Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Name of the Game Ch. 01

He Wasn't Supposed To Fall For Him

A bead of sweat dripped from Kieran Sawyer’s hairline down his cheek as he slid into a desk near the back of his chemistry classroom and opened his spiral-bound notebook to the first blank page. His eyes flew to the large clock on the wall behind the lectern, and he tried to catch his breath in relief. He still had thirty seconds before Professor Ulman stepped into the room to begin the lesson.

The professor was a punctual man and expected his students to be the same. Even though it was only the second week of college, he had drummed into the heads of every single student that they were to be in their seats and ready to take notes as soon as class began. Losing track of time, Kieran had suddenly realized he was in danger of arriving late and had hoofed it on a dead run from the English building a quarter mile away.

Kieran had just begun his junior year at Barratt University, and he was still getting used to it. A transfer student, he’d spent his first four terms at a community college near his home in northern California and now, installed in academic life at the opposite end of the state, it all was so different and unsettling. Sharing a dorm room with a stranger, trying to make friends on campus where he didn’t know a soul and even the basics of using a college-issued meal plan card to buy food was vastly different from what he was used to. He was a little homesick.

Mr. Ulman, short and mildly pot-bellied, appeared in the front of the lecture hall sporting a bad comb-over of gray hair and wearing navy trousers that strained to fit. With his usual perfunctory “Attention class”, he asked the students to pass forward their homework assignments from the week before. Kieran handed his six-page essay on Photochemical and Catalytic Safety in the Laboratory. Every chem class he’d ever taken began with lectures on the dangers of mixing chemicals and how to safeguard against accidents.

The professor was gathering up the reports from the front of each row when a loud voice preceded the arrival of a latecomer. Like everyone else, Kieran turned his head towards the back door in time to see a tall, lanky student his age saunter through with a rolling gait as if he didn’t have a care in the world.

The newcomer’s vivid steel-gray eyes set off by fringed lashes and highly arched brows seemed to miss nothing. His rugged face was beautifully chiseled with a perfectly straight nose and square jaw that not even his careless smile could soften. Golden streaks highlighted the boy’s russet-colored hair which was messily curled to the nape of his neck, and his flawless skin was deeply bronzed. His looks gave off more than a hint of time spent outdoors… or the languid lifestyle flaunting the best that money could buy. Flashing white teeth, expensive hair, a faultless tan and designer clothes. Kieran instantly knew this boy was a local.

“Mr.…” the professor sang out, looking annoyed.

“Fielding,” the student supplied insouciantly, now moving to an empty back seat five rows to the left of Kieran. “Brant Fielding.” His voice was deep and made the name sound like something from a 007 spy film.

“Ah, Mr. Fielding, you are aware that you’re late for class and have interrupted my instruction.”

Brant shrugged. “All it looked like you were doing was collecting our essays.” He opened a binder and pulled out a sheaf of papers which he passed up the row. “Here’s mine.”

Professor sighed, shaking his head. “Please be more prompt, Mr. Fielding. I explained my policy on tardy students the first day of the semester, and I expect you to follow it.”

“Yes sir.” Brant didn’t seem a bit chastened; in fact, he looked over at Kieran with a smile and winked.

Kieran felt his face warm in a blush, and he sat bolt upright so the students between them blocked his view of the redhead. What was that wink about? Did he somehow suspect Kieran was gay? He was not used to being flirted with, even if the guy was friendly and attractive. This Mr. Fielding was smoldering with raw sex appeal, and that made him off-limits and dangerous.

For the rest of the hour and a half Kieran had trouble keeping his mind on the lecture. He went over every detail in his head he could bring up about Brant Fielding which was precious little in this short amount of time. He knew there was no way the other man could be attracted to him. They were total strangers; they shared only the one subject twice a week and had never even spoken to each other. Until today, he didn’t even know the handsome student’s name, and he was positive they had no friends in common. Given that Brant looked like the living embodiment of an A&F or GQ ad, Kieran was certain his tastes in lifestyle didn’t run towards living in the dorms either.

Kieran was, in his own eyes, more or less average. A nobody. The only child of a couple who had met late in life and were now in their mid-sixties, his father was retired military and his mother worked as a lunch lady at the same elementary school he’d attended as a boy. His childhood had been happy enough, and he knew his parents loved and supported him. Not even his announcement at age fifteen that he was gay had thrown them much. Kieran wasn’t exactly shy… timid would be a better description, and he wasn’t close to the four or five friends he’d made since his arrival nor were they the kind to push him socially to do more than he was comfortable with. He didn’t fall into any category of nerd, but he went beyond blending into the background, he was the background.

Sure he got good grades in school, but he wasn’t aware of his own intelligence or his talent as an artist which was why he dabbled instead of making it his major. He was a good listener, and when he let his guard down he had a lightning-quick wit and a quirky sense of humor, none of which he thought made him special. He was an enigma, unknown to even his best friends at home because he kept his secret self apart from what he let the world in to see, rarely sharing his deepest thoughts or ideas. Lord knows, trusting people in that extent wasn’t safe, not by a long shot, not if trust meant betrayal.

Here he was in this unfamiliar environment, hoping to god he could get through his studies before he had a nervous breakdown and trying to figure out how the upper-level student division worked on the fly. Transitions were often difficult for him, but being away from home for the first time was the biggest in his life now that he had been transplanted to one of the largest metropolitan communities in the USA. Sunny skies, sandy beaches and the wealth of southern Orange County at his fingertips.

Well, the first two were true, although the last was totally out of his reach. Not that he begrudged the business titans their right to make money hand over fist if they were ambitious and insightful. What he resented was their rich kids who treated Barratt University like their own personal playground. Students like Brant Fielding who waltzed in late to class with a smile and a wink, thinking it was his right to cause a disturbance.

Said spoiled pariah, Brant Fielding, leaned back as far as he could in his desk so he could study the blonde he’d winked at earlier. To be honest, it wasn’t a very good angle, but at least Brant was able to size the boy up without him noticing his stare. Hmm, he thought to himself, he’s rather cute. He’d never noticed him in past semesters, so maybe he was new to Barratt. Shy too, given the way his face had turned pink when their eyes connected.

Judging by the stiffness in his posture and how much room the student took up in the seat, Brant speculated that he was perhaps six or so inches shorter than his own six-foot-three frame. He had a slender body that didn’t look as if it held one ounce of fat, and he deemed that the other boy had participated in some kind of sports in high school and maybe still did. He also had the prettiest blue-green eyes he’d ever seen on a man. Round with pale brows and lashes that were nearly invisible against his golden, sun-kissed skin. Baby-faced with pouty lips, a dusting of freckles across his cheeks and a dimple on both sides of his smile. Captivating.

All were positives as far as Brant was concerned. So was the way the boy dressed— shabby flip flops, a pair of khaki cargo shorts that were probably from Wal-Mart but did a fantastic job showing off his lightly-furred calves and a baggy tan t-shirt with the slogan, Bacon Makes Everything Better stylized in brown and white. Brant distractedly tugged on the leather bracelet he wore on his right wrist, giving thought to the new university student and the option of them becoming friends. Maybe this kid was the one.

Ninety minutes later Brant left the classroom in a cheerful mood. He headed for the large expanse of green lawn down the hill close to the Student Union Building, taking advantage of the lovely late-summer day. Here he hoped to meet up with his usual crew: John and his cousin, Dirk, Dirk’s girlfriend, Chelsea, who happened to be besties with Nicole and her brother, Patrick. All of them were life-long mates who had been raised together since preschool. They grew up in the same exclusive community on the coast where their parents were business associates and country club members, and they enjoyed the pampering only the wealthiest could afford. These collegians had been hell-raisers all through high school and, for the most part, they hadn’t matured much since.

“What’s up?” Patrick greeted Brant. He could feel his nervous energy and slapped his palm before fist-bumping him. He was a rather plain college senior an inch shorter than his friend with buzz-cut light brown hair and eyes the color of coffee, two creams. He was pledged to a jock fraternity as a baseball player on the Barratt team with an abrupt sense of humor and enthusiasm that occasionally got carried away but, aside from his sister, Brant couldn’t ask for anyone more loyal.

“I think I’ve located my first playmate of the year,” Brant exclaimed with a grin. “He’s in my chem class and completely edible.”

Nicole took a giant slurp from her large Jamba Juice Caribbean Passion smoothie before commenting.

“Did you catch a name? What’s his story?”

Brant shrugged. “I don’t know yet, but I’ll try to find out on Wednesday. He’s perfect so it shouldn’t be difficult.”

“Gay or straight?” Patrick smirked. The rest of the group laughed.

John, a beefy football player for the Barratt Barracudas, stroked his trimmed goatee and leered. “Not that it matters, eh, Brant? And by perfect, I assume you mean cute, small and helpless.”

Accepting the half-box of McDonald’s french fries from him, Brant settled down to tell them about Kieran. Being late for class and the confrontation with the teacher, followed by his wink. “He was blushing just from that.”

Chelsea Sproule, wearing a wrap-around translucent top over a black tank top and pair of denim shorts, gave the hazy appearance of dragging herself away from her daydreams to join the conversation. She was fairly tall for a girl: five-foot-eight and skinny as a rail with shoulder-length frizzy auburn hair and hazel doe eyes.

“Brant, are you sure you want to victimize another teenager?” she asked doubtfully. “I would think that after all this time, you would grow out of the need to control people and the game would stop being fun.”

From all around came cries of “shut up, Chelsea.”

She fell silent with a hurt scowl on her face. Not that she disliked Brant; on the contrary she found him very hot and thought it was such a shame that he was gay. All the pretty ones were. But she was sensitive, and Brant’s game seemed cruel to her. For thirteen years she had been best friends with Nicole whose opinion mattered to her a lot and, for four, the girlfriend of Dirk who was even dearer. He now spoke up.

“Chelsea, he isn’t hurting anyone. Not really.”

Regarding her man, Chelsea’s eyes flashed and she crossed her arms over her very small breasts. “That is debatable, Dirk. How can you possibly say that befriending some poor kid, seducing him and then abandoning him flat doesn’t hurt? How would you like to be one of Brant’s playmates?”

“We wouldn’t,” John asserted in place of his cousin. “But that’s why we make the rules of the game and don’t participate.”

“Besides,” Brant added in his typical nonchalant fashion, “there are benefits for him. If he’s straight he finds out he isn’t as hetero as he thought, and no matter what happens, he gets to spend time with Moi. That means the advantage of my money, my prestige and my awesome sexual prowess while we’re together.”

“Until you get bored,” Chelsea grumbled sarcastically, rolling her eyes. He stuck out his tongue at her.

“Awesome sexual prowess, my ass,” Patrick mocked. “You just want him for you latest fuck-toy.”

“You denied your ass to my awesome sexual prowess when I wanted it three years ago,” Brant pointed out, flipping him off with both hands in jest. “So that takes your opinion off the table.”

“Don’t deny the man his due,” Dirk advised Patrick with a knowing snigger, cupping his crotch. “Satisfaction guaranteed and the ability to get it up repeatedly, not to mention cumming five times…”

“Ewww.” Nicole turned away in disgust. She might be devoted to Brant but she didn’t like this game any more than Chelsea did. It was a classic example of strong preying on the weak.

“Holy shit, Dirk, you sound as if you have personal experience,” Patrick chortled, making the guys all laugh again.

“Leave Dirk alone.” Chelsea glared at Patrick, taking note of her boyfriend’s crimson flush.

Patrick grinned at her to show he was just kidding, but the smile didn’t quite reach his eyes. He wished he could go back in time to three years before when Brant hit him up. At the time he had been confronted with a deep sense of sexual confusion, but now he was willing to admit he might be bisexual and would happily take what his friend offered. Not that anyone else knew…

“Nah, it’s just rumor,” John announced, dispelling the tension. “But a good one, based on solid fact. Ask any of his past playmates, at least those who don’t completely despise him.”

“What do we do next?” Chelsea asked, getting them back on track and stifling a yawn. This time of day she was always tired, and she had a scheduled biology lab next that she wasn’t sure she’d stay awake through.

“In two days I should at least learn his name,” Brant said. “Then we devise plans to become his friend and take it from there. I hope I earn a new personal best.”

John chuckled. “Are we taking bets on how many days it takes you from the time you show first interest in him until he’s lured into your bed? Or is that too gauche?”

“It’s part of the fun, my man,” Dirk crowed, throwing out a number. The rest of the students instantly took him up on the bet, and the game was on.


Kieran had barely enough time to grab a turkey sandwich from the Kampus Kart, a small café on wheels that set up shop every afternoon on the central lawn for three hours, before heading off to his next class. This was followed by an hour in the language lab listening to Spanish pronunciation tapes for his next-day assignment, and it was nearly four o’clock by the time he returned to his dorm.

He didn’t give another thought to the winking rich boy in his chemistry lecture.

Padding down the hallway towards his room, his ears were assailed by the heavy bass sounds of his roommate’s stereo system playing his usual goth-metal tunes with the volume on ear-splitting. With a quick intake of breath, Kieran was suddenly faced by two very irate male students who yanked their door open and spilled into his path.

“Tell your punk-ass roomie to keep his goddamned stereo turned down or use fucking ear buds so we don’t have to listen to his shitty music,” one tall boy demanded, glaring at him.

The twenty-year-old put his hands up defensively and stepped back. “Okay, I’ll talk to him.” Easing around them and leaving their verbal abuse behind, Kieran continued down the corridor to his room shaking his head in frustration because he knew talking would do no good. It was bad enough to be disliked for himself, but half of Fraley Hall hated him for how dorm mate acted, not realizing Trevor took advice from nobody, particularly Kieran whom he regarded as a joke.

Sliding his key in the lock, Kieran hesitated before walking into battle. He had to agree with the other residents of Fraley Hall about Trevor. This close to his room, the blasting music was giving him a headache, and he’d only been inside for a couple of minutes. Everyone’s schedule on campus was different; he had his own unhappy experiences trying to study or sleep through the noise. It was just his rotten luck that he was assigned to share a dorm with a man who was a close friend of the RA, resident advisor, in charge of overseeing order and making sure the students obeyed rules and respected each other. Everyone but Trevor, that is.

“Hey Trevor, can you please turn the music down?” Kieran yelled, struggling to push the door open two seconds before he realized that something must be on the floor in the way and holding it closed. He shoved harder, barely squeezing through the small opening.

His roommate was on top of his bed with his eyes closed, and his massive frame made the bed look miniscule. Asleep? What the hell! How could anybody sleep through the pounding beat of Stream of Passion’s Darker Days album even if their lead singer and violinist, Marcela Bovio, did have a beautiful voice? Kieran had slowly gotten used to the melodic riffs of the Dutch band, but he preferred their music at a less painful decibel level.

Stepping over discarded textbooks, piles of food containers and dirty clothes strewn across the floor, Kieran reached Trevor’s expensive music system and lowered the sound. Trevor’s muddy brown eyes popped open and with a speed that seemed unnatural for such a large man, he was off his bed.

“What the fuck, dickwad. How many times have I told you to keep your fucking hands off my stuff?” The sophomore with the black hair hanging past his shoulder blades towered over him belligerently.

It was an old argument. The truth was, Trevor had taken an instant dislike to Kieran the moment they set eyes on each other. He’d sized him up as a person who could be easily pushed around, and Kieran had done nothing in the two weeks they’d lived together to change his mind. The two men kept their distance; well, at least Kieran tried to keep his, but Trevor’s had a way of spreading across the room into his personal space.

Kieran knew better than to touch bigger man’s ‘stuff’. In fact, even though Trevor sounded like a broken record on the subject, Kieran didn’t want to handle anything belonging to him. Most of it was broken and torn from misuse, and who knew what kinds of germs grew in the rank recesses? Not to mention the kinky porn that could gross out the most jaded. The only thing he ever lay a finger on was the volume control knob of the stereo when the other dorm residents bitched or he was desperate to hear himself think.

“For god’s sake, Trevor,” he huffed in irritation. “The whole dorm is up in arms and blaming me because you won’t keep the damned music turned down.”

Trevor laughed as if it was the most ridiculous thing he’d ever heard. “Like they think you’re going to do anything?”

“I’m just saying…”

“They’re going to have to suck it up,” Trevor reminded him, cranking up the stereo to loud once more. “I have the RA’s permission to play my music as loud as I want.”

“There are people higher than the RA,” Kieran muttered mostly to himself, knowing it was useless to speak his mind. No good would come of antagonizing him.

