testing on because Mr. Allen made sure it would never be found. Douglas Allen had motive, means, and opportunity, and he is guilty of attempted murder.”
Petersen sat in his chair for several long seconds. He drummed his fingers on the desktop for a dramatic effect, causing a few whispers among the curious crowd. He sat long after Everett took his seat. All eyes were on the man, watching, waiting for his next move. When he glanced around, his dark eyes were calculating. A hint of a grin curled his lips a he slowly rose to his feet before taking his position beside the jury box. “Good morning. I would like to take a moment to thank you for being such a crucial part in the pursuit of justice. I know that your time is very valuable, and I promise not to waste a second more of your precious time than is absolutely necessary.
As tragic as these events are, I have to ask you to look past the words of an unfaithful woman. Stephanie Allen confessed to committing adultery. She’s vengeful and by her own admission, she has violated the prenuptial agreement of her marriage that will leave her penniless. Hell hath no fury like a rich woman scorned.”
Petersen smirked when Stephanie Allen’s face grew red with anger, but he hardly missed a beat as he continued his last effort to sway the jury in Douglas Allen’s favor. “Ladies and gentlemen, owning a gun in this country is not against the law. Owning the exact same make and model of a particular gun still isn’t enough reason to find Douglas Allen guilty. Mr. Everett has told you some spectacular tales portraying Mr. Allen as an angry man out for revenge, but again, I ask you, where is the proof?
I’m going to ask you to look past the eyewitness testimony of Mr. Burkhart. I have shown you proof that eyewitnesses are subjective. People’s minds can play tricks on them, making them believe they saw someone who wasn’t really there. Could Douglas Allen have been in three different places at the same time?”
Strolling across the courtroom, Petersen walked behind the defense desk. He stopped and placed his hands on Allen’s shoulders. “Douglas Allen is a good man. He’s a loving husband, a prominent business owner, and he’s a pillar of our community. Unfortunately, Douglas was also the victim of a crime when his home was maliciously broken into and vandalized by burglars. The prosecution has no gun, no reliable eyewitnesses, and he’s looking for someone to lay the blame on. Don’t let him ruin the life of an innocent man.
Guilty, beyond the shadow of a doubt, ladies and gentlemen, that’s what you’re responsible for determining. When you’re deliberating today, please ask yourself this one simple question, is there really proof that Douglas Allen committed this crime?” Petersen shook his head. “I don’t think so. Thank you.”
Time passed slowly while the jury deliberated. It felt like a century had passed, when in reality it was only a few hours. Everyone rushed inside when the bailiff stepped into the hallway and announced court was back in session.
“Madame Forewoman, has the jury reached a verdict?” Judge McAvoy asked.
“Yes, Your Honor,” the tall thin woman said, standing in front of her chair in the jury box, “We have reached a verdict.”
The bailiff took the small slip of paper from her and handed it to Judge McAvoy. The Judge read it and nodded.
“Douglas Allen, will you please stand. On the sole count of attempted murder in the first degree, how do you find the defendant?” Judge McAvoy asked the Forewoman.
“We, the jury, find Douglas Allen guilty!”
The crowd erupted as the verdict was read. Asher jumped out of his seat and threw his arms around Michael.
“Order!” Judge McAvoy shouted over the noise, “I will have order in my courtroom!” He banged his gavel several more times before the mass of people quieted down and took their seats.
“Douglas Allen, you will be held at the regional correctional facility until January 28th; at that time, you will appear before this court for sentencing. Officers, you may take him away.”
The horde of reporters snapping pictures were kept at bay in the back of the room, yet a petite young black woman slipped past the guards and approached from the crowd. She was dressed in a sleek burgundy business suit and had a press credential attached to her jacket lapel. “Douglas Allen?” Her voice was smooth as she spoke.
Allen looked up while the officers were placing handcuffs on his wrists. His eyes were wide, still fixed in shock over the verdict. “No comment!” he answered automatically.
The woman smiled and held up a folded piece of paper. “You’ve been served.”
Mitchell Petersen reached forward and snatched the document from her hand.
“What the hell is that?” Allen shouted at Petersen, while the officers started pulling him towards the exit. “Petersen? Hey, asshole, what does she mean, that I’ve been served?”
It was obvious that Warren Everett took great pleasure informing Douglas Allen, “You’re being sued for damages related to the physical injuries and mental anguish you inflicted on Asher Burkhart.”
“A civil suit?” Petersen sighed heavily and rolled his eyes. “The vultures start circling fast!”
Everett leaned in, but didn’t attempt to lower his voice, since he could clearly be heard over the celebrating crowd. “I hope Allen paid for your services upfront, Counselor, because as of nine o’clock this morning, all of his accounts, even those sneaky little off-shore accounts he didn’t think anyone knew about, they’ve all been frozen, pending the court’s investigation. Anything that dirt-bag had is now gone!”
“Petersen,” Douglas Allen twisted and yelled at his attorney. “You piece of shit. You promised to get me off!”
“Well,” Petersen shouted back at his client, “You should have been a better fucking husband, since according to this,” he said, shaking the papers, “Your god damn wife told them about every asset you’ve ever owned.”
“Everything?” Allen’s face turned green.
Petersen nodded. “You made sure she wouldn’t get a dime; well, she turned the tables, so you won’t get a cent, either!”
I get so excited when I post a new chapter of this story. I feel like a kid at Christmas! I want to shake the box to see what else falls out! LOL Thanks so much for reading. I hope you are enjoying this story as much as I have writing it. :D KC