Rough Boys: Runaway

roughboys1-Runaway

Free download of mobi, ePub or PDF available from Divergent Publishing or your favorite online bookstore.

Fair Warning: This book is the first of the Rough Boys trilogy. It is a trilogy, not a series. In other words, this is not a complete novel on its own–you’ll need to read the other two to get to the end of the story. Books two and three in the trilogy are available from Divergent Publishing and most major online retailers. They are priced at $3.99 each.

Copyright © J. Vaughn, 2013

This is a copyrighted work of fiction. All rights reserved. Violators will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

____________________________________________________________________________

A runaway, a dreamer, a gorgeous femme … are they rough enough to survive the brutal city?

Ty is only seventeen when he flees in terror from his homophobic father, but surviving on the streets is more difficult than he could possibly have imagined. When bad choices send Ty spiraling toward ruin, can he be saved by love?

Dani leaves home with stars in his eyes but his feet on the ground, fully expecting his road to success to be long and difficult. What he doesn’t expect is to fall head-over-heels in love with a gorgeous, self-centered rock star. Can Dani find happiness with the arrogant Englishman or will his heart be broken?

Kaeden is banished by his conservative Asian parents when he comes home with extreme hair, false eyelashes, and glittering fingernails. He naively accepts a position with a male escort service, dreaming of fancy parties and wealthy men. Instead he finds himself playing Russian roulette with his heart.

This gritty urban romance follows the lives of these three young men as they forge strong bonds of friendship in spite of, or maybe because of, the challenges they face.

Publisher’s Notes: This story contains content which may be offensive to some readers: extreme violence, substance abuse, offensive language, and detailed descriptions of M/M sex. No underage sex.

ISBN: 978-1-940183-01-5

_____________________________________________________________________________

Table of Contents

Dedication
Chapter One
Chapter Two
Chapter Three
Chapter Four
Chapter Five
Chapter Six
Chapter Seven
Chapter Eight
Chapter Nine
Chapter Ten
Chapter Eleven
Chapter Twelve
Chapter Thirteen
Chapter Fourteen
Chapter Fifteen
Chapter Sixteen
Chapter Seventeen
Chapter Eighteen
Chapter Nineteen
Excerpt from Rough Boys: Redemption

__________________________________________________________________________

Dedication

Linecor Mark Hall

March 31, 1938 – Oct. 10, 2012

This book is dedicated to Lin Hall, my first and so far my best editor, who passed away just before I sent him the epilogue for Rough Boys. I never met Lin in person, but we formed a strong friendship engendered by our shared love of story-telling and the English language, and a passion for life lived at its fullest. Lin was born in Taranaki, New Zealand in 1938, left home at sixteen to join the Air Force, and later settled in Brisbane, Australia. I found him on the Internet, offering editing services for free during his retirement years. Lin was not gay; he was happily married to the love of his life. He was a caring father, a proud, if unconventional, grandfather, and a valued member of his community.

Lin was surprisingly open-minded and willing to edit pretty much anything I threw at him. He gave me feedback that was sometimes harsh, often hysterically funny, and always honest. He was at once my biggest critic and my strongest supporter.

I learned a great deal from him, not only about writing, but also about life. He would give me advice such as, “Do not tell me about your writer’s psychological inhibitions! I don’t believe in that sort of babble. I always think, ‘Get your head out of your arse and get on with what you’re paid to do!’ But I wouldn’t be rude enough to say that to you.”Or, upon learning that I was going by myself to a cabin in the woods to write because I really needed to get away for awhile, he suggested, “You might try to grab a robust hitch-hiker off the road on your way to the cabin and only keep her/him for 20 hours before kicking that one out forever. Then sleep first, relax and write later.”

If he hadn’t passed away when he did, I’m sure this book would have come out much sooner. He would have kicked my arse over all my procrastinations.

Yar! I miss you Lin, and wish you all the best on your journey through the afterlife.

___________________________________________________________________________

Chapter One

“Fuck you!” Ty hissed through gritted teeth as his rage got the better of his judgment.

“What did you say?” His father was in his face, blue eyes blazing.

A cold wave of fear crashed over Ty, washing away his anger. He tried desperately to pull his father’s attention away from what he’d just said. “I’m almost eighteen, Dad. I’m old enough to make decisions about my own hair, for God’s sake!”

“That discussion is over.” His father’s voice was tight with barely controlled anger. “What I want to know is what you just said to me.”

“I think you know what I said. I’d rather not say it again.” Ty knew he sounded like a snot. Why do I always bait him? he wondered.

His father’s jaw clenched. “Boy, you need to learn some respect!” He loomed over his son, his paunch almost touching Ty’s taut stomach.

“You can’t beat respect into me,” Ty said, tilting his chin up defiantly. “You have to earn it!” Why the hell can’t I keep my fool mouth shut and pretend to respect him?

“You little shit!” His father grabbed him by the collar with both hands and shook him.

Ty clenched his jaw to keep his teeth from rattling. He has no right to shake me like this! Fury exploded within him. “Fuck you!” This time he yelled the words in his father’s face. Twisting suddenly, he managed to pull out of the older man’s grip. He tried to duck under his arm, but his dad grabbed him by the shoulders and shoved him back into the kitchen counter.

His father drew back his fist and let it fly toward Ty’s face. It seemed like the fist came at him in slow motion, but he still couldn’t avoid it. The punch slammed into his eye, cracking his head into the cupboard behind him.

As Ty’s vision clouded, he gripped the counter to keep from going down. His injured eye immediately started to stream tears. Pain fueled his anger, causing another blinding flare-up. He swung at his father, clipping him in the jaw with a hard knuckle. Ty felt a jolt travel from his fist up his arm and he registered shock. This was the first time he’d ever struck his father.

Oh shit!

Ty’s dad had three inches and at least seventy pounds on him. With a roar, he grabbed him by his hair, dragged him forward several feet, and smashed his face into the doorjamb. Ty’s cheek and nose met the pine with a sickening crunch. He fought to keep his feet under him, blinking rapidly, trying to see through the red haze of pain. Blood gushed from his nose, splattering onto the hardwood floor.

“Richard!” He heard his mother’s cry of shocked protest. She would not save him. She never did.

His father had a death grip on his hair and was on a mission. He dragged him out of the kitchen, down the hall, and up two flights of stairs in their rambling, hundred-year-old house.

Ty stumbled, trying to keep up, wishing he had cut his hair now that his father seemed to be pulling it out by the roots. He didn’t try to fight his father; he knew he couldn’t win.

Rage consumed Richard Iverson. The voice in his head screamed at him in fury. (The fuckin’ little shit hit you! That’s what comes from being too soft on him. He needs to know his place. You need to teach him some respect. You need to show him how to be a man.)

He was puffing by the time he reached the top of the stairs, dragging his son behind him. The boy had a way of making the voice in his head go crazy.

(He’s far too pretty for a boy. Boys should not be pretty.) With his beautiful eyes, impossibly long lashes, and pale, smooth skin, his son looked just like his wife. To make matters worse, he was too small. He was never going to make it to six feet. He would be lucky if he made it to five-eleven.

Richard dragged his son into his bedroom and pushed him onto his narrow bed.

“You really asked for it today, Tiberius. Take off your pants,” he ordered.