Fuck, Trevor was such an asshole. Except when he went to his girlfriend’s he was always in the room, and Kieran sometimes wondered if he was even enrolled in any classes. He had never seen him crack open a textbook or do homework. It was like he was a hermit and his entire life revolved around his loud music, sex, fast food and drinking beer, which was illegal in the dorms, with some sleep thrown in. Kieran had not dared share anything about his life, particularly the fact that he was gay, because he didn’t want the menacing man holding anything else over his head.

Kieran used the toe of his shoe to slowly shove Trevor’s belongings and garbage from his side of the floor to the other until he’d cleared a swath to his desk so he could set down his messenger bag. A greasy pizza box still a third full of a combo pizza from one of campus shops sat on his chair, and underneath it, Kieran could see a corner of his European history term paper peeking out. When he withdrew the report, it was spotted with grease too.

Kieran saw red but realized getting angry wouldn’t solve anything. Idly he wondered if there was a copy shop on the grounds still open where he could make a replacement copy of the assignment. Even more remotely, he mulled over the idea of putting himself on a housing list to get a new roommate. He definitely couldn’t afford a single dorm or moving out into the community into an off-campus apartment, but the stress of living with a slob like Trevor was going to play havoc on his nerves. In the meantime, maybe he should buy a rake.

His cell phone chimed, and the caller ID said it was his friend, Joel, asking about dinner plans. Ignoring the mess for now, he grabbed up his bag again and made sure his zip drive containing the report was inside. With a last despairing glance at his filthy dorm room, Kieran dashed out the door.

Two days later, he was back in chemistry class. As usual, Kieran was slightly early. His attention was fixed on the long table in the front of the hall where test tubes and beakers containing different colorful liquids were arranged, along with a Bunsen burner and Petri dishes. He was trying to determine what experiment they would be shown and was startled when a thick binder was dropped on the desk next to him. Gathering his composure and looking sideways, Kieran saw the boy who had winked at him on Monday. At least he was on time.

Brant nodded at him, his eyes the dark gray of storm clouds. He smiled. No wink. No real greeting either. Giving a quick nod towards the front of the classroom, he asked, “What does Professor Ulman have planned for today?”

“Get us started on experimenting, I guess,” Kieran answered quietly. He went completely still for several seconds until he realized he had zoned out and was staring, but there was something captivating about his classmate. It was disconcerting how well the taller boy’s jeans hugged his thighs. They had to be designer label and most likely this single outfit, although casual, cost more than Kieran’s entire wardrobe. All in all, he was quite well turned out as only a man who had grown up around the best in life could be.

“Brant Fielding,” the redhead announced, amused at the perusal and putting out his fist to bump. “And you are…”

“Kieran Sawyer,” Kieran answered, brushing his knuckles with his own.

“Nice to meet you, Kieran.” Brant was on the verge of making a remark about the catalytic compounds when their teacher appeared and class began. Nor did he have a chance to talk to him afterwards. The lecture hall emptied out quickly, and a clumsy, rotund student at the back of Brant’s aisle dropped his cell phone, wasting his impatient time trying to retrieve it from under a desk. By the time he found his way to the door, Kieran had disappeared.

At least he had a name.

That evening Patrick, John and Dirk met at Brant’s upscale, waterfront condominium. The uniformed parking lot guard recognized their Audi, Beamer and Porsche, respectively, and immediately let them pass. So what if the lot was supposed to be for residents only. They were Brant Fielding’ friends and he lived in the biggest unit in the building. Taking the elevator to the fifteenth floor and pressing the buzzer, they were nearly blinded when the door opened. Peach-hued sunsine bounced in through the rtched floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Newport Harbor and filled every inch with bright light.

Brant quickly brought out bottles of Shiner Bock beer, their favorite microbrew, and they got down to business. Dirk, the one with the hardcore hacking skills, set up his state-of-the-art laptop equipped with all the necessary tools to get into the university system and locate Kieran in the database. The information proved quite enlightening.

“This is awesome, Brant,” he announced in glee, his fingers flying over the keys. “Kieran might be your best playmate choice yet since you seduced that cute little midget, Tyler, in the fall of our senior year.

“Tyler Dominick?” Patrick guffawed, slapping Brant on the back. “The twink who dyed blue and green streaks into his hair after you dumped him. What a ponce! Remember when the Larchmont Prep vice-principal had to threaten to expel him before he cut it all off to get rid of them?”

“Yeah, but he had the cutest bubble butt,” Brant agreed, nostalgically recalling sinking his dick between those sweet, round cheeks. “He was memorable, to say the least.”

“Here are the deets,” John called out, huddling over his cousin’s shoulder. “Kieran David Sawyer is from Santa Rosa. Let’s see… an only child, blue-collar parents make less than $35,000 a year. Shit, big guy, he had a 4.48 GPA at Carillo High School and straight A's at his community school, which puts him way out of your league intellectually. Kieran could have gone to a four-year uni out of high school but chose not to. He participated in swimming in the backstroke and butterfly and received a full-ride scholarship here at Barratt… for grades, not sports. Several grants too.”

“That’s the past, so what’s in the present?” Patrick came around to the other side and hunkered down, staring at the screen. “Is he living on or off-campus?”

“He’s in Fraley Hall,” John recited, “and look at this. His roommate, some caveman named Trevor Spade, already has a noise complaint lodged against him that went over his RA’s authority.” He turned and looked at Brant. “I’ll make a copy of his class schedule for you. He’s majoring in chemical engineering.”

“Thanks,” Brant smiled appreciatively, raising his bottle. “What about clubs and activities?”

There was a lull in conversation as Dirk scrolled down and scanned the page. His face broke into a huge grin. “You lucky dawg, Brant. He’s involved in the campus LGBTQ organization. He’s gay.”

“Brant has nearly faultless gaydar, I’ll give him that,” praised John.

“When is their next activity?” Patrick asked, already thinking ahead.

Dirk brought up a new screen. “Saturday afternoon, they’re having an activism meeting at one o’clock…”

“…Which I will be attending,” Brant promised.


The president of the LGBTQ club droned on and on, and Brant had to fight to stay awake. He’d arrived early but dodged the club’s leadership without difficulty, not wanting to actually become involved. He was here for show only. He didn’t need the security of the organization or anything they had to offer, really.

Brant was a power unto himself.

Once he grew beyond boyhood and the boogieman stage that went with it, there was only one time in his life he really knew fear, and that was the night he’d come out to his family. Despite their wealth, Brant’s parents were salt of the earth types and exuded warmth, acceptance and charity. They had raised their children, him and two younger siblings, boy and girl, to show respect to all people, a message that Brant didn’t learn as well as they hoped. So it should have been no surprise to him that his mother and father embraced his homosexuality, saying that all they wanted was for him to be happy and at peace with himself.

At Larchmont Preparatory High School, he had been king. Student council president, basketball captain, a good but not outstanding student… resident gay slut. He had the charisma to pull it off, surrounding himself with rich friends like himself and discovering money could buy a lot of things besides material possessions. He had begun the game in his junior year out of boredom and moved through a surprisingly respectable number of gay and not-previously-gay students by graduation. He came, he saw, he conquered with impunity.

Brant was determined that Kieran would be his, and he refused to take no for an answer. Nobody told him no.

Held up by more complaints over his dorm mate, Kieran had arrived late at the gathering and speedily located a seat in the back. The activism meeting was nearly over by the time he noticed Brant. What was he doing here? Kieran didn’t think Brant was one for these kinds of pursuits, not that he was all that surprised by the revelation that he was gay. Even though it was supposed to be a joke, the playful wink flashed in class was a partial giveaway. Despite the distance he was determined to keep it made him feel better to know they had this in common.

Brant caught up with Kieran by the door and walked out with him. “Do you want to get something to eat?”

Kieran blushed so hard his scalp turned red. It was a simple invitation, and yet he inexplicably believed there was more behind it than sharing a meal as an opening to becoming friends. Something was just off, and Kieran felt his sixth sense kicking in telling him to steer clear of the rich kid. In his experience a person like Brant meant trouble.

“No, but thanks anyway. I have to spend the evening reading an assignment and studying for a test on Monday.”

Brant almost frowned in irritation before catching himself. He wasn’t going to push Kieran. “Maybe some other time,” he suggested pleasantly and walked away.

Kieran stared after him. He had not expected him to give up so willingly. Shrugging, he made his way back to his dorm and a night of stuffing cotton balls in his ears so he could focus on his assignments.

Brant didn’t let Kieran’s refusal put him off. He started arriving on time for every chemistry lecture, taking up permanent seating next to Kieran, no matter what part of the hall he chose to sit. Every Monday and Wednesday of the following two weeks he invited him out. To share sandwiches between classes, to attend the cinema to see any film Kieran chose, or to eat dinner at the expensive seafood bistro all the food critics were wild about. Kieran turned down each request.

“Please stop asking,” he finally begged the taller boy, nevertheless admiring the way the noon sun made his red hair shine in the backlight. “You seem like a nice guy but I don’t have time to date.”

Two of Kieran’s friends, Carlos and Ryan, watched the exchange from ten feet away; the sorrowful shake of his head and a swiftly-extinguished flash of irritated heat zipping through Brant’s eyes after he turned away. They began to move off, and Carlos permitted himself a look backwards in time to see Brant gazing at them speculatively.

“What was that about?” Ryan asked as they ambled in the direction of the cafeteria where they planned on meeting up with Joel and his girlfriend, Amanda. Kieran had met the four as part of a study group the first week of university, one thing led to another and his new friends had found out he was gay.

“He’s in my chemistry class,” Kieran replied with a self-conscious shrug. “He keeps asking me out.”

He was just about to begin the short version of meeting Brant in class when two unknown boys placed themselves in their path and grabbed Carlos by the arm, hauling him back up the sidewalk. “C’mon homey, that hot girl in your Visual Basic class is sitting with her friends in the library. Now’s your chance to talk to her.”

Carlos flashed a huge grin. “What can I say, my duty calls. See ya later, guys.”

Kieran and Ryan laughed and kept walking to the café where they met up with their other two friends. They had just sat down with their trays of food when Ryan reminded him that he was going to reveal how Brant kept bugging him for dates.

“It started with this stupid wink the second week of school.” And he was off with his story.

“What’s his name?” Amanda asked and shook her cap of silky black curls out of her green eyes. She was a short senior who had spent all of her post-secondary education at Barratt University and prided herself on recognizing many of the students by name. Besides, curiosity was getting the best of her.

“Brant Fielding.” Kieran shivered unexpectedly. “I mean, he’s hot and all, but there’s something about him…”

“That’s skeevy?” Joel supplied with a groan, drenching his chicken nuggets in honey-mustard sauce. “If you want to go out with someone who is guaranteed to break your heart, Brant Fielding is the one for it.”

“He certainly has the rep,” Ryan agreed, his pale blue eyes narrowing. “Spoiled rich boy privilege combined with a cold, heartless, unaccountability. If you’re smart, you’ll stay away from him.”

“That was my plan,” Kieran confirmed.

A couple more weeks went by. Kieran mused that Brant must have finally decided he was serious about not wanting him to invite him out because he stopped asking. They still sat next to each other in chemistry, but Brant was nothing more than friendly and occasionally flirtatious. He commented on the desert-dry subject matter or made odd jokes about Professor Ulman under his breath but it was just private between the two boys. In all other ways he stopped trying to be the class clown.

Oddly enough, now that Brant didn’t pursue him anymore, Kieran started to pay more attention to him. He fully realized that he was a player and it was a relief not to have to fend off his invitations. Maybe it was a case of feeling perverse over what had been offered and rejected, but in noticing the other boy he found him fascinating. He enjoyed watching the sunshine that poured in through the skylights playing over his russet waves and the way his muscles bunched and flexed under his shirt when he moved. He was so tall that he dwarfed the desks and was forever squirming to get comfortable but he never complained.

Kieran's friend, Carlos, was passing through the cafeteria patio when he heard his name. Holding up momentarily, he didn't at first recognize the gray-eyed man hailing him. Brant had to get within five yards before a vague disquiet reminded him he’d seen him before. What did Kieran’s would-be date want with him?

Brant introduced himself and got straight to the point without mincing words. “How would you like to make some easy money?”

Carlos narrowed his eyes. “That depends on what I have to do for it. I don’t do nothing with any illegal shit.”

“Nothing illegal,” Brant confirmed with a knowing laugh. “Maybe a bit questionable considering that you're Kieran Sawyer’s friend, but give me a chance to explain myself before you turn me down.”

Carlos nodded after a brief pause, and Brant continued, hoping that he hadn’t heard anything negative about him. At least he was giving him the benefit of the doubt by listening.

“I saw you with Kieran a couple weeks ago. You probably know we’re in the same chemistry class. I want to invite him out but he’s so shy. Every time I ask he makes excuses. So I was wondering if you would mind helping me.”

In spite of himself, Carlos wanted to hear more. There was no talk about the making money part yet but he figured it was coming as soon as he showed interest. The man looked like he was rolling in it. “Okay, so what do I have to do?”

“I want to ask Kieran to one of the on-campus mixers. Just as a friend for now,” Brant hastened to add. “So I was thinking if you suggested it he might go, but if I ask he definitely won’t. Once he arrives I would have a chance to speak to him outside of class and see where it goes.”

Carlos, who hadn’t been around when his friends were talking negative about Brant and therefore didn’t know the type of person he was, silently considered the proposition. There was still no direct money offer, but he knew the other boy was being cagey. And what was the harm anyway? All he was doing was something he’d probably do without the payoff incentive. In the long run, it was up to Kieran whether he spoke to Brant or not.

“What’s in it for me?”

Brant hid a wicked grin, pleased by how easy Carlos was to persuade. Money did it every time. “Fifty dollars to ask him and an additional one hundred if you convince him to go.”

Carlos pursed his lips in thinking about the very generous bribe. “How will you know I even talk to him about it?”

“I don’t,” Brant said with a smirk. “Call me stupid but I trust that if I give you the fifty you will ask him.”

And the fifty dollars would probably be no skin off the rich boy’s nose, Carlos thought. “Make it a hundred now and a hundred fifty later, and I’ll do it.”

Now it was Brant’s turn to reflect. “You have a deal.” He whipped his wallet out to flash a wad of money to hand him a crisp one hundred dollar bill.

Carlos almost groaned out loud at the sight of all those greenbacks, now realizing he should have held out for more. Well, not being overly greedy might pay off more in the long run because he could see there was plenty more to be had if Kieran agreed to attend the mixer. As long as he never found out about the bribe, that is. Carlos listened carefully as Brant gave him the details about the upcoming party and vowed to make sure Kieran went.

So it was that two days later Carlos approached Kieran and asked if he was attending the next house party being thrown on Saturday night as a get-together to bring the students together on campus.

“I’m not much into the party scene,” Kieran answered, wondering why his friend was bringing it up. He hadn’t known Carlos even liked these campus revelries where liquor would flow freely and it seemed as if the only purpose was to find a sex partner for the night. Kieran had no intention of even trying.

“You always say that,” Carlos remonstrated firmly and feigning more concern than he actually felt. “There’s more to life than studying, Kieran. Besides, how are you going to meet anybody except your nasty roommate if you’re always holed up in your dorm? I’ll even pick you up and make sure you get home.”

Carlos had a point, he supposed. A very good point. Kieran, if he was honest with himself, was tired of being alone. But why the sudden interest in his social life unless he was just trying to be a good friend.

“Alright,” he finally agreed. “Text me the details of the mixer and I’ll go.”


Within fifteen minutes of stepping foot into the large mansion on the tony end of town, Kieran knew he was out of his league. All week he had been bothered by the change in Carlos’ attitude about the debauchment angle of the mixer and why he, himself, agreed to show up to the point that he nearly canceled several times. He had dressed carefully, mindful that many of the mixers were hosted by some of the more wealthy students, and he didn’t want to make a fool of himself. Now he wished he’d stayed home.

He was immediately presented with the legitimate proof that he should have listened to the guidance of his conscience. First of all, the house was huge, and he knew he’d be getting lost somewhere inside before the evening was out. It belonged to the Ferris family which was a big name at the university— the building housing the drama classrooms and theater was named after them.

The party hosts, Patrick and Nicole, were brother and sister and attended Barratt too, naturally. They looked like twins with their tan and brown coloring— olive complexion, cinnamon-shaded eyes and long light brown hair streaked with blonde— Nicole nearly identical to her older brother’s, but she was almost a foot shorter and, by far, much softer and prettier. They had given him a shrewd look when he felt compelled to introduce himself to them and seemed nice enough. Nicole had told him to make himself at home, handing him a beer.