Ty hated to be called by his full name and his dad knew it, but he was not about to argue about that now. It was time for damage control.

“I’m sorry, Dad! I didn’t mean to hit you.”

(He doesn’t mean that apology), the voice said. (He’s just trying to get out of a beating. He is weak, and you’re weak too for letting him get like this.)

“You heard what I said.” Richard’s tone was calm, almost normal. From the speed at which his son flipped onto his stomach and pulled his pants down, the boy was obviously not fooled. A satisfied smile curled the corners of the older man’s mouth.

Ty’s nose was bleeding all over his dark blue comforter. He panted around gritted teeth as he waited for the lashes. This was getting to be a much too familiar scene. Why does he hate me so much? Ty wondered for the thousandth time. The first strike landed with a clink, accompanied by much more pain than he expected.

“Fuck!” he yelled, twisting around and catching the belt in his hands as it came down for the second lash. He hit me with the buckle end of the belt! “What the hell?” he screamed, clutching the belt in self-defense. He hung on for dear life.

His father’s face contorted. His mouth twisted. His eyes burned. With a cry of demented rage, he slammed his fist into Ty’s mouth, splitting his lip.

Ty’s head snapped back. His grip on the belt loosened, and his father snatched it out of his hands. Ty cringed, waiting for the next barrage. Instead his father stormed out of the room, locking the door behind him.

Thank God! He must have realized he was out of control.

Ty heard his mother’s voice, high-pitched—almost hysterical—asking questions. He didn’t hear his father’s reply.

As soon as he started to calm down, he was flooded with sensation: his face throbbed, his head pounded, and his stomach churned.

Why is he so controlling? Why can’t I keep my hair three inches long? Why the hell does he care? It had been such a stupid argument. “That’s two-and-a-half inches too long!” his father had decreed. “You’re getting a haircut on Monday!”

“No, Dad,” he’d replied calmly. “I think I…”

“This is not a topic for discussion!” His father had cut him off. “I want it high and tight by the time I get home on Monday.” He had turned to leave the room—conversation over.

That’s when Ty’s temper had gotten the best of him and he’d let out the “Fuck you!” In retrospect, with his swollen nose making it hard to breathe, he should have just gone along with the haircut again. He wondered if he’d be able to talk his sister into sneaking into the kitchen and getting him some ice for the swelling.

Suddenly his father charged back into the room. Ty took one look at his expression and began to silently pray, Please, God, don’t let him kill me!

*****

Ty stared listlessly at the wall of his garret room. He’d been so excited when his father had first suggested that they turn the attic room into his bedroom. It had sloping ceilings, dormer windows, and rustic wooden flooring. What he’d been most happy about was that it was isolated, on its own at the top of the house. He could play his music and his video games as loud as he wanted, and no one would care. What he realized later was that perhaps that had been the appeal for his father as well. In a house as big as theirs, with thick walls and doors, no one could hear him scream unless they were standing on the landing just outside his room.

His father hadn’t always been cruel, but in the last several years he’d become increasingly sadistic. His father had installed the bolt on his bedroom door when he was fourteen. It was not uncommon for him to be locked in his room for the weekend, with his distraught mother bringing him food and water.

Each beating seemed worse than the one before. Usually his father was careful not to leave evidence. His mother and sister had no idea of the extent of his father’s malice. This time he’d gone too far.

Ty shifted slightly to get his face out the damp spot on his slimy comforter. Agony screamed through him when he moved, and he gasped in pain. Even when he lay perfectly still, it hurt so much he could barely think. Anger and fear warred for supremacy of his emotions.

His mind was reeling. He couldn’t believe his father had beaten him so badly. His hands were still cuffed to the radiator; his ankles were tied down to the foot of the bed. His father had never tied him up before, and it was terrifying to be so helpless.

He shuddered as he remembered the long whip his father had used to shred his back and butt. He couldn’t wrap his head around the fact that his father had gone out and bought a whip for the express purpose of punishing him. At the end of the beating he’d had enough rage in him still to call his tormentor a fucking asshole. That had resulted in his father whipping the bottom of one of his feet. His chest tightened with the memory of that agony, making it hard to breathe. He found he was shaking even though the room wasn’t cold.

He clearly hates me. What have I done to lose his love? A deep ache of loss consumed him as he thought back to happier times. When he was younger, he had gotten along well with his father. They had done things together—played ball, built model airplanes, gone on hikes together… Now the only words they ever exchanged were tight-lipped and strained at best. All too often they screamed at each other in fury. That always ended badly for Ty.

His father had a strong personality; he was a force all on his own. He was smart enough to have risen to the executive level at a high-end security firm just a few years after leaving the police force. Nothing slipped past his notice and he was adept at manipulating people. Ty had never seen anyone stand up to him—not his mother or his sister, nor even his dad’s friends or coworkers. Ty seemed to be the only one foolish enough for that.

Has he changed or have I changed? Ty wondered. Is it my fault or is it him? I’m not a bad kid, he tried to convince himself. I make excellent grades. I’m quiet and polite. I don’t do drugs. So what if I suck at football, I got into one of the top colleges in the country.

A sudden realization hit him so hard it felt as if he’d been punched in the gut. I won’t be able to stay here. He’ll kill me next time or the time after. I won’t survive another five months before I leave for college. I need to get out now.

Through a fog of misery, he felt his plans for college slipping away. He was in survival mode. He needed to go into hiding as soon as possible. He would not be finishing high school. He would not be leaving for college in the fall. He watched his future shimmer and fade before him as if it had all been a mirage. In its place was bitter disappointment and fear.

How will I get away? He knew he needed to come up with a solid plan for escaping, but the pain he was in affected his ability to focus and his mind jumped from thought to thought.

Why does he hate me so much?

How long before he unties me?

Where am I going to go?

He longed to sleep, but his back and foot stung so badly he couldn’t relax. Hours later in utter exhaustion, he drifted into a restless doze.

He woke with a small scream and a rattle of metal on metal as he jerked his hands away from radiator. It was the middle of the night. The temperature had dropped and the radiator was blazing hot. He’d burned the back of his hand where it had rested against the cast iron.

What the hell? Had his father intended this too, or was it just bad luck?

If he held his hands carefully, he could avoid touching the radiator. The metal handcuffs were hot to the touch and he couldn’t avoid touching them, but they were not so hot that they seared his skin.

He lay awake, shifting around now and again, trying to find a comfortable position that did not bring his hands into contact with the heat. Eventually, he couldn’t keep his weary mind awake, and he fell asleep again.

Once more he awoke with a start and a small scream. This time he’d burned his left hand, all along the outside edge. He vowed to stay awake to prevent further injury, but tied down with little room for movement, his sluggish mind succumbed to sleep again and again. Each time he woke with a cry of pain and a new burn.

Finally, in the wee hours of the morning, he broke down and bawled. He was exhausted and in a great deal of pain. He felt unloved and unlovable. He cried until he fell asleep again.

By the time the room began to lighten, signifying that dawn had arrived, he was beyond weary, but he was able to stay awake and keep his hands from touching the radiator. Every small movement sent a searing pain across his back. His arms ached from being over his head all night, he had to pee, and he was starving. He’d missed dinner the evening before.

He wondered again how soon his father would come untie him. Will he even show any remorse?.