That was another problem. Kieran didn’t drink. He was still underage at twenty, but age was clearly not a deterrent for many of the attendees. He estimated there were over a hundred students milling about the house and grounds in various stages of inebriation without a care. He’d seen several couples stumble up the stairs towards the bedrooms, and he didn’t need to have it spelled out to him what was going on behind closed doors.

Aside from Carlos who disappeared soon after their arrival, he didn’t recognize anybody other than a few coeds from two classes, and they were hardly friends. He felt like an unattractive wallflower and wondered if he should locate Carlos and tell him he’d find his own way home. He was turning around to start searching for him when someone bumped into him and jostled his arm, spilling his beer all over him.

“Pardon me,” came a mid-range voice from a large man who had reached out the keep him from falling. Kieran looked up to see a student around his age with a neatly-trimmed goatee who clearly looked like a football player and another man behind him that could be his brother. What was the thing with siblings around here?

“Are you alright?” The other man asked, grabbing napkins to help sop up the beer that was dripping from his elbow and splattered all over his shirt.

Kieran nodded sheepishly, transferring the now-almost empty bottle of Bock to the other hand. “Yeah, sorry to be such a bother and in the way.”

“No, it’s not your fault, it’s mine,” the first one said. “I am so sorry to be the cause of such a mess. Let’s go into the kitchen and help you get cleaned up, shall we?”

Kieran followed the two men through the house into a kitchen and adjoining breakfast room that was almost as big as his parents’ entire house. Filled with windows looking out over a lovely manicured lawn and garden and fitted with the latest in restaurant-quality appliances, it was bustling with workers in black and white. They were obviously hired for the day to keep the platters of high-end foodstuffs full, the bar pumping out the beer and cocktails and the party rolling. Four waiters standing by the sink quickly moved out of the trio’s way as they approached.

“I’m John Copeland,” the larger man said with a contagious smile, “and this is my cousin, Dirk. We’re friends of Pat and Nicole who are hosting this party.”

Okay, they were cousins, not siblings. John’s hair was lighter, and his eyes were a paler blue but the family resemblance was strong.

Dirk was eying his beer-splotched shirt with dismay. “Let me check with Patrick and see if he has a shirt you can change into. You can’t wear that stained, wet mess for the rest of the night.”

“Please,” Kieran retorted, beginning to get embarrassed by the fuss. “You don’t have to go through all that trouble. I was just getting ready to leave anyways. I mean, your friends are lovely people, but I’m not used to all this…”

He looked helplessly around at the obvious conspicuous consumption. “I’d really just rather go home, if you don’t mind. I only came to please a friend.”

Dirk thought quickly. Brant would be furious if Kieran left. It was time to sink in the hooks.

“Nicole would be so upset if she heard you say that. That’s Nicole Ferris, I mean; she and her brother are such nice people and would want you to be at ease. Let us make it up to you. Just stay a little while and we’ll introduce you around. Maybe you will find someone you recognize.”

Kieran allowed himself to be persuaded and Dirk fetched him a replacement shirt. It was a buttery soft, pale blue polo that fit him like a second skin and probably cost a fortune. As they left the kitchen, John passed a cup of punch into his hand.

“You don’t look much like a beer-drinker. Try this. I think you’ll like it.”

Kieran took a small sip of the orangy concoction and found it cold, fruity and refreshing. He didn’t know it, but that was the nice thing about some of the new infused spirits, especially where price was no object. Mixed right, you could barely taste the alcohol.

Two hours later, John and Dirk had kept their word. Nicole and Patrick turned out to be lovely people (and not twins) who welcomed him warmly to their home and asked more than once if he was enjoying himself. They listened with both courtesy and a bit of humor to the cousins’ rendition of the beer spill. Patrick even admired the shirt on Kieran, saying it looked better on him and suggested he keep it.

They had introduced him to so many people at the party Kieran couldn’t possibly remember everyone. Hell, he was having a difficult time remembering who he was. He was floating in a haze of good will, smiling widely as fellow students gave him their names, class status and majors as if it was name, rank and serial number. He laughed at jokes and relaxed into the party atmosphere.

Across the room, Brant grinned. The ploy he and his friends had come up with— spilling Kieran’s beer all over him and forcing him to meet John and Dirk, had worked beautifully. Kieran looked like he was getting happily trashed, and it was time to move in. He winked at Nicole over the young man’s head and walked their way.

Making like he just arrived, Brant stood at the edge of the group of his friends. Patrick glanced up at him at exactly the right moment in the middle of a story he was telling and pasted a shocked look on his face. “Brant, what the hell, man, you’re here. I can’t believe you made it. I thought you had other plans.”

“I did,” Brant grinned, letting his eyes roam the circle. “I got out of them. You know you two give the best parties. This is a tradition.”

His light glance located Kieran, and he smiled at him as if amazed. “I didn’t know you were friends with Nicole and Pat,” he said enthusiastically. “Now I’m doubly glad I decided to show up.”

Kieran blushed bright pink. Based on the greetings of the others, Brant seemed to be telling the truth about his sudden appearance, but there was something not quite genuine. Or was he reading too much into it and acting overly suspicious? Maybe he should stop expecting the worst and just enjoy the punch and camaraderie they were offering.

“I’m not friends,” he tried to explain. “Oh, that doesn’t sound nice, does it! I wasn’t friends,” he corrected, slurring his words slightly, “but then these two…” he hiked his thumb at Dirk and John, “had to spill my beer all over me like I wasn’t clean enough already and needed a shower or something, and here I am. Good punch.”

His aqua eyes were dilated with the booze in his system and sparkling like the Caribbean seas they must have come from, and Brant felt his breath hitch and his dick twitching in his jeans. Kieran had absolutely no idea how attractive he was what with that curtain of blonde hair that looked like silk, those luscious lips and the cutest pert ass in the county. His timid humbleness added that little bit of luster so lacking in the more brittle beauties Brant was used to cavorting around with.

The group laughed, honestly intrigued by him. They recognized his quality as much as Brant did. Nicole even had the grace to feel a little bad about what they proposed to do.

An hour later Kieran was having problems focusing on the party scene around him. He felt himself lucky that the Ferris siblings and Copeland cousins seemed to like him because one of them was attached to him at all times. And that Brant Fielding, he acted like a more standup guy than Kieran had originally expected. Several others had tried to hit on him through the evening, and Brant had been protective of him and sent them packing. Now Kieran just wanted to lie down and go to sleep.

Brant was signaling Dirk and Patrick frantically with his eyes, and they took several paces away out of Kieran’s hearing. “He’s drunk,” Kieran protested in a low voice. “I didn’t want him drunk.”

Dirk shrugged, chagrined because this was not their intent. “I’m sorry, dude. We didn’t know he was going to be such a lightweight. All he had was a few sips of his original beer and three glasses of punch. I don’t even think he’s started on the third one. Maybe he’s drinking on an empty stomach.”

“Fuck it,” Brant swore, looking back at his swaying chemistry partner. “He’s no fun like this. I want him awake and screaming for me, not comatose.”

Patrick’s cheeks turned a little pink at the vaguely sexual reference. “Okay, try this, Brant. Be the good guy who makes sure he gets back to his dorm in one piece without being molested or hurting himself. That way, he doesn’t think you’re taking advantage of him and maybe he’ll let you ask him out again.”

Brant’s expression brightened and he clapped him on the back. “Good thinking, Pat. It’s worth a try.”

He marched up to Kieran and stood there staring in his face as if he was trying to decide something of portent. “Kieran,” he announced with a gentle smirk. “You’re drunk.”

“No, I’m not. I don’t get drunk. I don’t drink.”

Brant put his arm out to steady the man. “Well, Kieran, I hate to tell you this but you have been drinking, and you are drunk. I should probably get you home before you fall down.”

Kieran looked down at the cup of fruity punch in his hand and back up at Brant in adorable confusion. “I am? But this tastes good.” He defiantly took another sip.

Brant had to smile at that. The poor kid didn’t even know there was alcohol in the punch. How innocent could he get? And yet, his cute astonishment beat the jaded men he was used to seducing by a mile.

He removed the cup from Kieran’s hand, noting his flushed cheeks, and set it on the table. “Yes, it’s good but it’s also alcoholic and you, my friend, have had too much. Are we feeling a little dizzy maybe? A bit too warm? That’s from the alcohol. Now let me be your friend and take you back to your dorm.”

Kieran nodded without another word. Brant showing such caring for him warmed his heart more than the punch had, and he wondered if his first impression about him might have been wrong. In truth, he was beginning to feel more than a little dizzy. How silly of him to not taste the liqueurs in the drink.

Brant, who knew Kieran hadn’t driven, asked about keys all the same and was told of the friend who had invited him. He sent John off to ‘find Carlos’ and inform him of the situation. In John’s pocket were three crisp fifty-dollar bills to be given to Carlos as his reward for successfully talking Kieran into going.

Brant gently took charge of Kieran and led him out to his vintage ’68 Shelby Mustang GT 350. He had decided to swap his usual Merc out with this classic vehicle, knowing his new-model Benz SLS AMG in black would have thoroughly intimidated the boy. Now was the time to focus on how similar they were, not how different.

Kieran’s eyes lit up as soon as he saw the gleaming automobile, red with the low racing stripes along the sides. His gaze traveled everywhere on the sporty vehicle, checking for original equipment. “Cool,” he pronounced in awe. He loved old roadsters and this one was beautifully maintained.

“Thanks. It was a birthday present from my grandparents when I turned twenty,” Brant said and then wanted to slap himself for pointing out the money factor again. But Kieran didn’t seem to notice; he just kept looking at the pony car with appreciative eyes. Brant considered how nice it was to have someone acknowledge the honest but understated compliment from someone who looked like he actually knew what he was talking about.

“Here, climb in.” He held the passenger door open for him to fall into before going around to his own side and turning the ignition. They both grinned as the engine began to purr.

“Does it still have the original Windsor?”

“The 4.9 liter 302 four-barrel? Yeah.”

“Sweet,” Kieran praised, running his hands over the seat. “You’ve taken good care of her.”

They rode in silence for a few minutes before Brant turned back to him. “Fraley Hall, right?” he asked innocently. “I think that’s what I heard you say. You’re in Fraley.”

Kieran nodded, having no idea when the subject of dorms came up or even if it did. He didn’t care anyway. His stomach was beginning to feel a little queasy. How ridiculous he felt to get this wasted in front of Brant and his friends. They were really nice people and the last thing he wanted to do was make a fool of himself by passing out or, worse, throwing up.

Brant glanced nervously at Kieran. This was not the way the evening was supposed to progress. A drink or two was relaxing and helped lower inhibitions, and he had hoped to maneuver the man alone into a corner at the Ferris home to nibble on his ear a little or just crowd him until the heat rose between them. To make Kieran think that he liked him and there could be something between them. Suggest they find a quieter, more suitable locale and drive him back to his place. Kieran should be suitably impressed with his posh high-rise and maybe even feel honored that he’d been chosen over everyone else. To sip some wine and eat a few snacks already prepared for the evening as he took it to the next step with kisses and removing clothing until they fell into bed together to fuck the night away.

But no, not tonight. Kieran was pale and sweating on the seat beside him, trying to pretend he wasn’t feeling sick. Brant had long since given up trying to make small talk and wondered if it was possible to get alcohol poisoning off two La Tizanas. His friends were going to pay for it if Kieran started puking everywhere. They were supposed to be watching out for this sort of thing. The last thing Brant wanted was to have to get his ‘Stang detailed to erase the smell of vomit.

They arrived at Fraley Hall none the worse for wear even if Kieran looked a little green. “Are you okay, man?” Brant asked when he nearly fell over climbing out of the low seat. Despite his desire to trick him into believing that he was a nice guy worth going out with, he was glad they were back at the dorm so he could discharge his duty.

“I’ll live,” Kieran replied and squared his shoulders in a move that had him letting a neighboring car support him. “Let’s get this over with.”

Brant scrunched up his face in confusion and trotted alongside the other man as he resolutely made his way towards the nondescript building and through the front door. “Get over what?”

Brant’s head was on a swivel as he stepped inside a tiny foyer with a couch that several girls were sitting on as they conversed loudly. The multi-tan carpeting was efficiency grade and worn and the walls were scarred from residents knocking into them with bulky items. He followed Kieran who turned down the four foot wide hallway filled with more students spilling out of rooms and blocking their passage. One man smacked Kieran in the back of the head with a growl of “Do something about your fucking roomie, Sawyer,” and almost sent him tumbling to the floor. There was a cloying scents of sweat, cigarette smoke and disinfectant. The pounding of pervasive bass and drums grew progressively louder with each step. The dorm was positively prehistoric.

Kieran had tottered about three-quarters of the way down the corridor and stopped in front a battered door. Brant noticed the loudest thumping in the entire hall was coming from behind it; loud enough to make the walls around them vibrate. Oh my god, is this what the student had to cope with in order to have a roof over his head, Brant wondered morosely. He watched as Kieran found a way to tug the key out of his pocket despite his unsteady stance and insert it into the lock. He put a determined frown on his face and turned the knob.

They were met with a wall of musty darkness, the odors of Trevor’s leftover food like something died under there. Even over the blaring music Brant could hear shouted curses and a girl screaming.

“Get the fuck out of here, asshole,” came from a bed in one corner. “Go find somewhere else to sleep. My girl is here for the night.”

Brant reached around and flipped the light switch, bathing the room in brightness. The side of the room that the bellowing was coming from was wall-to-wall trash overlaid with articles of clothing. The reek was wafting up from that direction too. The other side of the room with a pristine bed and empty desk top was a huge contrast, although food wrappers and other trash were beginning to make their way over the invisible dividing line.

On the occupied bed under a food-soiled, hastily rearranged quilt was a huge lump from which the back of a shaggy head extended. The enraged voice was still giving orders, and a small, dirty foot indicated that part of the lump was female. She was screaming abuse at Kieran too. “Get out, get out.”

“You can’t make him leave,” Brant warned. “This is his dorm.”

Trevor looked over the top of the quilt at the unfamiliar voice. “What’s it to you, asshole? Who the fuck are you?”

“A friend of Kieran’s. You need to make her leave so he can go to bed.”

A harsh laugh greeted his ears. “She ain’t going anywhere. Get the fuck out, both of you.”

Kieran was hovering weakly against the door frame, sickly pale and his eyes too bright in his face. “I’ll go sleep in my car,” he moaned. “It isn’t worth arguing over.”

Brant was appalled. “This is your dorm, Kieran. He doesn’t have the right to make you leave.”

From the bed: “Right, take it up with the RA if you can find him.”

Brant raised his eyebrows. “The RA is a friend of Trevor’s,” Kieran explained hollowly. “He’s right; he won’t do anything.” He sagged down the wall until his head was resting on his knees.

This was wrong on so many levels, Brant thought, but Kieran was already giving up, recognizing it as a lost cause. He would know his own roommate best, but the idea that he would have to spend the night huddled in the back of his car when he was drunk seemed obscene. Brant was not going to let it happen. There was only one solution and that was taking him back to his own place. Brant stepped over the mess with a sick grimace on his face and went to the closet, pulling jeans and a clean shirt off hangers.

“Come on,” he said, taking Kieran by the upper arm and dragging him up to his feet. “Come with me.”

Back out to the Mustang they moved, with Kieran barely able to hold himself up now. Brant had to put his arm around his waist and half drag, half carry him, inviting curious stares from the other students. While the kid didn’t look quite as barf-sick as he had, it was clear the alcohol was still working its way through his system. Before they were even away from the Barratt campus, Kieran put his head against the window and closed his eyes. His entire body drooped, and Brant was sure he had passed out.

“Shit and shit,” he cursed.

Through town, over the freeway and into the tonier district, Brant thought about the new set of circumstances. Okay, Kieran was coming home with him for the night. Brant would play nice guy and not hit on him in his drunken state. Just put him to bed and let him sleep it off. Revise plans in the morning depending on how Kieran acted. Whatever it took, he was not going to scare his little playmate away.

The security guard opened the gate to let him into the lot, eying the boy in the passenger seat. Brant rolled down his window. “My friend had too much to drink. Do you suppose you could help me get him up to my apartment?”

“Yes sir,” he said, knowing Brant would give him a nice tip. He’d been witness to the Fielding boy’s shenanigans for months and it was no never mind to him. He wasn’t paid to get into his shit.

Between the two of them, they maneuvered Kieran’s unconscious self into the elevator and up to the fifteenth floor. The guard’s eyes just about popped out over the extravagance of his apartment and, as expected, he received two fifties for his efforts. He left Kieran on the couch and Brant running for blankets and a pillow.

Brant removed Kieran’s socks and shoes but decided to leave the rest of his clothing on. It wasn’t like the shorter boy wouldn’t sleep well in his shirt and pants, and he certainly couldn’t complain about being molested in the morning if he awoke dressed. Just to be on the safe side he found a bucket in the broom closet and laid a towel against the upholstery under his face. He didn’t want to make him feel bad but…

Brant headed for his bedroom, feeling odd that he was retiring so early. This was not the way he hoped to spend the night, alone in his bed, but the benefits would show up at a later date. He was pretty sure that Kieran would trust him now.

“Goodnight,” he called backwards as he trudged to his room. “Sleep well.”

(To be continued…)

Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Beat of My Heart Ch. 03

Memory Is A Tricky Thing

Skylar stretched in bed, subconsciously surprised that he could do so. Wasn’t there supposed to be a warm body cuddled up next to him? Chris, oh yes, that was his name. From the downtown club, The Open Closet. They had fucked, danced and talked… not necessarily in that order. The guy had been cute, charming, attentive and… what else? Something niggled at him from just the other side of his brain. Damn, he needed to stop drinking so much on an empty stomach. It wasn’t conducive to sorting out pertinent information the next day. No bed warmer liked to wake up and have his name forgotten.

But Chris wasn’t in bed with him and the apartment had a silent, vaguely empty feeling. Which was a shame because he’d been a particularly fine piece of ass. He seemed to eat up being with Skylar and had been oh, so responsive. Shit, there was that weird sensation again. That he was forgetting something important… something Chris had screamed out just as he was cumming. But it was lost in the mist of his four… or was it five, scotch and sodas. And the here and now of discovering whether Chris had actually left or was in the kitchen or bathroom.

Ten minutes later and now dressed in gray track pants, Skylar had to conclude that Chris was gone. Bathroom clear, his clothes missing from the living room and no note. That was just rude. Common decency dictated that you didn’t sneak away from your one night stand; you waited to be dismissed. Share an uncomfortable coffee together while you bullshitted and told him how meaningful the night before had been as you shuffled him out the door with promises to stay in touch. Promises you had no intention of keeping. Hurt eyes might find you at the same club again or in some bar, but if he had any sense of pride, he wouldn’t cause problems in the future. It was just one of those things, right?

Only with Chris, for some reason, it wasn’t. He’d made an impression on the usually cynical Skylar that went deeper than the customary hookup. Skylar really wanted to talk to him this morning and maybe go out to breakfast. Learn more about him because he certainly didn’t remember much of what they had discussed last night. Perhaps even find some excuse to spend the day together and come back and do the sex thing all over again. But not only did he not have a telephone number, he didn’t even get Chris’s last name. Note to self: get last name in the future.

It was only 10:15 and Skylar was at a loss to figure out his next move. He had no next move. He’d searched his apartment for a forgotten wallet, a business card or any other piece of identifying information but could find nothing. Ditto for the truck. The man was gone like a dream, like he didn’t exist. With time on his hands and his brain trying to run a mile a minute around a headache that persisted despite two ibuprofen tablets and two large glasses of water, he set to gathering up his own clothes in the living room and deciding whether he should do laundry today or tomorrow. Now, while the pain in his head made doing anything else impossible.

Two hours later he was back in his apartment folding clothes. Missing socks to two pair which wouldn’t be bad if the odd ones weren’t completely mismatched and couldn’t be worn together. All morning he had been struck with these flashes of memory from the night before. Just random seconds of seeing Chris across from him at the club or in his living room, talking. He didn’t know what about, but Skylar got the feeling it had something to do with his past.

He remembered meeting up with his ex-boyfriend, Evan, just minutes after paying the cover charge and walking through the door of The Open Closet. Neither of them had new significant others and both were doing the usual—looking for somebody to take home for the night. A friend told Evan about another friend who was gay who had finally summoned up the courage to try out the club and he hoped tonight was the night he made his appearance. He’d also heard a rumor that Rick brought in a fresh face, so that was always a possibility.

By the time Skylar and Evan found Rick, MJ and Toby, he was buzzing. The fourth occupant of the table was sitting with his back to him, so he couldn’t even get a quick first impression from a distance. It was like rolling dice. He could end up making polite small talk with some pimply geek who was barely old enough to drink and was a pity date Rick got roped into bringing. Or he could be attractive, friendly and well-spoken on a number of topics. Fortunately, the man who stood up to shake his hand was the latter.

Those blue-gray eyes. Something in them made Skylar feel self-conscious. They had looked at him as if he was supposed to know him when he introduced himself. An extended hand produced a puzzle of pain before his expression brightened and he said his name was Chris. Of course he was Chris, he looked like a Chris… and reminded Skylar of… someone else.

Skylar winced at the kaleidoscope of images from the club tumbling around his head like his socks in a clothes dryer. MJ had monopolized Chris’s attention and there was no chance to make better acquaintance with him at first. Yes, he’d sensed him looking at him speculatively and it made Skylar shiver, but no explanation was forthcoming. He was just about to call the night a loss when Rick and Evan took off and MJ had a… plumbing emergency at home. Right, he and Toby left. Okay, so far, so good.

Why did his sharp memories end there? Because of the alcohol, dumbass, he told himself. By the time he sat down to have an actual conversation with Chris, he’d already drunk at least three scotch and sodas. Skylar didn’t as a habit get drunk, but it had been a very long and busy day. He’d taken a big test in one of his law classes where he was given a significant judiciary milestone and had to match it with the case name, and he always got Marbury vs. Madison mixed up with McCulloch vs. Maryland. He’d skipped lunch and dinner was a small dish of leftover fruit salad that his mother had sent home the night before. He was primed to overdo from the first sip.

Hmm, fruit salad. What had Chris asked in his apartment about cooking? Whether he did or not, and he had responded that he didn’t have time. Chris had invited him for a meal, saying his mother was a good cook. Spaghetti sauce from a secret recipe. Soup from leftovers. It reminded him of another woman who was known for closely guarding her family’s recipes, Christian Adams’s mother, Kristy.

Skylar came to a dead stop, his hand poised above a bath towel. Chris… Christian. Old-family secret recipes. Sharlington Sharks. Art school in New York. “Your brother might be right…”

He’d called him ‘Sky’ at one point last night; that was the sudden flash he traced back to earlier. Chris had been at the peak of his orgasm, his body flying apart, and he’d yelled, “Oh Sky”. Nobody but family and close friends called him that.

Another half-formed memory riffed though his head from the muddle of falling asleep after drinking and great sex.

“Goodnight, Chris.”


Oh my god! No, it couldn’t be.

Skylar trotted into his bedroom and frantically yanked open the bottom drawer of his long dresser. Under the three pair of comfortable but well-worn board shorts, his old Michigan State ballcap and a collection of cardboard coasters from various bars he’d visited the year he turned twenty-one was the item he was searching for. The gray-backed eighth volume of The Beat of My Heart that he’d never parted with. The blank front page sketched in a picture of Christian and him locked in an embrace. It was only black and white and almost eight years old, but the features were still crisp and clear.

He covered most of the flyaway hair with his hands and mentally tried to remove the heavy black spectacles and imagine Christian older and more filled out. It wasn’t quite there but he was so poor at this sort of thing. If he squinted, the punky emo freshman in the sketch looked a little like the man who had sat across the table from him discussing their lives. Drinking, dancing… coming back to his apartment to make love.

Oh shit! Had he taken his little brother’s best friend to bed without a qualm and fucked him?


Christian didn’t awaken until nearly noon. He swore he’d been dreaming until, with a groan, he realized that his visit to the club was a bona fide event. Meeting Skylar and drinking with him, the heart-to-heart discussions, dancing while Skylar felt him up had actually happened. He knew the sex was real too; his ass hurt.

How could he have been so stupid as to believe this would turn out for the good? It wasn’t like he ever planned for it to go this far, but he shouldn’t have even started it. There was nothing he wished for more right now than the ability to go back in time and do it all over by introducing himself properly at The Open Closet so that he could be frank with Skylar. Even if he embarrassed him because Skylar had forgotten him, at least Christian wouldn’t feel like a cheat.

Maybe he’d still be a virgin, but at least he’d be an honest one.

That was the point, wasn’t it? Why he subconsciously hoped Skylar wouldn’t remember him? Indulging his teenage fantasy that had become an obsession until last night had allowed him to finally hook up with his boy crush. There wasn’t a single doubt whether they would have ended up in bed together had Skylar known his true identity, even aside from his self-reproach for the past. Call it code of honor or whatever term you wanted, but the older man wouldn't have touched Gabe’s best friend with a ten foot pole.

Instead he’d fucked him with that eight inch pole of his and filled him completely, gliding over every key inch inside his ass and taking him to heaven. Christian had enjoyed that very much, thank you. Being made love to by Skylar was fantastic because he was gentle and compassionate. It was definitely worth saving himself for, and Christian didn’t begrudge turning down any of the offers he’d received in New York.

Thinking of Skylar made him smile a little. The promise he’d shown as an eighteen year old when Christian had nearly drooled over him in the literal sense had held up to turn him into a gorgeous man as an adult. Big mocha eyes, wavy blonde hair and ripped muscles in all the right places. If he closed his eyes he could still feel those pink lips skimming up and down his cock and that tongue slipping deliciously over his balls, and not only did it make him hard, it gave him goosebumps.

Lost in the memory of being seduced by Skylar, Christian pushed the covers off himself and grasped his cock firmly in his hand. He still felt the warm rough of the flat of his tongue licking his hairless sac and lifting his balls to suck oh, so slowly on each of them. The wet heat of his oral cavity had applied firm but gentle pressure in sensual tugs that began his journey to the quick but satisfying release of virgin inexperience.

Once he had bathed his testicles, Skylar’s lips had kissed their way up his dick to the head and lapped at his generous drops of precum. He could actually feel his mouth sliding down his shaft and the way that talented tongue knew exactly how to slither around and find the sensitive spots. Just like now, it hadn't taken long. With a few quick pulls, Christian’s hips drove his cock into his hot fist, and he erupted with a moan, ejaculating across his torso.

Sinking back into the sheets as his dick went flaccid, Christian groaned for a different reason. If he thought one night with Skylar would get him out of his system and make him stop needing him, he was wrong. If anything, it fueled his desire for more. To enjoy his company, find out his likes and dislikes and wrap themselves up in each other every day. To relive last night's bliss. Longing for something he could never have back; that was the real hell on earth.

What he had done to Skylar by hiding his true identity was without excuse. Unpardonable.

Maybe if Skylar had not bared his soul to him and relived that horrible May afternoon, they could call it even. He didn’t know if he would accept his petulance over not being recognized as a good excuse, but it was the equivalent of a burning match compared to the conflagration of the mess he was in now. Christian probably knew one of Skylar’s deepest secrets, and he could scarcely hope he’d be exonerated for witnessing the guilt and sorrow that went with it. Nor would Skylar ever forgive him for playing up to be a stranger so they could fuck.

It was Murphy’s Law. Skylar was going to remember last night. He was going to put two and two together and eventually discover who Christian was. He would track him down. Hell, it couldn’t be that difficult since Sharlington wasn’t a large town and they worked for the same employer. When the stars crossed and it all came together as Christian knew it would, the resulting fracas would make their high school clash look like a tea party.

To keep from worrying, Christian threw himself into chores he’d put off doing since he moved in. He had a habit of procrastination, and there were still boxes in his extra bedroom to unpack, including all his art supplies. He wondered if the sketchbooks and canvases he’d boxed up from his apartment in New York were here or he’d left them at his parents’ since they were kind enough to store several crates he didn’t have room for. However, he wanted his art with him.

Two hours and a half later his shoulders hurt from hunching over and his knees were sore from kneeling on the floor as he sorted and put away, and he decided it was a good time to plan the first route for jogging. The exercise and fresh air would do him good. He changed into a sleeveless A-shirt and gray hoody over navy basketball shorts, stretched in his living room and locked the front door. Off he took in the opposite direction from the downtown area.

Within eight blocks he had finished his warm-up fast walking and began pushing himself, skirting the edge of the canal with its soft dirt paths. He filled his lungs with the smell of the vegetation, the low sagebrush and native plants that would bloom into tall shoots of lavender-blue salvia, tiny pods of pink cercis and daisy-like yellow meadowfoam in the spring.

Even though it was almost four o’clock and had been cool and overcast all day he was soon dripping sweat. It was the effect of not jogging for almost a month, but he didn’t let that stop him. The pace he set was punishing, and he ran for two miles before he let himself turn around and jog back at a slower speed. By the time he made it back to his place it was dark and he barely had the energy to make himself a sandwich, take a shower and collapse into bed.


On Sunday morning Skylar arose with the same thoughts he’d gone to bed with the night before. Christian Adams had pretended not to know him when they met up at the club. They had talked about their backgrounds, family and work, he supposed— he still didn’t remember the gist of most of their conversation— and not once did the man seek to enlighten him on his identity. They danced and fucked while Christian continued to hide who he was all night up until the very moment he let his guard down as he fell asleep. He most likely didn’t even realize he gave himself away with one word.

At least, that’s what Skylar thought. Maybe he was wrong about this Chris, and he wasn’t his ex-neighbor. He hoped not, but he couldn’t be sure. The more he stared at the illustration, the more he doubted his eyes. He needed a second opinion and someone to give him ideas on what to do.

“Hey, bro,” Gabe greeted him eagerly. “Long time, no hear. How’s the old hometown?”

“Fine,” Skylar answered distractedly and then got right to the point. “Where’s Christian Adams?”

Gabe was caught totally off guard with that query. It had been quite awhile since they talked about Christian… three years, and it wasn’t a pleasant topic. The last thing Gabe had said about their former schoolmate was an accusation that, despite his denials, Skylar had been in love with him since he was eighteen, and Christian was just as obsessed over him so what was the holdup in getting together?

“I don’t know,” Gabe said hesitantly. “I haven’t been in touch with him lately. No good reason for it, I guess; just busy with my student-teaching and looking for a job up here. I think the last time I spoke with her Mom mentioned he planned to stick around New York taking more classes while he sent out job applications, hoping someone back East would hire him.”

Well that was a cheery thought. Christian might still be on the other side of the USA, but he didn’t think so. No, he was fairly sure something had brought him back to California.

“Pratt Institute, right?” he prodded, although Skylar didn’t have to be told. That was the school Chris has graduated from.

“Yeah, but how…?” Gabe’s curiosity rose rapidly over his brother’s sudden interest. “Why all the questions, Sky?”

The blonde man took a deep breath. “I think I ran into Christian here in Sharlington on Friday night.”

“Well, I have no idea what Christian would be doing in Sharlington but… Wait a minute, what do you mean you think you ran into him?”

“I met him or someone who sort of looks like him in that new gay club they built near the downtown. I was hanging with Evan, and this man was there with friends. If it’s Christian, he doesn’t look anything like he used to, Gabe. No glasses, his hair is a lot shorter… he’s grown up, I guess. I had a couple drinks before we even wandered over to say hi to them, and I didn’t recognize him but there was something in the way he kept looking at me.”

There was a definite pause and Gabe wondered if he’d lost the connection. But finally Skylar started to speak very softly, and the younger man could hear the hurt and confusion in his voice.

“Damn it, Gabriel, if it was Christian, this is so fucked up.”


“Because I slept with him. He was this hot, good-looking guy, and we hit it off right away so I took him home. He didn’t tell me who he was and he left the apartment before I woke up.”

Gabe gasped, his mind reeling. “How do you know it’s Christian?”

“I don’t, at least, not for sure. Just call it a funny feeling. We were talking; I don’t know what about specifically because I was drunk, but a few things have come back. He went to school in New York and knew about our school mascot, and… oh shit! He said he has two sisters and his family lives on the coast, and he grew up in a small town. He called me Sky and mentioned his mom makes all these cool soups and sauces from secret recipes. Now who does that sound like?”

“Sky, lots of people grow up in small towns on the coast and have sisters. Lots of women are secretive over the food they prepare too. Just ask our mom. New York could be a coincidence. As for the Sharks, if you live in Sharlington, you’re going to find out sooner or later about them. Was the information he gave you that fluky?”

“Oh yeah. But here’s the kicker. He introduced himself to me in the club as ‘Chris’. I took him home and we’re falling asleep and I tell him good night and use his name. Remember how I used to call him Chris to provoke him and he would correct me? That’s what he did. He said ‘Christian’ without pausing, like it was a reflex. I don’t think he even knew what he was saying.”

“Didn’t anything tip you off about him? His voice or knowing things he shouldn’t?”