He could do nothing but lie there, endure, and make plans. Tomorrow is Monday. I’ll leave at the same time as usual, but instead of catching the school bus, I’ll go to the station and catch a bus into Heartland City. It’s a big city. I can disappear there … get a job. Maybe get a cheap room. In the light of the morning, his prospects didn’t seem as bleak as they had the night before. But a deep, cold apprehension gnawed at his belly. Is running away really the best thing to do? Is there a better choice?

He had gone over and over his situation during the long night. When it occurred to Ty that his father might have a mental illness, ice-cold fear had shivered down his spine. There was no other explanation for his behavior; this realization made his father seem even more unpredictable. He wasn’t sure if he would survive his next beating, and no matter how good his behavior, surely his father would invent a reason to punish him again.

Ty considered going to the authorities, or one of his teachers, or a friend’s parents. It was tempting. He could imagine a very satisfying scenario whereby he showed his wounds to the police and they immediately arrested his father.

It wasn’t possible though; his father was above reproach—an ex-cop with multiple commendations. He volunteered at the Boys and Girls Club. He was a deacon at their church. He was always willing to help friends and neighbors with whatever little project needed doing. The man is a goddamned saint! Who will believe that he beat his son to a bloody pulp? Even if I show my bruises and scabs—and my face is going to be hard to hide—he’ll make up some story and it will stick.

Ty couldn’t take the chance that whomever he went to might turn him back over to his father. To everyone else his father came across as sane and reasonable. Even his mother and sister were just now starting to suspect the extent of his malice. And if he were put back in his father’s clutches after filing a complaint against him… Ty shuddered, the small quivers sending tendrils of pain across his back. His father would torture him to death. It was much too risky to seek help. He would just have to figure it out on his own.

Eventually he heard the faint sounds of people moving about in the house; he could hear the shower running and doors slamming. They would be getting ready for church. He tensed, expecting his father to come let him out any minute. He wondered if his mother knew his father had tied him up—had beaten him with a whip. He thought not.

The noises faded. They’ve gone downstairs, he realized. His groin was getting sore from the effort of holding in his pee. Surely he’ll come let me out soon. He watched the clock. The minutes ticked past and still no one came. Eventually he realized they weren’t going to.

They’ve gone to church! They’ve gone to church and left me tied up here. Church meant it would be close to three hours before they got home. His father always had to hobnob with his cronies after the service.

He groaned aloud. No longer able to stop himself, he shifted as close to the edge of the bed as possible and let himself pee. It soaked into his comforter. By the time he was done peeing, he was blinking back tears of humiliation. Christ, Ty. Man up!

With the rising of the sun, the day warmed and the furnace shut itself off. Eventually the radiator cooled to a tolerable temperature. As soon as he didn’t have to worry about burning himself, he fell into a dead sleep.

He came awake with a start some hours later. Someone had just entered his room.

“Oh my God, Ty!” His sister Jeanie’s voice was full of horror.

He opened his one good eye and looked at her. She made her way around to the head of his bed and stared at him, shock etched into her young features. She was only fourteen.

“My God!” she said again and reached out a hand to gently touch his cheek. Her enormous green eyes, which were so like his own, welled with tears.

“You’re not supposed to be in here,” he said. His voice was a croak.

“You … what happened to your hands?”

“Radiator,” he grunted.

She was silent for a few moments, staring at him.

“Don’t get yourself in trouble, Jeanie,” Ty admonished her. To his knowledge, his father had never been abusive to either his sister or his mother—domineering and controlling, yes, but not physically or even verbally abusive. Ty was the only one who brought down his father’s wrath. However, he didn’t want to be the cause of changing that situation. He couldn’t bear the thought of his bratty, lovable sister being hurt.

“You peed!” she said, looking at the large wet spot, her eyes widening.

“Yes,” Ty said irritably, “now get hell out of my bedroom.”

He closed his eyes and let himself sag into the softness of the comforter. It sounded like his sister was choking back sobs as she left his room. He heard her close and bolt the door behind her.

Now she’ll go tell Mom, like that’s gonna do any good, he thought. It’ll probably just make Dad mad again.

Ty’s mother was timid and completely submissive to her overbearing husband. Ty was sure she was in denial. She surely knew something wasn’t right, although he had taken care to hide the extent of his father’s abuse from her. He wasn’t quite sure why. Maybe it was because he knew it would break his mother’s heart, or maybe it was because he felt guilty—perhaps it was his fault that his father had gone crazy. Maybe if I’d tried harder in football or taken an interest in hunting with him… Ty sighed and tried to steer his thoughts away from blaming himself. He was despondent enough already.

It was another half-hour before his father came in. Ty kept his eyes closed, but he recognized the heavy footfalls. His body stiffened. The older man untied his feet first and then unlocked the handcuffs. He paused by the door on his way out. “Go clean yourself up,” he said. Ty couldn’t tell from his voice if he was still angry or perhaps even sorry. “I’ll come up in half-an-hour. Be back in your room by then.”

Ty moved slowly. First he lowered his arms, gasping as his cramped muscles screamed in agony. He pushed himself onto his hands and knees; the pain from his ravaged back was excruciating. He stayed in that position panting for several long moments before he had the courage to attempt to stand up. He couldn’t put weight on the arch of his left foot.

He limped slowly to his closet and retrieved his bathrobe. He almost never wore his robe, but he couldn’t imagine putting on any real clothes, and he wasn’t going to walk downstairs naked.

His head spun as he made his way to the second floor bathroom. By the time he got there, he was so dizzy he had to grab onto the edge of the sink for support. He stood breathing heavily, head hanging over the sink, recovering.

Finally he looked up. The face that stared back from the mirror shocked him. He looked like he’d been hit by a truck. His right eye was puffed shut, the skin around it angry and purple. His nose was so swollen it looked like someone had attached a squashed tomato to his face in its place. His lower lip was double its normal size, and his chin and neck were caked with dried blood. His auburn hair was plastered to his head with sweat and blood. He looked truly ghastly.

Turning slowly, he looked over his shoulder at his back and butt. Long angry welts crisscrossed his skin, worse on his back than his butt. Most were not so deep that they’d bled, but some had. He wondered if they would scar. The bottom of his foot was so bloody he couldn’t tell how bad the welts were.

He sucked in a deep breath and leaned against the sink.

My father did this to me!

In spite of the pain he was in, he was having trouble believing the extent of his injuries. The thought that someone he loved would do this to him was the most painful wound of all.

No, I used to love him, he corrected himself. I don’t love the monster he’s become.

Aware that time was passing, he eased himself into the shower. Taking the massage spray-head off its hook, he pointed it at his feet. Once the water was warm, he held it against the side of his head and watched the water run pink.

Twenty minutes later he was back in his bedroom, feeling somewhat better. Just as he finished changing the sheets on his bed, his father poked his head in the door. Ty glanced at him apprehensively. His father didn’t even meet his eye. He was apparently just assuring himself that Ty was where he was supposed to be. He closed and bolted the door.

Ty wondered if he was going to be fed. He was starving.

He’d taken a tube of antiseptic cream from the bathroom and now he rubbed it liberally over all the injuries he could reach. Then, lying down on his stomach on the bed, he stretched out and fell into a restless asleep.

*****

He didn’t get a real meal, but early in the evening his door cracked open silently and several power bars were shoved in. Jeanie, he assumed. He was grateful for the bars but wished she’d remembered to bring him something to drink. Meanwhile, he had packed carefully, fitting everything into his school backpack to make it look like a normal load.

It was still a risk—his father might think to check his backpack. He tried not to imagine what would happen if his father discovered his plans. If he dwelt on that, he might scare himself out of leaving.

In spite of his conviction to run away, he worried that life in the city might be almost as dangerous as life at home. He only had forty-two dollars. A bus ticket into Heartland City would cost at least five, he guessed. A hotel would not be an option. He probably had enough to feed himself for about three days if he was careful. He would need to find a job right away.

He barely slept that night, partly because he was in so much pain, partly because he was hungry and thirsty, but mostly because his mind was awhirl with his plans to run away. He was filled with trepidation but even more so with grim determination.

I will never come home again—ever! The thought of never seeing his mom or Jeanie again sent him into a spiral of despair. Maybe, after I have a new life, I can visit them. After I’ve made it on my own, after I’ve turned eighteen, I can show Dad that I don’t need him—that I hate him!

He finally fell into a sound sleep about four-thirty in the morning. At six-thirty his father poked his head in the door. “I’m giving you a ride to school. Be ready to go in forty-five minutes.” Then he was gone.

Ty wondered at the sudden fear that shuddered through him at the sound of his father’s voice. Am I terrified of my own father now? He had always been afraid when his dad was angry but never otherwise. Has this one terrible beating turned me into a coward?

Angry, he launched himself out of bed and was immediately sorry as pain lanced through him. His foot reminded him sharply that he couldn’t put weight on it. His left eye was open a slit, but it was covered with crusty gunk. He needed another shower.

He had chosen his clothes the night before, layers of warm, practical clothing, starting with long johns. His top layer was normal winter wear: his second-favorite pair of jeans—his favorite pair was too tight to layer over anything else—and a blue and green wool sweater that his grandmother had knitted for him in the final months before she passed away. He rarely wore that sweater and he hoped this choice would not make anyone suspicious. It was one of his warmest sweaters, and he wanted to take something with him that reminded him that he had once been loved. He grabbed his clothes and headed for the shower.

A half-hour later he was standing at the kitchen counter, wolfing down a very large bowl of cereal. Jeanie waltzed into the room, her long, sleek, auburn hair flying behind her. She stopped short when she saw him and stared at his face. Ty watched her striking eyes darken in sympathy. Bitterness welled up in his chest. He focused on his cereal.

She approached him tentatively. “Are you okay, Ty?”

Fuck no!

“Yeah.”

“Why are you eating standing at the counter? Oh!”

He knew she realized the answer to her own question as soon as it was out of her mouth. She had seen his shredded ass; he wasn’t going to be sitting comfortably anytime soon. He didn’t look up from his cereal.

She stood close in front of him. “What are you going to do?” she asked softly.

He met her eye. Her concern and love was plain to see. A huge lump suddenly choked the back of his throat. He shoveled another spoonful of cereal into his mouth and swallowed hard.

“Whatever I need to do to survive,” he answered finally.

She nodded and suddenly hugged him tightly. He noticed she was careful to keep her hands on his arms and not touch his back.

He clung to her and blinked back the tears that threatened to come. This might be the last time he saw her for a long time. She had been a brat for a while, but the last couple of years they had gotten along pretty well for teenage siblings. He would miss her. He couldn’t tell her goodbye though. He took a deep breath and disengaged.

Tears were in her eyes as she looked at him. Maybe she knew anyway.

Their father walked into the room just then and she stiffened. “You ready?” the older man asked.

“Yeah.” Ty stuck his bowl in the sink and shrugged into his faux-leather jacket, clenching his jaw to keep from grimacing in pain. He picked up his backpack carefully, trying to make it seem like it wasn’t as heavy as it really was. He had put several cans of beans in the bottom of it as well as some apples and oranges. It was overfull already from the extra clothing and toiletries he was bringing. He’d left all his schoolbooks in his room.

His dad was already in the front hall. “See ya around,” he said to his sister. Middle school started forty-five minutes later than high school; Jeanie didn’t need to leave yet.

“Wait!” she whispered. She emptied the contents of the front pocket of her jeans into the side pouch of his backpack. It looked like several twenty-dollar bills.

She knows I’m leaving.

“Remember I love you,” he said softly. His voice choked with so much emotion he almost couldn’t get the next sentence out. “Tell Mom I love her too.” His mother had left for work before he was out of the shower.

He shouldered his backpack onto the left side where it hurt less and hurried out of the kitchen, not even looking at his sister again. He was too close to tears.

His father had the front door open, looking impatient. Ty kept his eyes on the floor as he brushed past his father and limped down the front steps.

Jeanie figured it out so easily. Surely Dad will know as well. His heart pounded double-time.

As he approached his father’s sedan, he remembered his sunglasses. They would hide his black eye at least. He fished them out of his pocket and put them on. The day was overcast, so he hoped the sunglasses wouldn’t be too conspicuous.

His father glanced at him, started to say something, and then apparently changed his mind. Perhaps he had been about to complain about the sunglasses.

They both climbed into the car in silence. Ty hissed through his teeth and fought to keep his expression controlled as he settled painfully into the seat. Ten minutes was far too long to be sitting. He could feel every bump. Before long his face was coated with a sheen of sweat, his breathing ragged. He focused on appearing calm and hiding his misery from his father. He’ll think I’m weak if I wince.

As long as I can control myself—not show any weakness, not be disrespectful—for ten minutes, it will be over. I’ll never have to see him again.

Neither of them spoke during the ride to school. Ty did not expect an apology—his father never apologized—but he hoped to detect some shred of remorse. There was none. His father still seemed angry.

They were waiting at the last stop light before school when his father noticed the gloves he was wearing. He had found a pair of fur-lined leather gloves that his father never wore anymore. He wanted gloves; he hated having cold hands, and even though it was spring, it was still very cold at night. He never normally wore gloves to school. The only gloves he had were ski gloves and he couldn’t wear them without looking ridiculous.

“Those are my gloves,” his father said, sounding like he was struggling to control his temper. “Take them off.”

Ty immediately took off the gloves and laid them on console between the seats. His father’s hand snaked out and grabbed his wrist. Ty stiffened as fear streaked through him.

“What the hell did you do to your hands?”

So the radiator was just bad luck. “The radiator gets really hot, Dad.” He could not keep the bitterness out of his voice.

His father dropped his wrist. “You can have the gloves,” he said. His expression remained stony.

The fucking bastard has no feelings whatsoever. “Thank you,” Ty said, slipping the gloves back on.

Richard Iverson was shocked at the extent of the injuries he had inflicted upon his son. The voice in his head had been strangely silent since he’d gone off on the boy. He winced inwardly when he realized what his son must have gone through during the night, trying to avoid getting burned. He obviously had not succeeded very well. But Richard kept his emotions from showing on his face. (That boy doesn’t need your pity,) the voice in his head was back. (He needs to fuckin’ grow up. This will help him become a man, toughen him up.)

He pulled up in front of the school and Ty climbed carefully out of the car.

“Ty!” the older man called.

“Yes, sir?” Ty answered automatically.