Skylar tried to recall each minute of that night and another idea suddenly came to him. “My ink— it was like he expected me to have the tat on my back. But I wasn’t paying attention. You know me, Gabe. How I am with men, especially the cute, quiet types. All I was thinking about was…”

“Yeah, you don’t have to say it. For someone who didn’t positively know he was gay until he was twenty you sure have turned into a man-whore. It’s like you’re trying to make up for lost time.”

“This isn’t funny, Gabe,” Skylar groused, running his hand through his tangled bedhead hair. “The worst part is, I didn’t get a phone number or even a last name. I have no idea where he lives or works. He was gone by the time I got up and I’m not completely sure it’s even him.”

“He just left? That really sucks. What did you do to him?”

“Nothing, at least nothing bad. We danced at the club and I could tell he liked me. I brought him home and…”

“Stop, Sky,” Gabe broke in anxiously. “I do not want to hear the details of you fucking my best friend, okay?”

“Okay,” Skylar laughed ruefully, “but really, we seemed to hit it off. We went to sleep and he was gone by the next morning. I just can’t believe he’d hit on me without telling me who he was.”

“Hit on you?” Now it was Gabe who was laughing. “Not likely. I think you have it mixed up.”

Skylar didn’t admit it to his brother, but Gabe was right. He was the one who approached Chris… Christian… with an offer to buy him a drink which he turned down and suggested dancing later. Skylar was the one who asked him back to his place. That still didn’t excuse his lying.

The other end of the phone was quiet, and Skylar realized that Gabe had asked him a question. “Sorry,” he said. “I was thinking about why this man would let me believe he was a stranger.”

“Oh, all sorts of reasons I can think of, considering it’s you, Sky,” Gabe teased. “Why don’t you tell me what happened from start to finish, leaving out the kissing and such if you don’t mind.”

Skylar told him everything he could think of which wasn’t much after the alcohol hit his system. He went back all the way to the kind of day he’d had, maybe to make his plight of getting drunk more defensible and explained how he met Chris, what he could remember of their conversation and where it lead to. When he finished Gabe was quiet for a moment.

“Well, bro, I’m not sure what to think, especially with all the holes in your story, but I do have some suggestions. I’m not excusing him, but put yourself in his place. How would you feel if someone you knew walked up to you and acted like you were a stranger, especially if that guy was important to you? Wouldn’t you be hurt?”

“Yeah,” Skylar qualified, “but I’m not important to Christian. He hates me, remember?”

Gabe burst into raucous laughter. “Hates you? He fucked you. That’s not hate, Sky. If he hated you, he would have publicly turned you down or found some other way to humiliate you. Damn, it’s a Catch-22 for him. My money is on that he still loves you and grabbed his chance. Since you didn’t remember him, well why not? He’s just another hot guy to you. Had you known who he really was, you wouldn’t have slept with him, right?”

“No, I wouldn’t. He’s your best friend, Gabe. I would respect that.”

“Oh, for fuck’s sake, that is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard,” Gabe chortled. “You and I have already gone ‘round about what I think your true feelings are for him, so I won’t bore you by repeating it. On the other hand, he had a crush on you eight years ago, and judging by Friday night, probably still does. He didn’t date at all in high school and he isn’t a casual-sex kind of guy. He wants a boyfriend, not a hookup. I’m sure he realized the risks that you would identify him eventually, but it’s not like you’d kick him out if you were in the middle of… uh…”

Skylar couldn’t guess how he would have responded. If this was Christian… if it was, what did it mean? He lied about who he was and let it go all night without anything except nonverbal clues. Even if his feelings were hurt, it didn’t make it right. But the end result was that he had slept with Skylar knowingly. Was it desire or retribution?

Gabe interrupted his thoughts again, and it was obvious they were thinking along the same lines. “I hope the reason he walked out was because he was scared, not angry. I don’t want you to tell me… again, I’m not going there with you… but how did he act? You can be pretty intimidating, you know.”

“Unfortunately, until we’ve concluded the guy was Christian what difference does it make.”

Skylar waited for some enlightenment as Gabe paused for a minute. “Hey, I know,” he exclaimed. “Mom passed a picture along to me that she got from the Adams’s of Christian’s graduation last May. If I can locate it, give me a few minutes here to…” Skylar could hear him rumbling around in his apartment after he put down his cell phone, and then footsteps approaching. “Okay. I found it. Are you home?”

Skylar said he was and he heard the clicks and hums of Gabe fumbling with electronic equipment. “Turn on your laptop and check your e-mail,” Gabe instructed. “I’ll scan the photo and send it to you.”

Forty-five seconds later a crisp, clear photo appeared of a handsome brunette graduate flanked by Kristy and Ted Adams with one arm around him and the other encircling two younger girls standing in front of them. There was absolutely no question; the gowned man in the picture and the naked one in his bed the night before were the same person.

“Oh my god, I am so fucked,” Skylar muttered angrily. “It was Christian. What an asshole! I’m going to kill him once I get my hands on him.”

“No, Skylar,” Gabe warned severely from the other end of the line. “You need to calm down. Listen to me and stop tripping all over your big mouth for once.” A few seconds later all he heard was even breathing, light but still irritated. It was good enough.

“Why are you so angry?”

“He… he lied to me,” Skylar sputtered, astonished that Gabe didn’t see it.

“Okay, he lied. What else was he supposed to do? Act like a jerk and embarrass you in front of your friends by making you look like an asshole because you didn’t remember an old friend— someone you grew up with? Is that what you wanted?”

“No,” Skylar answered grudgingly. “But he had a chance later to remind me. Everyone left and we had the table to ourselves. He didn’t have to let it go all night like that.”

That was a stumper, but Gabe was undeterred. “Could he have another reason for not telling you the truth?”

The question seemed to bring Skylar up short. “What sort of reason?”

“I don’t know. Something you might have said. Anything to get you from talking at the table to taking him home besides being your sweet, charming self.”

“I told you, except for our names we didn’t say one word to each other until everyone left. I checked him out and made sure he wasn’t with MJ. He checked me out. Flirting sort of, I guess. Once the table was empty I moved down and we made each other’s acquaintance.”

“Hmm, like what kind of questions do gay guys ask each other apart from the usual?”

“What do you mean, Gabe?” He was truly baffled over what this had to do with anything.

“I mean, in the normal course of conversation when you meet someone you find attractive you share information. Occupations, where you go to school, sometimes ages, that sort of stuff. What did you and Christian talk about besides all that?”

Skylar didn’t remember the particular conversation with Christian so he went back to his normal M.O. and that was easier. “I probably asked about when he knew he was gay. I always do.”

“And you said…?”

“I don’t remember, Gabe,” he whined. “I drank at least three scotch and sodas on a nearly empty stomach. Except for bits and pieces, the rest of the night until we danced is pretty much blank.”

Gabe let go of his breath explosively. “What do you normally tell guys?”

“Normally? I say I knew in high school.”

There was dead silence on the phone for almost fifteen seconds. “Tell me you didn’t, Sky! Fuck.”

But Skylar had already figured it out as soon as the words left his mouth. As a teenager he had publicly accused a boy of being gay and crushing on him, using the harshest terms to claim that he, himself, wasn’t. If he told Christian the truth on Friday, that would make Skylar a liar. And what would be his reaction?

“You need to calmly sit down and force yourself to remember Friday night, bro. Listening to your claims that you were gay when you forced him to come out…”

“Don’t,” Skylar whispered in true concern for Christian despite his earlier annoyance. “You don’t have to tell me. It would have hurt him deeply. I’m not that much of a prick that I don’t get it.”

“Good. In the meantime, don’t do anything stupid.”

“Ah, well you know me, Gabe,” he sighed.

“Uh-huh, Sky, that’s what I’m worried about.”


Christian spent Sunday very much like he spent the day before— busy to keep his mind off worrying about Skylar. He jogged in the morning, turning in the opposite direction of the canal and was surprised an hour later to find himself at Sharlington High. He was much too close to Skylar for comfort—it was a simple four block hike to his apartment building, and he longed for the courage to just show up there, apologize profusely and fall into his arms begging forgiveness. But he knew he couldn't do that and felt himself overly exposed if he happened to drive by so he ducked down into the ravine that ran behind the football field and made his way back home.

Restless and bored, he called his mother in Oakland and asked if he could drop by to pick up some of his stored belongings. Like good moms everywhere with grown-up sons on their own who might not be taking proper care of themselves, Kristy invited him to stay for dinner, which he was grateful for, seeing as how he was getting tired of his own cooking. He had a pleasant, though somewhat unnerving evening with his family and tried to conceal his agitation.

His father noticed. “Are you alright, Christian? Work going well for you?”

“I’m fine,” he lied with a forced smile. “Rawlins is everything I hoped it would be.”

Ted Adams harrumphed at his son knowingly. “Then it’s personal. You’ve been as jumpy as a scalded cat all evening.”

Christian straightened his shoulders and shook his head. He was definitely not going to say anything about Skylar, knowing it would get back to the Norwoods. “Honestly, Dad, I’m sorry if I seem a little preoccupied but there’s nothing wrong. After living in New York for so long it’s a challenge being back in California. Everything seems so different this time around.”

His father came up and put his arms around his eldest child and only son. “Just don’t try to do too much too fast. I know how you are when the strain becomes unbearable. Please remember you can always come to us if you need help. No matter what it is, there’s nothing you can’t discuss with us. Your mother and I can at least give you an objective opinion.”

“Thanks, Dad,” Christian managed a weak smile, a real one this time. He wondered how his parents would feel if he told them the truth. How he tricked Skylar just to end up in his bed. Well, it hadn’t been quite like that but near enough.

He found his canvases and sketchbooks in three boxes stacked neatly in a corner in the garage but as he was loading the last one in his car his eyes glimpsed an almost-forgotten sight in the rafters. An old taped-up box that had once stored boxes of breakfast cereal and was now marked, ‘Christian- private’ all over the face, beckoned him. It was his old yaoi and anime books. He figured he might as well take them off his parents’ hands too.

An hour and a half later he was home and he quickly set up his studio and found a place for his artwork. Not without going through them first; he wanted to revel in the pictures of Skylar he had slaved over during the years he lived back East. With distance as his teacher he instantly noticed the way each could be enhanced. His meeting up with Skylar in the club would certainly give him material for a new book of sketches, more adult ones. Seeing that fantastic body naked…

Christian closed his eyes. Reaching up under his t-shirt, he ran his fingers over his nipples, and in his mind it was Skylar pulling on them gently before the flat of his tongue lapped at them like the sweetest cream. Skylar, whose own nipples had those little golden rings in them that make him so sexy. In his head he saw himself spearing the tip of his tongue through the middle of a ring and he heard Skylar’s moans. He could feel his dick beginning to lengthen in his jeans, and he quickly unfastened the button and zipper and pushed them down to his ankles with his boxers.

Grabbing tissues from his desk he slid down the wall to the carpeted floor and began pulling on his cock, imagining it was Skylar’s warm mouth sucking on him. Languid strokes of his tongue down to his balls and back up the shaft to circle the crown, sucking gently. Back down, taking his whole cock in his mouth so the head was lodged in his throat, gently squeezed.

He was losing himself in the dream as his hand moved faster and faster, sliding through the slippery precum. Then he could feel his muscles tightening and, with a cry, his hips punched upwards as he was engulfed by his orgasm. Semen shot in shimmery streams on his chest and abdomen. He lay there for another half hour listening to the quiet, wondering if he would ever get the pleasure of being with Skylar again and feeling as if he could no longer stand to live alone.


Monday meant a return to work and back to Rawlins. Christian pulled into the parking lot with apprehension at 7:20, wanting to hide. Instead, he forced himself to drive around the building searching for Skylar’s Ford truck and keeping on the lookout amongst the vehicles entering as workers prepared for their shifts. Then he remembered that Skylar went to UC Davis, meaning he probably took morning classes and wouldn’t arrive for his clerking job until later.

From his childhood and hanging around their fathers on occasional work days Christian also recalled that the legal department of Rawlins was on the opposite side of the building from the graphic design studios, so he probably used a different entrance. Darrin Norwood, Skylar’s dad, would be a little trickier to avoid. Advertising was only two doors down the hall from Graphics and he didn’t even know what kind of car he drove.

His father had been right the night before. Christian was restless. Except that Skylar didn't know where he worked, all day he kept expecting him to barge through the door to pull him out angrily by the arm and demand to speak to him about the other night. It wasn’t a discussion he wanted to have. He couldn’t explain himself adequately. The more he tried to make sense of it in his head, the less truthful it sounded. He’d be quietly sketching and a memory would hit him, making him flush with shame and his stomach tighten as bile rose in his throat.

“Are we sick today?” Zera asked him in her lightly accented English, coming up behind with a whisper of the long, colorful skirts she liked to wear. She clapped a hand to his forehead checking for fever, mothering him like she normally did. “You do not look so good.”

“I’m fine,” he told her and put a smile on his face similar to the fake one he had showed his dad the night before. “I had a busy weekend and tried to stuff too much into it.”

“Well,” she said doubtfully, “if you need help with anything, don’t hesitate to call on Marco and me. We like to take care of our own.” By ‘our own’ she meant the employees who had been with Rawlins from the beginning and their families. She didn’t believe his explanation any more than his father did.

That afternoon on the way home from work Christian remembered that he was low on eggs, bread and juice and didn’t have anything in his freezer that sounded appetizing for dinner. He quickly pulled into his local Safeway store and was pushing a cart through the produce section looking for greens for a salad when he heard a familiar voice. Looking up, he spied his friend, Rick, heading his way.

They did their typical slap and knuckle greeting. Rick thought Christian looked scrumptious as always. For a man who spent the majority of his time at a drawing desk he was all lean lines, definitely eye candy of the highest quality. He still looked fresh at fucking five o’clock in the afternoon, and Rick had this intuition that he would be a tiger in bed. Meow!

They exchanged the usual chatter about life, and Rick said, “So you went home with Skylar Norwood on Friday?”

Christian nodded with a deep blush, recalling the amused glint in Rick’s eyes as they left the club. He asked what that was about?

Rick had the grace to look concerned even though he was anything but. “Not to burst your bubble or anything, Christian, but Skylar is um… well, he’s kind of a slut. I hope you didn’t read anything serious into that night because he has a habit of breaking hearts right and left. His longest relationship was with Evan Black, the man who showed up at the club with him, and they only lasted four prickly weeks. Once he gets you into bed you’re history.”

Christian nodded. He thought as much and believed he’d prepared himself for the bad news, but it hurt. He kept hoping that sleeping with Skylar would cure him of his need for him, but so far all it was doing was making him ache more. Reminded of how he’d jacked off to his fantasy of Skylar, he felt his face get warm.

Rick saw the blush in the consternation that Christian couldn’t hide and realized that, against anything he might say, he was already in love with Skylar. Rick was firmly of the position that the best way to get over one man was to climb into bed with another. He’d lusted after Christian Adams since high school. What a shame he’d never given any of the gay boys there a chance at him. Come to think of it, wasn’t there some Sharlington High scandal about Christian and Skylar from before his time? He wanted to ask but it was none of his business. He could always get the information he craved elsewhere.

“Hey, don’t sweat it,” Rick said in false consolation, twisting the knife just a bit. “You’ve been warned off and that’s what matters. Not getting hurt by someone who just wants a one-off. I’m sure Skylar means well but he simply can’t commit. I feel sorry for him myself.”

“Well thanks,” Christian answered vaguely. He wanted to go home, make himself dinner and put all these dismal thoughts of Skylar to use in a new sketch.

“Say,” suggested Rick, moving so close to him he could count his freckles. “Let me take you out sometime soon. I’ll buy you dinner or we can catch a movie. What do you say?”

Christian tried to smile and brought up another one of his forced ones he was getting used to wearing. “Maybe some other time, Rick.” It seemed obscene to be speaking of Skylar and talking about going out on dates with someone else in the same breath.

Rick tried not to act disappointed but he was confident that at some point Christian was going to find a way into his bed. His answer was jaunty. “Okay, but you know I’ll keep asking.”

With another nod, Christian moved away. Something about Rick felt oily, and he was glad to finish his shopping and leave. He was also glad Rick didn’t know his address or cell number.

He thought about what he’d said about Skylar. Of course the man probably had a phone filled with the names and numbers of men he went out with on a rotating basis. He was gorgeous and sexy. Everyone would want to be seen with him and get invited home with him. He was under no illusions that Skylar would ever speak to him again, at least not pleasantly.