“If anyone asks, tell them you got in a fight with your cousin Cory.” It was a likely story as Cory was known for picking on Ty.

Ty met his father’s eye. “You want me to lie then?” His voice was accusatory. How many times had he been beaten for lying? Now his father was telling him to lie.

“Boy!”

Ty jumped at his father’s tone and hot fear knifed through him. “Yes, sir. I’m sorry, sir. I’ll tell people it was Cory.” He turned to go.

“Ty!”

He whipped back around. “Yes, sir?”

“I’ll pick you up right here after school. We’ll go get that haircut.”

Ty fought back the urge to smirk. Like hell we will!  “Yes, sir,” he said again, appropriately contrite.

Inside the school the hallways were empty. School wouldn’t start for another thirty-five minutes. Ty considered writing a note and leaving it in his best friend’s locker, but he decided against it. He would call Dave in a couple of days and let him know what happened.

He headed directly for the closest exit on the other side of the building. He was almost to the door when he heard Ms. Billington’s voice.

“Ty! Where are you going?”

Ty stopped but didn’t turn around. Ms. Billington was his English teacher. She was one of the cooler teachers. She didn’t put up with any nonsense but seemed to genuinely care about her students.

“I just realized I left my math homework at home,” he lied. “If I run home now I can be back in time for the bell.” He prayed Ms. Billington didn’t know where he lived. Unfortunately, Ms. Billington was now right next to him.

“Good heavens! What happened to you?” She stared at his face in shock. He still had his sunglasses on.

“Um. I got in a fight,” he mumbled, looking down.

She digested this for a moment. “Ty, do you want to talk about it?” she asked gently.

“No!” he said a bit too abruptly. “Look, I need to go so I can be back in time.”

She looked at him skeptically.

“I’m fine,” he said, trying to sound convincing. “Can I go now?”

“Yes, but I’d like to talk to you when you get back.”

“Yes, ma’am,” he said and hurried out the door, trying not to limp.

As soon as he got outside, he realized his heart was racing. That was too close. There’s no way I’d make it all day at school without confessing to someone what really happened. That would get me in so much shit with my dad!

He set out toward the bus station, limping as fast as he could. It was about three-quarters of a mile away. Unless something went terribly wrong, he would be well lost in the bowels of the city by the time his father figured out he was gone.

An hour later found him standing in the back of a nearly empty bus, hanging onto the handrails. The ticket to Heartland City had cost far more than he’d expected—twenty-three dollars for a non-peak-hour ticket. He would have to be conservative with his money, and he would need to find a job right away.

Although he was filled with apprehension, he could not help feeling a twinge of excitement. For the first time ever, he was on his own.

Chapter Two

Tommy was hungry. Tommy was often hungry. He glanced up at the antique clock on the far wall of the dingy bus station.

Damn! Still too early for dinner.

He sauntered over to the snack bar, automatically putting a hand on his hip and swaying his ass as he went. He caught the eye of a middle-aged man who was sitting on one of the long wooden benches. Tommy winked at him. The man quickly looked away.

Yeah! Don’t deny you were checkin’ out my tight ass!

Tommy knew he was a good-looking femme. He was tall and thin, but his butt was well rounded, and his tight white pants showed it off perfectly. His mocha skin was smooth and flawless. He kept his afro close-cropped in a modern shape but countered the masculinity of short hair with large hoop earrings and dark kohl smudged around his huge brown eyes.

“Hey, Tommy! Snickers time?” Sheila smiled up at him from behind the counter. She was a cute little thing and always friendly to him.

“Yeah, that sounds good. Make it two. I’m starving.” He laid a five on the counter.

Well … hell-o!

A boy was threading his way through the small throng of people who had just gotten off the bus, trying not to limp. He kept his head down. He was several inches shorter than Tommy, perhaps five-foot-ten, but just as skinny as Tommy. In spite of the limp, his walk was graceful—almost but not quite feminine. His auburn hair was beautiful, if a bit too short. He was wearing sunglasses.

Drugs? Tommy studied his face. No, probably not.

A swollen lip and vivid bruises on the side of his face told Tommy that he’d recently been in a fight and probably gotten the worst of it. He was wearing gloves even though the afternoon was warm, and in his arms he carried a small backpack.

Tommy noticed the older white man watching the boy intently as he walked by. Lust shone in his eyes. He was practically drooling.

Yeah. That boy’s got it! Tommy thought.

He grabbed the candy bars and his change off the counter, leaving a quarter behind. “Thanks Sheila!” he called out to the girl as he hurried after his target.

The boy exited to the street and paused, looking around. His head tilted back as he followed the lines of the buildings up to where they met the sky, high overhead. A shudder seemed to pass through his slight frame. He glanced first one direction and then the other, as if he wasn’t sure where to go.

Tommy put a huge grin on his face as he approached the hesitant youth. “Hey, my man! Whazup? You need some directions?”

“N … no!” The young man looked Tommy up and down. His mouth opened in a little “Oh.” He reminded Tommy of a startled doe in that split second of freeze before she bounded away into the woods.

Tommy preened, jangling the bangles on his wrist. The boy turned and quickly walked away. Tommy kept pace. “You just got into town? Need a place to stay? I can help you out, my man. Just say the word.”

“Er, no. I’m good.” The boy glanced around rather desperately, as if he wanted to get away but didn’t know where to run. He picked up his pace, but Tommy’s legs were long, and he kept up easily.

“You got someone meeting you?” Tommy asked. He knew the kid didn’t; he had the look of a runaway. The boy pushed his lips together in what would have been a thin line if his lower lip hadn’t been so swollen.

“We’ll put you up,” Tommy pressed on, giving his best sales pitch. “The first week’s free. We’ve got a sweet setup. We’re always looking for new boys.” They reached the intersection and stopped. The light was red in both directions, making way for the metro rail that was coming around the corner.

Tommy reached out and plucked the sunglasses off the boy’s face.

“Hey!” the boy protested, making a swipe for them.

“Oh, honey!” Now it was Tommy’s turn to be taken aback. “Someone did a number on your face.” One of the boy’s eyes was almost puffed shut and very purple. His swollen nose looked broken. “Oh, sweetie, someone got you bad! Once you recover, you’ll be right cute, though.”

The boy’s one good eye stared at him, startled. It was a beautiful eye—intelligent and innocent and very green. He had the longest lashes Tommy had ever seen on a boy, and he wasn’t even wearing makeup.

“In fact, you might well be gorgeous. Shame about your broken nose.” One of Tommy’s hands had gone to his hip; the other one twirled the sunglasses around while he made his assessment.

The youth tried to snag his sunglasses back, and Tommy kept them just out of reach with his long arms.

“My name’s Tommy. If you tell me your name, I’ll give you your glasses back.”

The battered boy huffed and jumped for the glasses. Tommy took a quick step backward, holding the glasses high above his head. He could tell the boy was getting frustrated.

“Name?”

The youth clenched his jaw and fumed.

“You’re cute when you’re mad.”

“Fuck you!”

“Oh, a temper! I just asked for your name, sweetie.”

“It ain’t ‘Sweetie,’ that’s for damn sure!” He folded his arms across his chest. “Ty! My name is Ty. Now give me my fuckin’ glasses back, you prick.”

“Oh, Ty!” Tommy batted his lashes at the boy as he handed his glasses back. “You don’t really think I’m a prick do you?”

The boy jammed the glasses on his face and winced.

“Honey, I can help you out. Give you someplace safe to stay. Make sure no one does that to you ever again. We got protection.”

The youth looked away.

“A sweet piece like you could make some real money.”

“Look, I’m not gay. And even if I was, I wouldn’t be making money that way.”

“Not gay?” What a shame. “Are you sure?” Tommy stepped next to Ty, slid his hand onto the boy’s tight butt, and squeezed gently.

“Ahhh!” The boy jumped about a foot in the air and landed a short ways away. The cry had surely been one of pain, and Tommy now saw that the boy was gasping for breath, obviously struggling not to show how much agony he was in. Tommy was horrified.

“Oh, sweetie, I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt you.”

“Yeah, well, fuck off!” The light changed and Ty took off across the street.

Tommy kept pace even though he knew now the boy would not go with him. There was something compelling about the hurt boy—something beyond his youth and beauty.

“Are you hungry? Can I buy you something to eat, sweetie?”

“No! What the hell do you want from me? Quit calling me sweetie.”

“How old are you, Ty?”

“Eighteen.”

Tommy was surprised that Ty had answered him. The youth looked surprised too—and annoyed.

“You look much younger, fifteen maybe.”

“I’m eighteen,” he said firmly.

Yeah, right. “You sure I can’t buy you something to eat?”

“Yes, just leave me alone.”

They stopped at the corner to wait for another light and Tommy asked, “Well, can I give you directions? Help you find someplace?”

“Okay, fine!” Ty spat the words out, clearly irritated. “I’m not going home with you, and I’m not gonna do whatever it is you do.” He waved his hands in a vague gesture. “But I will be spending a few nights on the street. Any suggestions for where I could sleep that’s reasonably dry—somewhere where I won’t be hassled?”

“Honey, with your looks, you’re gonna be hassled no matter where you go. You’re just too luscious!” He could tell the boy was glaring at him even though he was wearing sunglasses. “You’d be much safer coming with me. As I said, the first week’s free—no strings, no pressure. Honest!”

“No.” The boy started walking again.

“All right.” Tommy sighed. “If I was gonna spend the night out, I’d probably go over to the eastside by all the hospitals. It’s safer there than in the middle of downtown—not so many homeless. And there’s plenty of doorways in back alleys where you could get out of the rain. You’re gonna have trouble though, sweetheart. You really should just come with me.”

“Thanks. I’ll take my chances.”

“If you change your mind, you can find me most afternoons at the bus station.” Tommy fished one of the Snickers bars out of his pocket and pressed it into the youth’s gloved hand. “Here. Welcome to Heartland City. You take care, Ty.” Tommy turned to go, disappointment weighing on him.

“Wait!”

The young black man turned back around, a huge grin on his face.

“Where’s the eastside?” the youth asked in a small voice.

Oh honey! You are in trouble.

*****

Richard Iverson fumed. School had been out for twenty minutes and there was still no sign of Ty. That boy knows better than to be late! I can’t believe he’s disobeying me again already. (You pussy! Can’t even control your skinny-ass son.) Usually a severe beating would buy him at least a week of perfect behavior.

A small worry prickled the back of his mind, but he didn’t examine it. Jerking hard on the steering wheel, he pulled the car away from the curb and drove around the block into the school parking lot. His face was a thundercloud as he strode into the building looking for his wayward son.

The halls were mostly empty. There were a few stragglers still, getting things out of their lockers or hurrying to afterschool activities. He headed to the main office to find out where his son’s sixth period class was held.

“What do you mean he wasn’t in school today?” Richard Iverson roared. “I dropped him off here myself this morning!”

The petite girl who worked at the attendance office took a step back, looking at the angry man in front of her apprehensively. “I’m sorry, Mr. Iverson. He didn’t go to any of his classes today.”

Richard Iverson was shocked. Ty would never skip class; he knows better. Where the hell would he go? For the first time it occurred to him that Ty might have run away. He sucked in a deep breath.

Ms. Linda Billington poked her head out of the staff room when she heard raised voices. She had discovered that Ty had not come back to school, and she was writing up a report of his condition. She was worried about him and had already talked to the principal.

She recognized Ty’s father and a slow heat began to rise in her breast. Something was not quite right. “You’re looking for Ty?” she asked brightly. She looked Richard Iverson in the eye as she approached him. He was angry but trying to hide it.

“I can’t imagine what could have happened to him. I dropped him off here this morning myself.” He drummed his fingers impatiently on the counter.

Ms. Billington glanced at the drumming fingers and her heart lurched. His knuckles were swollen and cracked. He had obviously hit something recently, and that something had likely been Ty’s face.

“I saw him early this morning,” she said quietly. “Maybe we’d better call the police.”

*****

Tommy watched the older man surreptitiously. He was a big white man, heavyset and paunchy. He shot Tommy the evil eye before striding over to talk to Sheila at the snack bar.

What the hell does he want? He looks like trouble. The man was showing Sheila something—a flyer of some sort. Sheila shook her head and the man asked another question. Tommy sidled closer, trying to see what was on the paper.

The man left the flyer on the counter and whirled around, catching Tommy staring at him. His blue eyes burned with white heat. He looked Tommy up and down, distaste oozing out of him. “What the hell? Are you supposed to be a boy or a girl? If I had a son like you, I’d shoot the poor fucker—put him out of his misery!”

Tommy staggered back a step as if he’d been slapped. He placed a delicate hand on his chest and gasped dramatically, but the man had already moved on. He had masking tape in his hand and was focused on his task of securing one of the flyers to a pillar in the bus station.

Tommy picked up the paper the man had left behind at the snack counter. Beautiful eyes stared at him from a delicate face. He caught his breath. The boy was fucking gorgeous when his face wasn’t battered to shit. That asshole with the flyers must be pretty boy’s father. There was some resemblance in the shape of the face. Heaven’s above, poor Ty!

“Runaway!” the flyer read in big letters across the top.

Yeah, no shit. If I had a father like you, I’d be getting the hell outta Dodge too.

The sheet included details about Ty’s physical appearance as well as a phone number to call with information. It ended with a plea that his family loved him and missed him very much.

Fuck that!

Tommy folded the page carefully and stuffed it into his breast pocket. He watched the man post several others around the bus station. As soon as the man exited, Tommy went around and ripped down all the flyers, wadded them up, and threw them away. Then he went out the same exit the man had taken and glanced up and down the street.

He spotted the man almost immediately. He was on the next block, taping a flyer to a light post.

Keeping a good distance away, his heart pounding loudly in his ears, Tommy followed the man, pulling down every flyer that he put up.

*****

Ty scowled. Things had gone from bad to worse. He’d been in the city for five days now. He hadn’t been able to find a job. Most of the businesses he approached didn’t even offer to let him fill out an application. The few who had seriously considered him had immediately turned him away when he confessed that he didn’t have proof of his identity.

He’d left his driver’s license behind. He had been afraid that if he were questioned by the police they’d discover who he was. He’d never had a real job before, and in his distress it hadn’t occurred to him that he’d need identification.

He’d used up all his money. He was starving. He was filthy. And to make matters worse, during the night, even though he’d been using it as a pillow, someone had stolen his backpack. The only things he had were the smelly clothes on his back and seventy-one cents in his pocket.