But he couldn’t in good conscience say it didn’t hurt. Christian was in love with him. Still, after all this time Skylar was the only one who had ever mattered enough for him to never give up on. He wanted to be special to him more than anything, to be lovers, not just his little brother’s best friend. He’d hungered after him with every beat of his heart for eight years.

Skylar spent the first four days of the week feeling wretched. Memory was a funny thing. When he tried to force himself to recall the events at the club, specifically what he and Christian had talked about, nothing happened. But reminders would unexpectedly come back to him at the most inopportune times, triggered by the oddest things.

He caught the scent of a spicy aftershave drifting past him as he exited a college classroom. It smelled like Christian’s which prompted the delicate vision of his response when Skylar asked about his virginity. He was inexperienced, which whole-heartedly surprised him, given that the younger man was twenty-three. Nevertheless, Skylar couldn’t rejoice in being the one chosen to relieve him of his virginity because it wasn’t a good memory— Christian’s innocence was something that Skylar had also taken from him. Even if it was his choice, he still felt guilty for bringing him to bed in the first place.

But damn, if looking back didn’t make Skylar’s cock begin to harden, and he had to hastily shuffle his books lower. There was no denying that Christian had learned fast and been an excellent lover whose strong feelings for him had shone through. Skylar groaned quietly at the uninhibited desire that coursed through him, forbidden though it was.

Why would Skylar desire a man who had knowingly lied to him? It still angered him that Christian had deceived him. Maybe he was that sensitive to be so hurt over his lack of courtesy. The look in his eyes, like lights going out, as he stood up when the men at the table greeted him and Skylar didn’t know who he was.

How do I get myself into these messes? he asked himself, and what am I going to do now? He wanted to kick himself for his stupidity. He wished someone had kicked him before he stepped foot in the club.

His conversation with Christian, like the visions of their fucking, was beginning to come back. It didn’t look like he knew beforehand that Skylar was gay and zeroed in on the specific question. When Skylar said he found out in high school ‘Chris’ got angry, but now his reaction was adequately explained because of the whole comic book and sketch thing. His irritation compelled Skylar to retreat from the first answer and explain further. That seemed to pacify him.

It was strange how right on the mark his brother was. Just like Christian hadn’t squealed on him back in high school, he wasn’t going to use Skylar’s lack of memory to embarrass him or retaliate. He didn’t give any indication of holding a grudge for eight years. He was thoughtful, sympathetic, even helpful. He could still hear his quiet words, “Surely he must understand that you were both kids and you deserve the benefit of the doubt.” He had extended that benefit.

Was it only sex that Christian had been looking for that night? Skylar recalled a startled memory of how the man had tried to leave when they finished talking about his past. He really had put him into a ‘damned if he did, damned if he didn’t’ position when he asked him to dance. Damned if he walked out and hurt Skylar’s feelings, damned if he didn’t by staying. No, wait a minute, his self-persevering half said; Christian put himself in that position.

He’d been sad about the confession and gave him comforting suggestions. An apology wasn’t needed, he said, and he was right because Skylar was already forgiven him. He wanted to stop the charade, but something in his own face changed Christian’s mind. Then he chose to go back to his place with him, knowing where it would lead. Maybe it was just about satisfying his lust, but Skylar didn’t think so. He had ignited Christian’s passion and it had taken them full circle.


On Thursday night Christian’s cell phone played the ringtone for unassigned numbers and he absently answered it without thinking. He was surprised by a deep voice saying, “Hello Christian.”

It was Gabe. In a panic, Christian instantly ended the call. He knew what Skylar’s brother wanted.

A few seconds later his phone buzzed with an incoming text message. ‘Don’t ignore me because of what happened with Sky. We need to talk.”

Fuck! Skylar had figured out it was him at the club and he’d talked to Gabe about it. Just great.

Christian knew, however, it was useless to brush him off. Not if he wanted to keep the two of them on sure footing. They had been tight for years, and he wasn’t about to relinquish their friendship over his problem with Skylar. He pushed in the digits.

“It’s good to know you haven’t lost all of your common sense, Christian,” Gabe snickered after greeting him. “But I admit I was a little surprised to hear you hooked up with my brother.”

“Don’t start,” Christian warned. “It’s not what you think.”

“Okay, then please explain it. I’ll listen, really I will, with an open mind. It’s just that Sky called me on Sunday all angry and freaked out over meeting you in a gay club in Sharlington and you didn’t tell him who you were. I didn’t even know you were in Sharlington so tell me what happened.”

Christian only had to hear that Skylar was upset about Friday night and all plans to come clean with Gabe vanished. Accepting the truth inwardly was much different than hearing it from an outside source. He began to babble and not much made sense except that he didn’t mean for it to happen.

“I didn’t know what to do when he showed up and didn’t know me. It’s not like I wanted to hurt him, and it wasn’t on purpose, but he didn’t even know who I fucking was. Then he started to talk about me, and I couldn’t explain myself. Not at that stage. Please just tell him I’m sorry. Very, very sorry. I’ll never bother him again, I promise.”

He hung up a second time, and Gabe, who could hear the dread in Christian’s voice as well as the threat of tears, deduced he was dealing with a shit-load of remorse and stress and didn’t even try again. What he didn’t say told Gabe as much as what he had.

“Hey Sky,” Gabe greeted his older brother minutes later. “Tell me some good news on the Christian front. What do you know?”

Skylar, who had been enjoying one of his rare nights where he had no pending tests to study for or homework to complete for his law school classes and was watching his favorite sitcom on television, resented the interruption. He didn’t want to think about Christian Adams tonight. “And this is your business why?”

“Because you, older brother, came to me for help and he’s my best friend,” Gabe sighed. Skylar was in a mood and going to be difficult.

“My memory is slowly coming back if that’s any help,” he said grudgingly.

“Good,” Gabe encouraged him, hoping the memories amounted to something and not liking the tone his brother was using. It didn’t bode well for his news. If it wasn’t for Christian… “I just got off the phone with your boyfriend… uh, sex partner… whatever. It was informative.”

“Oh yeah?” he asked skeptically. “And don’t call him that. We aren’t together.”

“Well, we all know you should be, but I’ll let that slide for now because I’m just being a meddling asshole brother.”

“You can say that again. How was Saint Christian tonight?” Skylar’s tone was snarky.

Gabe clenched his teeth to hold back a nasty retort. Skylar might have a reason to be angry but he was making this harder on everyone. Gabe’s sympathy was beginning to shift firmly into Christian’s corner.

“For now, I’ll reserve my opinion and get back to him later. Were you able to remember what you told him?”

“Yes, pretty much.” Skylar could feel his brother’s irritation rising and didn’t want to trigger a full-blown argument, one he’d probably lose. “We thrashed out the whole sketch blow-up, why it happened and how awful I felt afterwards. If it wasn’t for the drinking I probably would have realized something was up. He didn’t’ act like a stranger getting to know me. Not so much with the questions, but he was a good listener and encouraged me. You know, easy to communicate with… interested. I talked his ear off.”

Skylar broke down his returning memories into nitty-gritty detail. They triggered his anger and by the time he was finished he had pulled himself into an advanced case of self-pity. Gabe, who very concisely understood the difference in personalities between brother and best friend, was having none of it and finally, he couldn’t stand it anymore.

“Sky, shut the fuck up,” he barked into his phone. “Don’t say another word.”

The whining turned into silence. Realizing he had his brother’s full attention, Gabe went on. “You need to stop and focus, okay?”

“I guess I have no choice,” the older man muttered, seeing as how Gabe was determined to see this through. There wasn’t anything positive that could come out of it now. It was over and done.

Gabe led him back through his story. He’d heard the words; now he was gauging Christian’s reaction. Where Skylar had chosen to blame him, Christian internalized his feelings and blamed himself. Even wanting to play victim, Skylar ended honestly acknowledging how hard listening to him would have been from another perspective.

“More than the average person would be comfortable with, you think?”

“Oh yeah. At several points, if it had been me I would have walked away in disgust. He didn’t.”

Gabe snorted. “Has it ever occurred to you that you subconsciously recognized him? That the reason he was so easy to talk to was because deep down you needed to come clean with him and own up to what you’d done. You couldn’t do it sober, so your drunk side took charge.”

“Well, thank you Dr. Phil,” Skylar grumbled irritably.

“I just don’t understand why you’re still angry over this, Sky. Be grateful he doesn’t hate you the way you truly deserve.”

“Stop philosophizing, Gabriel,” Skylar huffed, warning very clear in his tight voice. “Nobody likes feeling as if you owe your soul to someone, particularly someone who idolizes you…”

“Moving on,” Gabe announced loudly to forestall an argument on the subject. “Anything else that’s pertinent to the discussion?”

“He said he was a virgin.”

Gabe was so not ready to go there and talk about Christian’s sex life behind his back, but maybe Skylar would benefit from a repeat of advice he’d given him before. “You shouldn’t be all that surprised. I told you it isn’t something he wouldn’t give up to just anyone because he’s in love with you. After the trauma from…”

Skylar didn’t want to be reminded of what his actions had done to Christian; he’d beaten himself up enough for hurting him. “I hope he got some peace out of last Friday,” he stated, but even he didn’t sound sure of himself. “Knowing why I did it and that I was sorry.”

“Maybe,” Gabe offered. “But he isn’t doing well. I spoke to him earlier and he knows he screwed up by not being honest over who he was and said to tell you he’s sorry.”

“We’re all sorry,” Skylar retorted dryly.

“Clearly some of more than others,” Gabe came back at him, “and I’m not talking about you either. Christian forgave you, so you need to forgive him too.”


Gabe’s voice was so low that Skylar couldn’t tell he was angry at first. “You are such a frustrating, stubborn shit, Sky, you know that? You can make fun of my so-called counseling skills all you want, but I tell you these things for your own good. First of all, you are twenty-six years old, not a teenager anymore. You need to stop mindlessly sleeping with every pair of pants that pops up on the horizon and settle down or you will never be happy. I might live five hundred miles away but I’m not stupid or blind.

“The last time we fought about Christian I went into some detail explaining why you two would be good together. You need the stability he has to offer and a balance to your aggressive side. He needs your strength, not that he’s weak, but he tends to get down on himself, which is partly your fault by the way. You would give him self-confidence. He’s very much in love with you, and if you weren’t so hard-headed, you would admit you love him too.”

“Don’t go telling me how to live my life,” Skylar warned menacingly.

“Someone has to, you asshole,” Gabe shouted. “Evidently, you’re doing such a damn fine job on your own. Getting so drunk that you didn’t even recognize the neighbor kid you lived next door to for fifteen years and then taking him home and fucking him? You have let your guilt and despair keep you from making amends and you use your anger as a shield. Maybe he screwed up last week but he’s the one coming apart over it. You just choose to stay mad. He handed you his forgiveness on a platter; what more do you need?”

“I don’t know,” Skylar rasped, annoyed and now wanting to end the call. He hated it when Gabe yelled at him, particularly when he was right. “I just wish Friday had never happened.”

“No, you don’t, bro, because even if you don’t feel any better now, eventually you will. That’s the great thing about forgiveness, it frees you. We all learn this in our critical thinking classes, but you need tto listen harder— do you want to be part of the problem or part of the solution? Only you can decide. You need to man up and forgive Christian too because as soon as it’s settled between you, I guarantee neither of you will regret it. This was meant to be and you know I’m right.”

Skylar wasn’t sure whether Gabe’s shrink abilities were in working order or not, but he wasn’t up to arguing anymore. He took a deep breath. “What does the good doctor suggest?”

“That’s easy,” Gabe replied with a smile. “Find Christian. Talk to those friends of yours who took him to the club and see if they can put you in touch with him.”

“Hey, you have his cell phone number so why…”

“Absolutely not.” Gabe was adamant. He might believe that Christian and Skylar were perfect for each other, but there was no way he was going to make an enemy of his best friend by giving out his number. He told Skylar as much and added, “Sharlington isn’t that big. If worse comes to worse you can always contact Kristy. But I’d go through local resources first.”

“Okay, “ Skylar shot back, “but if I can’t find anyone here to give me what I need I’m coming back to you. He paused a moment. “You totally missed your calling, kid. You should have been a shrink.”


Christian had almost made it to the weekend. He woke up on Friday morning gratefully realizing that it was the end of another week. He was still breathing and felt safer because Skylar, even though he knew the truth, hadn’t found him yet and stormed into the studio at Rawlins angrily demanding to settle the score. Maybe he shouldn’t have lost his nerve and hung up when he had the chance to ask Gabe questions. He had no idea whether the situation would end well, but he felt an emotional release of sorts.

Christian was getting by and beginning to relax. Skylar was hopefully processing all the facts, and he couldn’t stay angry forever. He hoped he found comfort in being absolved after all these years. Christian knew what to do. He would stay out of The Open Closet for the rest of his days, be careful at work and take it from there. The further away he placed himself, time-wise, the less the impact there should be, right? Time heals all wounds, or so they said. It didn’t make his own guilt any less but he could live with it.

And then his carefully constructed walls came crashing down when he was on his way to lunch. Rushing out the door at Rawlins and zigzagging between parked cars in the lot, he saw a familiar Ford pickup truck enter at the far end and start down the aisle in his direction. Christian had hastily ducked down, trying to make it look as if he was tying his shoe and hoping Skylar didn’t see him. He drove right on by, heading for the far driveway that would take him around the building, and Christian was left staring after him, fear mixed with longing. On second thought he realized, he was a fool to believe it would ever end well. Not as long as Skylar was within touching distance but so off-limits to him.

He managed to get through the rest of his day. Hungry and tired, not feeling much up to cooking, he decided to check at the supermarket for something easy to fix for dinner. Staring at packages of salmon fillets in the fresh fish case, he heard the easily-recognized but unwelcomed voice of Rick behind him. A hand brushed his ass.

“You know, Christian, if you would let me take you out tonight for a meal, it would solve two problems— pleasant company and what to eat.”

He turned around to see the man avidly checking him out and felt as if he’d become the meal if he accepted. “Thanks but not tonight, Rick. It’s been a long week and I’m tired.”

Rick shrugged and managed to keep himself from pleading. He was dying to fuck this man. “Suit yourself. You know where to find me.”

Unfortunately, Christian did. He wondered if he was going to have to find a new grocery store somewhat farther afield because it was as if Rick was stalking him here.

He went home to dissipate the tension with a short run before starting his meal. He pan-fried his salmon in butter and lemon juice, enjoying it with some stir-fry noodle salad he picked up in the service deli and a glass of pinot noir. Done with his leisurely dinner, he tackled the box he’d retrieved from his parents’ garage—the one that had his mangas and yaoi in it.

Everything was still as he’d packed it, looking a little worse for wear after nearly eight years. He perused the comics, laughing over his youthful interpretations of the anime. All jauntiness ended when he pulled his volumes of The Beat of My Heart forth and began to look through them. Every single edition had a picture of him and Skylar in intimate poses. Hell, chapter eight, the one he lost that day at school, wasn’t even the most explicit. In it, they were only kissing, thank god. Had Skylar found the fourth, sixth or seventh chapter, he would have beaten him to a pulp.

He never did learn what happened to his lost paperback. He had taken off for the bathrooms on the other side of the school, and by the time he headed towards home the lot was virtually empty and the yaoi was gone. It hadn’t mattered at the time given that the damage was already done, and since he never heard back from the administration, the book obviously wasn’t turned into the office. He shoved the rest in his closet, out of sight, out of mind, because all they did was bring up bad memories. He eventually heard that Kizumi Tomoko, the author, had written four or five more chapters but Christian didn’t have the heart to read them.

Repacking by title, he carefully taped the box and put it on the shelf in the extra bedroom closet until he could decide what to do with them. With a sigh, he realized he had outgrown them long ago. They might be valuable to a collector but they meant nothing to him.

That same evening found Skylar back at The Open Closet. He had little hope that Christian would show up, but Rick, MJ and Toby typically held court at their usual table, and he wasn’t wrong. He sidled up to eager greetings and an invitation to sit down.

“I’m looking for Christian Adams,” he said after making idle talk for a few minutes. “He was here last week and left with me; tallish guy with light brown hair and blue eyes. Do any of you know him?”

“Fuck, Skylar,” MJ laughed uproariously. “You must be losing your golden touch if you let one of your lays get away from you without asking for his number.” Everyone joined in with the ribbing, and even Skylar grinned.

Toby looked at Rick. “He came in with you, right?”

Rick nodded slowly, nursing a rum and Coke and perplexed by Skylar’s attention. He was a love ‘em and leave ‘em kind of guy who never inquired about his past lovers. When did that change? Ah, he must see the same attraction in Christian that was evident to a lot of men. Well, Skylar wasn’t going to get him. That the man was hunting him down enraged Rick, especially since Christian had expressed interest back.

“As a matter of fact, he did arrive with me,” Rick began truthfully. “It was just a random run-in last week while doing errands. I looked up and there he was.”

Rick gave Skylar a dark, piercing glance that spoke of jealous possessiveness. “But I can’t give you his contact info because that’s private. Christian and I have gotten together a couple times this past week and we’re dating. The only reason he didn’t come with me tonight is because he had a long week at the office and was tired. Sorry, Skylar, but you lost your chance with him.”

Skylar all but gaped at Rick. He didn’t want to believe it; not after Friday night, not after the forgiveness Christian had professed and certainly not after the way his brother’s best friend had been pining for him for the past eight years… if he was to assume that Gabe was telling the truth. He suddenly wanted to believe Gabe. For the first time, believing him meant everything in the world to Skylar.

“So Rick,” he said irritably, noticing with satisfaction the surprised glances Rick’s announcement was receiving from MJ and Toby. They plainly didn’t know he was dating Christian ether. “If your boyfriend is at home recovering from stress and is too tired to go clubbing, why aren’t you with him?”

“We both know Christian is a nice guy,” Rick smirked. “He didn’t want to keep me from having fun on a Friday night. He told me to enjoy myself because he was going to bed early.”

Yeah, that sounded exactly like Christian, Skylar reflected sourly. He just didn’t get the part where Christian changed allegiances so fast. He was with Rick? Scumbag of Sharlington Rick? The guy who oozed smarm and was well-known for cheating on his numerous boyfriends. His last live-in had found him in their bed with the cute new pool boy. What an awful fate for Christian, but if this was his decision, he certainly wouldn’t appreciate Skylar, of all people, lecturing him about love.

Rick studied Skylar over the rim of his glass and smiled inwardly. His scam was working and the man had backed down. Unhappily, by the scowl on his face, but even so. He would retreat, leaving Christian in the clear to be pursued. He almost chortled in glee when Skylar stood up, said his stiff goodbyes and slammed out of the club.

Christian stewed all weekend over what to do about Skylar. It wasn’t like he could leave Sharlington. He had just begun his job at Rawlins so asking for a transfer to another branch was out of the question. He had another ten months left on his apartment lease and the terms of the rental document specified no sub-letting. Besides, he was tired of running and hiding. Maybe it would even be better to seek out Skylar and just get it over with. He was sick of acting depressed.

Gabe called him Sunday afternoon. Christian had recently returned from a three-mile jog up the canal to clear his head. Getting out of the shower when his cell rang and his waist wrapped in a fluffy towel, he followed the sound and snagged the phone before the caller hung up.

“You’re out of breath,” the deep voice accused in amusement. “But since it’s you, I don’t have to try to fabricate excuses that don’t involve sex.”

“Asshole,” Christian pronounced. “I was trying to find my damn phone.”

“You seem to be in a better mood than the other night at least,” Gabe laughed. “Now that you calmed down, do you mind telling me what you’re doing in Sharlington when the last time we spoke to each other you were determined to stay in New York?”

“It’s called running out of the green stuff needed to pay rent and buy food. I couldn’t find work in the tri-state area or, frankly, anywhere else either. I got offered a job here and snapped it up. The economy sucks, Gabe.”

“Tell me about it. I’m having the same trouble here. I might have to move home to make ends meet once my student teaching gig is over.”

Despite Gabe’s pessimistic forecast, Christian pounced on the idea. “Hey, instead of shacking up with the ‘rents you could come live with me. My place is two bedroom. You would probably also have it easier finding a school around here to teach in. Sacramento’s metropolitan area has to be bigger than Eugene.”

“It is, by quite a large margin,” Gabe agreed, pleased at Christian’s invitation and the positive way he seemed to be recovering from his ordeal. “Thanks, I’ll give it a thought. So what about you? Tell me what you do.”

Keeping the name of his employer under wraps, Christian explained the artwork he drew and the clients he worked with. Gabe could hear the pride in his voice and wondered at the way what seemed like a hobby for his friend as a child had become an enjoyable occupation. Christian was lucky in a lot of ways except for his personal life.

“Have you heard from Skylar?” he broached cautiously, hoping he didn’t catapult him back into doom and gloom again.

“What, you don’t know?” Christian mocked, but there was an edge of teasing too. “I thought you two were like twins who were accidentally born in different years and you could telepathically read his mind.”

“Sorry, but my mind-reading manual is in a box in Mom and Dad’s garage along with with my coin collection and all the cute stuffed animals my ex-girlfriends thought I’d like.” They both chuckled. “Christian, tell me seriously what’s going on. You sounded pretty desperate on Thursday night.”

Christian took a deep breath. “I’ll assume you listened to Skylar’s side. Mine is that I was invited to the new club here by some guy we used to go to high school with. He’s gay, and I don’t know anyone here and it sounded like fun. Then your brother walks up with some guy who used to be his boyfriend. First off, I didn’t even fucking know Skylar was gay, so part of that shit is on your head, dude, because you should’ve told me at some point, don’t you think?”

Gabe was shocked. “I told you, I must have. I’ve known for three years, and I’m sure it came up in a conversation.”

“Well, if you can pinpoint one, tell me about it because I had no idea. He was behind me at the club. I heard his name, and I couldn’t believe it was him. Even worse, when I turned around, he didn’t recognize me.”

“So you pretended to be a stranger…” Gabe added. Slowly but surely he heard the details of that night; although, Christian glossed over the part where Skylar invited him back to his place and they ended up in bed together. Gabe could easily see how his friend had only thought to spare Skylar his feelings and later felt trapped by his confession. “You were in a definite bind.”

“And I wanted him,” Christian admitted in a low voice. “I wanted to be with Skylar for my first time and miraculously there he was. If he didn’t know it was me, so much the better because he didn’t have to be concerned about messing with the twerp he grew up with or worry about our fucked up past. It might make me sound cold to have taken advantage, but in a lot of ways he was the best night of my life.”

“It’s not cold, Christian, to want to be with the one you love. Hearing all that from him…”

“Changes some things,” he cut in evenly. “I know why he got mad in high school. How confused he felt and why he overreacted. He could have handled it differently by not calling me out in public, but we were both immature kids. It’s in the past, and I forgave him a long time ago. Now he knows. The rest is up to him.”

Gabe shook his head wishing that Skylar could hear this from him. Christian made it sound so damned simple. How much he was still in love with his brother vibrated through the phone. Unfortunately, there was that damned inflexibility of Skylar’s…

Gabe was trying to convince Skylar of just that when he called that evening. He was in a bad mood from lack of sleep, pressure to locate Christian and the way Rick’s disheartening statement kept circling through his brain every ten minutes. Apart from the dickhead who claimed to be Christian’s new boyfriend and refused to help him he couldn’t come up of a single idea.

Gabe let him rant about Rick and the lack of directory assistance the 411 operator provided and how he’d begun looking up companies in the area who used graphic artists. For the life of him, Skylar was a difficult one to follow. He was clear about Rick’s intentions though.

“I don’t believe it. Christian loves you, Sky. Unless he thinks he has no chance with you, and that’s not the impression I got earlier today, he wouldn’t just latch on to someone else. He called you the best night of his life.”

“He did?” Skylar grinned happily at the praise even if he wasn’t sure he was worthy. He honestly didn’t know when he stopped being so angry at Christian and started worrying about him and how this mess was affecting him. Part of it was the idea of leaving him to Rick’s selfishness. Christian didn’t deserve that. He wasn’t sure he was the best person for him either, but he certainly wouldn’t treat him like a disposable sex toy.

The hopeful question shocked Gabe to the core. Skylar actually sounded happy that Christian liked him, so maybe wishes did come true. “What are your plans?”

Of that Skylar was sure. “Find Christian somehow. If I don’t locate him by Wednesday I’m going to call Mom and get the Adams’s telephone number. I know Kristy will give me his number… even if you won’t.”

“Come on, Sky, don’t be that way.” His pleading had the effect he wanted, and Skylar was able to see his point of view. They decided he would be the last resort, but Gabe hoped he could pull off finding him without his having to cough up the phone number. Just a little more time.

The next day Skylar was pulling into the Rawlins Industries parking lot after a terse morning of university classes. He was tired, bad-tempered and discouraged by his failure because it seemed no matter what he did, he couldn’t find Christian. If he knew more about Rick, he’d stalk him and let him lead him to him. He didn’t want to get parents involved.

The January rains had been fierce in central California and part of the lot was closed as potholes were being refilled and the section prepared for resurfacing. Skylar had to pull forward and turn down a lane he normally didn’t use to get to the back lot.

He let his mind drift a little and happened to glance out the side window as he passed a dark blue Chevy Trailblazer with out of state license plates. Within a sea of iridescent white tags with the setting sun and big red ‘California’ logo on top and the large blue number and letter combinations, anything different was eye-catching.

Skylar came to a complete stop. The white and blue plates with Niagara Falls in the upper left corner and The Empire State scripted along the bottom were from New York.

What were the chances?

Leaving his engine running and carefully setting his parking brake, Skylar hopped out of his truck and approached the SUV. There was no identification anywhere inside, naturally, but there was a large sketch portfolio in the back seat. Oh my god, this had to be Christian’s vehicle. Almost positive he’d found him, Skylar’s day instantly brightened and he wanted to jump up and down in glee. How crazy that he worked at Rawlins!

Skylar found the closest empty parking place and started hiking through the building to get to the legal division on the other side. He passed the graphic design office and nearly went in but he didn’t want to frighten Christian. There were other ways to prove his suspicions.

His starting time for work was flexible so he dropped by Human Resources to ask after him. A young woman sat at her desk filing her nails in boredom and took several seconds to look up at him. “Yeah?” she finally asked. “Do you need help?”

“I’d like some information about a friend,” he replied. “I’ve known him since we were kids but I think he’s a new-hire in the Graphic Arts Department.”

“I’m sorry,” she said in a condescending tone. “We can’t give out information on our employees.”

“But I work here too,” he protested. “It’s just that he moved to the area recently. All I need is for you to confirm he’s here at Rawlins.”

“That would be giving out private information,” she stated with a smug grin, obviously enjoying the power she had over him.

At that moment a door in the rear of the office opened and an elderly man appeared holding a mug of coffee. It was Mr. Pinkler, the HR supervisor who had worked for the Rawlins’ company since the early days, and he was a longtime family friend.

“Skylar, my boy,” he said with a huge smile. “How are you?”

“I’m good,” he grinned back. “I’m over at legal now and getting my degree in May.”

“Yes, I heard. Congratulations. What brings you here?”

Skylar glanced uneasily between Mr. Pinkler and the young secretary and took the plunge. “You must remember Ted Adams in accounting? He’s been at the new branch in Oakland for the past four years. I think his son, Christian, works here now, and I’m trying to find out if it’s true. We used to be neighbors, and I’d like to look him up.”

Mr. Pinkler laughed. “I don’t even need to check the files since I handled Christian’s paperwork myself. Graphic artist, right? Yes, he’s here.”

Relief and elation swept through Skylar and he swallowed hard to keep the emotion at bay. “Thanks, Mr. Pinkler,” he breathed as he moved towards the door. “Thanks a lot.”

Location settled, that left confronting him. He knew Christian, like most of the white-collar employees, would be leaving work at 4:30. Skylar wasn’t scheduled to quit until nearly seven to give him the most hours he could handle. He hoped maybe he could beg off early for a change. It had been months since he took a personal or sick day. Headache— he felt a headache coming on.

At 4:35 Christian swung through the big outer doors of Rawlins and said his goodbyes to Louis and Belinda, heading towards the aisle where he usually parked his car. From a distance he could see a tall man leaning casually up against his back fender with his arms crossed. As he advanced he noticed the blonde hair first and then the amused smirk on his face.

Christian stopped six feet from Skylar and gulped, his face going red.

“Hello, Christian. Or should I call you ‘Chris’?”

Christian ducked his head in embarrassment but there was no hiding or a place to run here out in the open. He would not cry. He was caught and it was time to own up to what he’d done. “I’m sorry, Skylar,” he said in a tiny voice. “Sorry for the lie and tricking you. For everything.”

Skylar noticed how Christian closed in on himself, the pinkness of his cheeks making his freckles stand out. His hands were shaking, and it was clear he fully expected to be shouted at or worse. But neither fear nor retribution was what he wanted.

“I hope not for everything,” Skylar said softly, pushing himself away from the vehicle and striding towards him. “There are a couple things I could name that I’m not sorry for at all.”

Christian watched as Skylar moved at him with purpose. He stopped right in front of him, close enough to touch. He didn’t look angry or sad. He looked… somewhat nervous… scared maybe, which surprised Christian a lot. He never imagined Skylar as scared.

“First of all, I’d like you to answer an important question for me. I went to The Open Closet on Friday night hoping one of the guys could tell me where to find you. Rick Cortez says you’re together.”

Christian’s head came up and his eyes burned. “Rick Cortez can go to hell. He has been stalking me ever since he found out where I shop for groceries, and no matter what I do I can’t get rid of him. We are not together.”

Grinning like a fool, Skylar let himself relax and his eyes began to sparkle, making his entire face glow. “Thank you for clearing that up. That takes us to the next…”

In one swift move he grabbed Christian by the front of his shirt and pulled him forward the ten or so inches separating so they stood toe to toe. The shorter man was startled but didn’t fight the aggressive summons, raising his blue-gray eyes up to lock with Skylar’s mocha ones. What he saw took his breath away. Desire brimming alongside love and warring with doubt. Not doubt in Christian, but hesitation in going forwards, like it was something foreign and too new to trust.

Christian threw an arm around Skylar’s neck and threaded his fingers through the magnificent blonde hair he’d been dreaming of nightly. Skylar didn’t pull back which was a good sign but he looked even more scared now. Still staring into his eyes, Christian lifted on his toes, gently pulling his lover’s mouth down on his to meet halfway. Soft lips parted and tongues swirled together, first lazily and then more insistent.

There in the parking lot in front of Rawlins employees hurrying home from a long day’s work they kissed as if they were the only ones in the world. They heard catcalls coming from the opposite end of the lot and ignored them.

It was the second most wonderful kiss of Christian’s life. Caring and tender yet possessive, leaving no question what Skylar wanted from him and, in a liberating release of emotion, it emptied him of anxiety and fear. Skylar didn’t hate him. He wasn’t angry or vindictive. Christian clung to him, opening himself to the kiss to wrap his arms tightly around his back and shoulders. He tasted so good. Breathing was optional.

“God, I love you,” Skylar whispered against his lips, holding him so closely that Christian’s entire vision was filled up with just the taller man. “So much, Christian, so much.”

Tears filled Christian’s eyes and he wasn’t ashamed of them. “I love you too, Sky. The past ten days have been terrible. I was so afraid I drove you away and then…”

“I’m sorry I made you afraid, beautiful.” Skylar rested his forehead on Christian’s darker head. “I’ve been an ass about so many things… for far too long.”

“It’s okay.” Christian rose up to kiss him again, his hand sweeping escaping hair back from his face. “We have both acted like asses. So let’s just say we’re even and stop worrying about it.”

“Start over?” He gave Christian a light brush of his lips. “Clean slate?” Another brush of his lips. “Even the score?”

“Yes, yes and yes,” Christian answered with a heated look that was dark with intent. He wasn’t positive how it happened, but he was going to get his second chance with Skylar. They moved tighter into each others’ embrace and nestled their bodies. Their cocks fit together like adjacent puzzle pieces and began to stiffen in a much too public venue. He cupped Skylar’s cheek and planted his mouth firmly on his.

A cacophony of whistles from around them now, most people staring at them happily. A few cheers while someone behind them yelled Skylar’s name in a singsong voice.

“We should probably take this home,” Skylar suggested hoarsely, his face reddening. This was all so new to him and he didn’t want to pop up on some Youtube video of him kissing Christian.

Christian glanced around at the people watching them. “Come over to my apartment. It’s probably a little closer than yours.”

Skylar smiled, stroking his cheek. “Okay.” He still sounded a little nervous.

“I’ll make dinner for us, and then we can… uh… talk or… or, whatever.”

Skylar nodded with a hoarse chuckle and now he was the one leering greedily. “Whatever sounds good to me, Chris, so your place then.” Laughing harder as his new boyfriend rolled his eyes. “I love you, you know.”

“I must love you too if I let you get away with that… for now.”

“Okay, let’s go.”