He leaned back against the building and closed his eyes. He was sitting cross-legged on a busy sidewalk, surrounded by skyscrapers and throngs of people. He would need to get up soon; his butt was killing him. But the bottom of his foot had become infected from the lashes, and it hurt like hell to walk. If his father hadn’t beaten the crying out of him, he might have cried.

He felt something touch his thigh, and his eyes snapped open. A one-dollar bill was on his leg. He glanced around but couldn’t tell who had left it for him.

Do I look like I’m begging for money? I guess I really must look homeless.

That thought shocked him, but he quickly stuffed the money in his pocket.

*****

“Thank you so much for your help today, Abe. You’re invaluable!” Teresa smiled at him, her eyes tired.

“Just doin’ my job.” He grinned at his boss.

“And thanks for being willing to come back in at six. I know that doesn’t give you much time to sleep, but that early morning shift is impossible if we don’t have enough people.”

“Yeah, I know. It’s okay. It’s a short shift, and then I’ll have two days off to recover.” He glanced at his watch and did a quick calculation. “If I go home now I can get almost four hours of sleep before I need to be back here.”

“You’re a gem, Abe.” Teresa turned back to the computer in front of her. “Where are we going to put all these people? I don’t think I’ve ever seen us this full. It’s crazy!”

“Yeah. They must be having a sale on accidents this week.”

The hospital typically ran at 70 percent capacity, but for the last couple of weeks it had been in the nineties. Not only that, a spring flu was making its rounds and quite a few of the staff had succumbed.

Abe shrugged his broad shoulders into his wool jacket and buttoned it across his massive chest.

Teresa glanced up at him, a strand of dark blond hair falling across her plump face. “Yes, you’d better button up. Last I saw it was sleeting like crazy out there. Nutty weather for this time of year.”

He pulled his wool cap out of his pocket and covered his short nap with it, pulling it down over his ears. “Yeah. I hate the cold—I ain’t built for this northern climate.” He let his southern drawl really come out on this statement.

Teresa chuckled. “You take care, Abe. I’ll see you at six.”

“You’re not going home, Teresa?”

“No, I’ll stay, at least until morning rounds are over. Someone’s got to cover.”

“Well, don’t overdo. You don’t want to catch that nasty flu. That’d be a disaster. This place can’t function without you.”

She waved him off with a smile as her focus shifted back to the screen in front of her.

Once outside Abe turned his collar up and jammed his hands deep into his pockets, longing for his gloves. The wind howled around him and stinging ice pelted his face. Glancing up, he could see the sleet in the light of a street lamp, coming down hard—or, more accurately, blowing sideways hard.

He shivered and wished he were wearing more than just scrubs under his jacket. At least he’d had the foresight to wear his winter coat. He hurried through the dark streets, head down, focused on getting home as fast as possible. Every inch of his body that was not covered by wool was soaked in icy sleet.

It felt too cold for sleet, and he noticed the puddles on the street were starting to ice over. It must be a temperature inversion, he thought—one of those rare occurrences where the temperature is warmer at higher altitudes than on the ground. The precipitation was falling as rain and freezing on the way down or shortly after it hit the ground.

He took a shortcut through the alley. He didn’t often take it, especially in the middle of the night. Even though he was a huge guy and people rarely messed with him, it was a risk to walk through a lonely alley in the middle of the night. There were still racists about. There were plenty of homophobes too, not that he was blatantly gay. And there were desperate people in the city—junkies who wouldn’t think twice about sticking a knife between your ribs so they could get the twelve dollars and eighty-three cents you had in your pocket.

Tonight he took the risk. It was too fucking cold for anyone to be out on the street. He was walking through the darkest area, alert to his surroundings, when he heard a low whimper.

He stopped without making a conscious decision to do so. The whimper came again from a small alcove. He stepped into the entrance and saw the source of the noise, a dark figure huddled in the corner, shivering, and occasionally letting out a very pitiful sound.

“Hey, are you okay?” Abe immediately went into nurse mode, squatting in front of the vagrant.

The person’s head snapped up in surprise, wet hair flying, beautiful eyes widening with fear. In the deeply shadowed alcove, Abe could not tell if this was a boy or a girl—but clearly young, a teenager, with a fading shiner on one eye.

“Wha … what d’you wan?” The words were slurred. The voice was male. Abe could see the youth was shivering uncontrollably.

“I’d like to help you. Do I have your permission to treat you?” Abe’s training kicked in. He had learned in his First Aid classes that, unless the person was unconscious, you had to receive permission to help them, even if they looked like they surely needed help. He clicked on a small flashlight that he carried on his keychain.

“N … n … no. Go ‘way!” The kid’s huge eyes were too bright, his pupils dilated.

“Are you on something?” Abe asked. Hypothermia would dilate the pupils as well, and he was sure the boy was well on his way to that. He looked soaked.

“N … No! Go away!”

“I’d really like to help you. You’re soaking wet and it’s freezing out here.”

“N … no shit!”

At least he’s cognizant enough to be sarcastic. “Won’t you please let me help you? I’m a nurse. I’d like to take your pulse, if that’s okay.”

“N … nurse?” The youth looked up at him skeptically, assessing him. “No! Leave m … me alone.”

Abe could not possibly leave him alone. He was obviously in serious need of help. He tried again. “Look, it’s supposed to get really cold tonight, down into the teens. You’re soaking wet. You could die before morning!”

The kid’s eyes widened slightly. “Die?” He let his forehead drop forward onto his knees, hiding his face. “M … maybe that’s f … for the b … best,” he whispered.

He was shaking and stammering so much, Abe wasn’t sure he’d heard him right. “I’d like to get you in someplace out of the cold. I can take you over to St. Vincent’s. They’ll care for you there whether you have money or not.”

The youth’s head snapped up. There was panic in his eyes.

“No!” he yelled loudly. “No!”

“Okay, calm down. I’m trying to help you. Won’t you let me help you?”

“Just l … leave, please.”

“If I left and you died tonight, I’d never forgive myself. I can’t just leave you here.”

The kid stared at him as if maybe he didn’t quite understand what he’d just said. His shivers appeared to be slowing down, which was concerning. It meant he was moving into the next phase of hypothermia.

“My name’s Abe. What’s your name?”

“What?” He seemed disoriented.

“Your name. Do you know your name?”

“Ty.”

“Okay, Ty. Since leaving you here to die is not a choice I’m willing to make, here are your choices: I can bring you to the hospital….”

The youth shook his head vehemently, eyes pleading.

“Or I can call the police and….”

“No, no police!” Ty cried. He struggled to his feet, leaning heavily against the wall. “No!”

Abe stood up with him. “You’re not giving me much choice here, Ty.”

Ty ducked suddenly under Abe’s arm and staggered several steps, limping heavily. He lost his balance and half fell, catching himself on a dumpster.

Abe followed him, grabbing his arm to help him steady himself. Stinging pellets of ice attacked their faces.

Ty whirled on Abe, pulling his arm away. He overbalanced and fell again, this time landing on the icy ground. “Wh … what’s wrong with me?” His voice was high-pitched, panicked.

Abe squatted in front of him again. “Since you won’t let me examine you, it’s only a guess, but I’d say hypothermia is setting in pretty well. It causes loss of dexterity. Won’t you let me help you?”