Somehow they managed to make it to their vehicles with a minimum lack of modesty, and Skylar’s Ford followed Christian out of the lot. During the entire drive onto the freeway, off at the third exit into Sharlington and through familiar city streets towards the downtown he kept asking himself if he was being wise. The relationship in his junior year of college was more like a friends with benefits arrangement than real passion and now he didn’t know what he was doing. Not where he wanted to protect his partner’s feelings as much as he wanted to his own.

But all he had to do was watch Christian alight from his SUV and point to a visitor’s parking spot in front of the last building in the apartment complex, and he knew he was hooked. Gabe had been right. He hated to admit it, only because they were naturally competitive siblings and he didn’t want to acknowledge his younger one was also the smarter one in this case, but Christian was under his skin. Skylar liked him there.

At some point during those terrible two months around his high school graduation he had unwittingly fallen in love with the neighbor kid. His feelings had slowly germinated inside until last week’s encounter, like a sudden spring thaw, provided the warmth that allowed them to bloom. He saw it clearly and even though he was a little anxious because of the unfamiliarity, he had no doubt about what he felt for Christian.

He followed him up the sidewalk to his unit, watching Christian’s trembling hands in dismay as he fumbled to unlock his front door and get them inside. Skylar hoped he wasn’t regretting this.

Christian allowed him to pass around him as he locked the door behind. Spinning around, he planted the palm of his hand to his sternum and shoved Skylar hard against the wall. He stepped right up to him, lust darkening his blue-gray eyes, and curled his fingers into his long hair to hold him still. Bodies flush, each could feel the other’s heat and awakening flesh through their pants.

Christian’s assault on his mouth was instant and savage. Open lips slid warm and wet against plump, closed ones, and his tongue eagerly pressed the seam to demand entry. Skylar parted his lips, and Christian was there at once, sucking and licking the roof of his mouth to a medley of low moans. His senses were swimming and neither could breathe.

Panting, Skylar gently pushed him back. “Slow down, beautiful.”

“I can’t,” Christian husked, his face pleading while he tried to bat the restraining hand away from his shoulder. “I can’t wait. I’ve only been with one man my whole life. One hot, sexy man in the best time I ever had, and it wasn’t enough.”

He stroked Skylar’s face and stared right into his mocha eyes. “You make me so horny and now that you know who I really am it’s even better. I’ve been jacking off all week to memories of you.”

The desire was contagious, fueled by the same fantasies, and Skylar let the sweet words of need flow over him. He had never been anyone’s best time before.

“Oh, if that’s the case,” he teased gently, his own eyes going black.

He quickly whirled around to pin Christian to the wall and swooped in for a punishing kiss. Their tongues battled fiercely— sucking rough and hard. Not in the way a man kissed a woman but violently laying claim. Touching, craving contact, their warm hands roamed across the steamy planes and ridges of muscle, and Christian still couldn’t get enough. Skylar was here with him, when he could be anywhere else, but he’d made his choice. He’d come for him. To claim him and to love him.

Christian was a sensual feast. Damn, he raised the bar on sexy with the way he writhed around him like a second skin. His cock was already filling his jeans in an aching, steely column, and when Skylar strained into his body, his own erection felt like it was throwing off sparks at the colliding friction. He could see the reckless inferno in Christian’s shadowed eyes… how much he needed him, and it felt fucking good to be needed.

Fingers wrapped themselves in Skylar’s disheveled hair and tugged on clothing, building their excitement. Simultaneously they reached for each others’ shirts and stripped them over their heads. They puffed and panted and stared at each other in challenge from inches away and watched sweat glisten on their torsos, drops wending southward.

Christian flicked the ring in Skylar’s left nipple, making him groan. Christian smiled and his resolve was plain when he eyed his prize. Grasping him by the hips he carefully steered Skylar backwards through the apartment and into his bedroom. Denim-covered calves hit the side of the bed and wish a gentle push, he went down with Christian straddling him. Skylar glanced up at his flushed, wanton face with its unswerving goal and shivered.

“You are mine,” Christian growled. “Always and forever mine. It took me too long to get you here to lose you. Don’t ever forget it.”

“I won’t,” Skylar whispered in a dusky voice. He didn’t know when his new boyfriend morphed into this strong, possessive man, but he really liked it. He liked things equal in the bedroom, and now that he had a little experience going for him, Christian would be no pushover.


Although smaller than him, Christian stretched his body over his and began to caress every inch of him. Lips nuzzled behind his ears and against his throat, teeth nipping his skin in small bruise-like bites. It was erotic and arousing, leaving Skylar breathing heavy, his engorged cock trying to remind him it didn’t like being confined in the too small crotch of his khakis. Then Christian went after his nipples, chewing and tonguing the rings, and he thought he would go out of his mind. He was too worked up but at the same time he didn’t want it to end.

Christian scooted down to rest beside his hips. In one solid move, he reached over and pulled his pants open. A second yank removed the fabric from his legs, and his cock reared up thick and impressive from the bed of golden pubic curls. The round head was an angry tawny-red and completely retracted from the foreskin. Skylar spread his thighs waiting to see what he would do. Giving Christian a hazy smile, he stroked his shaft watching it dip and bob, and he moaned.

Christian leaned over him and gently touched him, enjoying the time to thoroughly explore. He slid his hand up and down along the pole and he could feel Skylar’s pulse there. It was hard like steel enclosed in the softest satin, and he loved the crispness of his wiry curls against his fingers. The cock jerked from the exquisite pleasure of his touch as he stroked it, curious and lustful, his eyes drawn to its beauty. Christian knew that very soon it would be moving inside him but for now he wanted a true taste, a better one than the sip Skylar let him have the week before.

Christian used his other hand to gently lift and massage his swollen balls, and Skylar grunted in pleasure, his head moving against the covers in frantic anticipation. A bubble of pearly white precum welled up from the small slit in the head of his throbbing cock. Bending over, Christian sucked it onto his tongue, his eyes finding Skylar’s and holding them. He stared him down as he opened his mouth, placing the head against his tongue, and Skylar moaned, his face going dreamy. He found the sensitive spot along the ridge and gently stroked it, making his erection buck wildly. He moaned again.

Christian opened his mouth wider, sinking downwards to cover the head and an inch or so of his shaft. He knew there was no way he would get all eight inches in his mouth, and he used his hand to ride the hilt, sliding up and down the foreskin as he bobbed rhythmically. Each time Christian slid a little lower on his cock until it filled his mouth. His tongue wrapped around to stroke the responsive underside before darting over his hole to collect more precum.

Slurping on the head caused Skylar’s whole body to stiffen. His fingers tightly gripped the back of Christian’s head until he was carefully fucking his mouth with each roll of his hips. Skylar was almost beyond consciousness, the blowjob giving him the most intense pleasure he’d had in a long time, and he couldn’t help but groan loudly. Christian was already a master at this.

Skylar felt the upswing that signaled his orgasm was near. “Squeeze my balls,” he cried frantically, thrashing on the bed below. Christian reached down and gently manipulated both testes with his free hand, and Skylar whimpered. He was so close, just teetering over the thin edge.

“Fuck, that feels so good,” he gasped. “I need to cum, Chris, make me cum.” Making his mouth a vacuum, Christian sucked hard and pulled him over. “Oh, I’m…” Skylar arched up off the bed and he threw his head back in ecstasy.

Christian felt a scalding stream of thick liquid shoot from his rigid member into the back of his mouth and he swallowed reflexively, taking each release of semen with joy. His whole body thrummed with pleasure at what he had accomplished as he watched Skylar light up from the inside, eyes closed tightly, his breathing tortured and sweat pouring off his torso. It was too much to witness, and with a strained sigh of rapture, his own cock convulsed and he came in his jeans.

After meticulously cleaning Skylar up, Christian lay down next to him on the bed. Skylar looked dazed and sleepy, and with effort he reached over and swept his fingers across the handsome face he was growing to adore. “Your turn next,” he said.

Christian blushed bright red. “Um… it may be… uh, a little too late.”

At first not understanding, Skylar at last looked down at the front of his jeans and saw the growing wet spot. “Oh, beautiful,” he gasped with a smile and gathering him in his arms. “You got that from blowing me? That is so fucking hot.”

He insisted that Christian take off his jeans which were sticking wet and rapidly cooling to his crotch anyway, and with wide strokes of his tongue he cleaned his cum off. Skylar loved the smoothness of his shaved groin, the tiny hairless ridges of his sac and how his cock, even with its recent release, was already growing and hardening in his mouth. So, while he was at it…

Skylar wasted no time. He began by kissing his thighs as his hands pushed them up and open and his nose lifted up on his balls. His tongue washed down the perineum, and Christian felt a curious jump inside him like he’d been touched by a live wire. More licks that gradually made their way down to his tightly closed star, and he wondered what Skylar was up to. Then he felt the tip of that small, wet muscle trying to make its way in, and he began to moan. Over and over Skylar licked and sucked at his hole, slowly opening it, and he took Christian’s cock in his hand and began to pump it. His hips drew back and tilted forward under Skylar’s ministrations, and minutes later he was crying out and cumming in ropes across his abdomen.

Skylar watched in fascination, wondering how he got so lucky to have Christian as his boyfriend. So bright and responsive, so eager to please, beautiful in his release, he was someone to be treasured. Skylar only hoped he was up to the challenge.

Christian looked at Skylar through his hooded eyes and stroked his jaw lovingly. “Fuck me, Sky. Please? I want to feel you inside me.”

He didn’t need to ask twice. Christian showed him where the lube and condoms were, and he settled down to business. His lover was already partially opened up and very relaxed, and within minutes he had three of Skylar’s fingers inside him. Every plunge inside raked his prostate until he was babbling mostly nonsensical phrases involving please and hurry. He hurriedly rolled the condom down his shaft and applied lube.

“On your back, beautiful,” Skylar commanded. His cock was hot and pulsating, achingly hard already. He stuffed a pillow under his hips and pushed Christian’s feet up to his shoulders. Taking his stance on his knees behind him he leaned forward and slowly fed his erection into his loosened bud. Christian lay beneath him letting his mind drift and relished the slight burn and full feeling in his ass. He was making love with the man he’d loved forever and he felt at peace.

Skylar rotated his hips and sunk very slowly inside with small thrusts until he was seated. Christian smiled up at him with such trust and faith he made his heart stutter. He nodded at him to wordlessly indicate he wasn’t in pain and grabbed his hand, entwining their fingers together. “You feel really good, so tight,” Skylar groaned, beginning to drive harder. Christian stared into his provocative mocha eyes and rocked back into him. Connected by more than just a physical bond, they were now part of each other.

For several minutes all that could be heard was the slap of flesh and moans coming from the two men. Instinct took over, Skylar pumped into Christian, and they found their rhythm. Christian could feel each inch of his cock sliding back and forth inside, stroking nerve endings that started as a small spark and grew in passion. Their bodies became slick with sweat and heat, dripping from Skylar to pool in the hollows on Christian’s torso.

“Harder, Sky,” Christian begged. “Faster and harder.” He ground his pelvis against him to reestablish a quicker pace.

Skylar leaned down to kiss Christian. Groaning into his ear, he took up the challenge, thrusting back strongly against him. Christian’s cock, straight and hard, was caught between their bodies and began to flutter against the resistance of wetness and heat. He whimpered into his shoulder, nipping at his salty skin. “Oh, fuck!” he moaned. “Oh, yes cumming now.”

He went off like a skyrocket, and even after his third orgasm, he still had enough semen to leave several short lines between their stomachs. Muscles in his abdomen and thighs quaked and his ass clenched in hard spasms that squeezed the life out of Skylar’s cock and flipped him too.

“Christian,” he screamed, arching into him, his whole being feeling as if it was turning inside out in delight. Then he, too, was spurting his release and filling the condom before collapsing onto Christian.

They fell asleep until Skylar’s shrinking dick and the slight discomfort of a heavier body on him woke up Christian, and his stretching revived Skylar. They rolled together side by side, cuddling.

“It’s 6:20,” Skylar announced, looking at the alarm clock. “Should we go pick up something to eat or would you like to go out?”

“I’m too worn out to cook,” Christian smiled. “How does Mexican sound? There’s an inexpensive café around the corner that serves authentic Baja fare.”

“Good. I haven’t had decent tacos in awhile.”

“Okay, because I really don’t want to go to the store.”

“You don’t sound happy about that,” Skylar proposed. “What, did you have a bad shopping experience. Someone squeeze your butt instead of the cantaloupe?”

“Something like that.” Christian remembered Rick’s blatant hitting on him, but his anger at the man was tempered by hilarious visuals from Skylar’s question and he had to giggle. “That’s where I keep running into Rick. It’s like he haunts the place. Maybe I’m just unlucky and he has the same routine as me, stopping at night after work for food. It’s a little unnerving and he gives me the creeps.”

Skylar put an arm around his shoulders. “I’m glad to hear you say that. When he told me last Friday you two were together I got worried. He’s a predator and none too faithful either. He might act like he loves you now, but you would have ended up the flavor of the week.”

“Funny, but he kind of said the same thing about you.”

“Guilty as charged… to an extent,” Skylar smiled ruefully. “Except for in college, I have never had a long-term boyfriend before. I didn’t want one. But I don’t cheat. Ever.”

“That’s nice to know,” Christian replied, seriously wondering how he could have believed Rick. Ah, but that was part of the agenda, wasn’t it. To put Skylar in a bad light so Christian would walk away from him. It was a good thing it didn’t work.

They got up and dressed for dinner. Even though it was nippy outside they walked to the café, and Skylar seemed to enjoy the way Christian’s apartment was so close to everything. Slowly over their meal of tacos, beans and rice, they began to discuss their future. Skylar only had a month left on his lease, and even though it was early in their relationship, both felt that it was time to move on with their lives together.

They were lying in Skylar’s bed that night, naked and cuddled up against each other after another amazing round of making love. Christian was watching the stars peeking through a slatted edge of blind while Skylar nibbled on his neck and sighed happily. He was in a romantic mood which was unusual for him.

“I got you forever, Chris.”

“I have you too. And it’s Christian, remember? For the thousandth time.” Despite his insistent protest, he had a funny feeling he was not going to win this one, and he smiled into Skylar’s side.

He was right. “Chris,” Skylar said firmly with a laugh. “Remember, you told me to call you that.”

Christian… Chris took a deep breath and released it, narrowing his eyes in a fake frown. “If you insist, I suppose. But only in private. I draw the line if someone else starts saying it.”

Skylar squeezed him tight with a loud chuckle. “Agreed.” He thought a moment. “We probably should call someone tomorrow morning.”

Christian knew exactly who he was talking about. “Gabe, right?”

Skylar nodded firmly. “He deserves to know since he more or less brought us together. Talked some sense into my thick head.”

Secretly thinking, thank god for little brothers and best friends, Christian smiled at him bravely. This was suddenly a serious discussion and he wanted to make whatever was going to happen with Skylar worked. He had loved him for far too long and didn’t want anything to go wrong.

“So what do we do next?” he asked quietly.

Skylar paused a moment in thought. “We get used to each other and fall more in love. I want forever and I think you do too. You stay put and I trust you. I focus and you balance me. No more running.” He held his breath awaiting his lover’s answer.

Christian looked him straight in the eye, knowing so much hinged on his reply. “I want forever too and won’t run away again, I promise. I’m tired of running.”

“Good. I won’t drive you away either, Christian. Never again. All this hiding our feelings from each other is bullshit anyway. We’re been going around in circles for almost eight years. Let’s stand still for a change.”

“I can do that.” Christian kissed him tenderly. “I want to do that.”

“We can try just being in love with each other without the drama,” Skylar stated, running his fingers through Christian’s short hair and drinking in the clean scent of herbal body wash. He wanted to make sure they were on the same page and was thrilled to see him relax into his suggestions as if he needed guidelines. It put a lot of responsibility into Skylar’s court but he could handle it.

“That sounds like a great idea,” Christian smiled and gave him another light kiss.

“I love you, Chris.”

“Love you back, Sky.”

Gradually they fell asleep, both at peace with themselves and each other. Challenges would come and go, but seeing through them together beat alone any day of the week. In coming years, the whole yaoi incident would cease to be the ego-scarring, death-of-love rant it had begun as. As they would tell their children and grandchildren in a more humorous, slightly watered-down version, the fight in the parking lot was the birth of their relationship. Christian knew it was there all along, but it took Skylar awhile to see it.

It didn’t matter, however, since they ended up in the same place at the same time. Loving life, enjoying their family and friends, teaching the young and growing old. Sleeping together to the beats of their hearts.

The End.

© 2013 by Janelle Caves