Ty stared at him for several long seconds. “Okay. But n … no police! N … no hospital.”

Abe pulled his hat off and clapped it onto the kid’s head. The freezing sleet soaked him immediately, icy droplets slithering down the back of his neck. He grabbed the youth’s wrist and felt for his pulse. It was strong still but too slow. He needed to get him out of the wind and cold immediately. “How about my apartment? I live close by.”

Ty stared at him, his large eyes luminous in the meager light of the dark alley. His face was pinched as if in pain. He finally nodded.

Abe started to pick him up, but he struggled to his feet on his own, using the dumpster to steady himself. “I can walk,” he declared.

Abe had his doubts. Sure enough, as they started off, Abe’s arm around Ty’s shoulders to steady him, it became immediately apparent that he could not put any weight on his left foot. He was also weaving.

“Fuck this!” Abe said. “It’s way too cold to spend an hour getting there. I’m going to carry you.” While he was talking, he unbuttoned his coat.

“N … no!” the youth said.

Abe scooped the protesting kid up into his arms, hugging him tightly against his chest and pulling his coat around him.

“I … I can walk!” Ty sounded indignant even as he snuggled into Abe’s warmth, shivering.

“You’re a stubborn fuck, aren’t you?” Abe said, but his voice was gentle.

“So I’ve been t … told.”

Hugging the kid was like hugging a block of ice. “Fuck! You’re colder than a witch’s tit!”

Ty launched into a fit of giggles which lasted several minutes. When he finally stopped, he gasped out, “I’m s … sorry. I … I don’t know what got into me.”

“Hypothermia messes up your head too. It usually makes you grumpy.”

“Oh.”

The wind howled around them, driving frozen pellets into their exposed faces and icy blasts under the edges of their collars and sleeves and anywhere else it could find entrance. By the time they reached his apartment building, Abe was shivering almost as hard as Ty. Once inside, the youth struggled a bit, implying he wanted down.

“You just settle down. I’m not going to hurt you. It’s just faster this way.” Abe punched the elevator button.

Ty sighed, leaned his head against Abe’s chest, and closed his eyes. Abe took the opportunity to observe him now that they were in the light. He was extremely pale. His face was fine-boned, almost delicate. He had the longest lashes Abe had ever seen on a boy. His nose had been recently broken—it was still swollen—and his left eye was shadowed with bruising.

They rode in silence up to the twenty-third floor. Abe managed to get his apartment door open without setting his burden down. He nudged the door shut with his foot and switched on the light with his elbow. Heading directly for the bathroom, he kicked the toilet lid down and set his charge down on it gently.

“You okay here? Can you get yourself undressed? I’ll get a bath going for you.”

Ty nodded, looking around wide-eyed.

Abe had never seen anyone with eyes so green. Fuck, he’s beautiful! This thought was transient; his focus was on getting the boy warmed up as soon as possible. He ran the bathwater, making sure the temperature was lukewarm.

Ty managed to shed his sopping gloves, but he was shaking so hard he couldn’t grasp the zipper on his coat with his numb fingers.

Abe bent to help him and noticed welts all over Ty’s hands. He caught them in his own large hands and examined them briefly. They were burns. Abe’s heart suddenly felt like it was going to explode out of his chest. Someone had tortured the kid, or perhaps…? “Did you do this to yourself?”

Ty’s eyes widened and he shook his head, looking at Abe in disbelief.

“Well sometimes people do. Or they cut themselves. It’s not all that uncommon.”

“No. I … I didn’t,” he said softly.

Abe clenched his jaw as a burst of anger swept through him. Whoever did this to the kid needs to have their brain readjusted—permanently. He battened down his emotions. He needed to stay calm for Ty.

He unzipped Ty’s jacket and gave him a reassuring smile. “I’m going to go put on some water for tea. I’ll be right back.” He grabbed a towel and dried off his head and neck as he headed for the kitchen. He was soaked too.

A few minutes later, he came back into the bathroom. He had exchanged his wet scrubs for sweats and a T-shirt. He cranked the water off and turned his attention to helping the youth.

Ty was still sitting on the toilet seat, now struggling with the buckles of his boots, clearly frustrated.

“Here, let me,” Abe said gently as he knelt before him. “Manual dexterity is one of the first things to go when you get hypothermia. It makes doing small things like this almost impossible.”

“N … No shit!”

Abe got his boots off in short order and noticed Ty’s left sock was soaked with blood and puss. That must be why he’s limping. The sock was drenched, and he was able to pull it off without too much resistance. He glanced up into the kid’s anxious face and decided against asking questions yet. Let him recover. There’ll be time to find out what happened to him tomorrow.

The teakettle started to whistle, and Abe left to make tea. He returned to find the youth shivering on the edge of the tub, wearing soaking-wet long underwear, looking longingly at the water.

“It’s too hot.”

Abe tested the water with his wrist and found it to be almost too cool. “It’s not hot; it just feels that way because you’re so cold.” Abe reached for the boy’s long underwear shirt to help him remove it, but the youth hugged his arms tightly around his chest, pulling away.

“No, I’ll just wear this.”

“That’s fine, Ty. Whatever you’re comfortable with. Are you going to get into the bath like that?”

Ty nodded. He poked a toe experimentally into the water and drew back, looking at Abe aghast.

“I don’t want to make it any colder for you. It’s not hot, really. Can you try, please?”

Ty took a deep breath and climbed into the water all at once, scrabbling a bit in the slippery tub. His breath hissed around his tightly clenched jaw. As he settled himself low in the water, his body started shivering violently. He looked at Abe with something close to panic in his eyes.

“It’s okay,” Abe said soothingly. He grabbed the youth’s wrist and took his pulse. It was too weak. I should have brought him directly to the hospital. “Let me know when the water feels comfortable to you.”

“It f … feels really hot on m … my feet, and h … hot to my hands but okay for my b … body.”

“We’ll give it a minute, then I’ll add more hot.” Abe put a thermometer in Ty’s mouth.

“Ninety-six-point-two—let’s see how fast we can bring that up.” He fetched the cup of tea from where he’d set it next to the sink and brought it to the boy’s lips. “Sip slowly; it’s hot.”

Ty put his shaking hands around Abe’s on the teacup, trying to have some control. Abe’s hands were huge and very dark next to his. He took a sip of tea. It was sweet. He could feel the warmth going down the back of his throat.

“Oh, that’s good,” he said with relief. His hands were shaking so hard, he splashed some tea out of the cup even though Abe was holding it. “I’m sorry!”

“It’s okay, kid. You’ll be okay.”

“I’m n … not a kid. I’m eighteen.”

“You don’t look eighteen.”

“Yes, I know.”

Ty’s mind felt like it was finally starting to clear. Maybe it’s defrosting, he thought. He glanced up at Abe and noted details of his face. He had high, sculpted cheekbones, a masculine jawline, and full lips. His wide brown eyes were looking at him with so much concern it caused his heart to flutter.

“Why do you care what happens to me?”

Abe shrugged. “I’m a nurse. It’s what I do.”

Ty hadn’t believed he was a nurse when Abe had first told him. He was too big and black. He didn’t look like any nurse Ty had ever met.

“Let’s warm up the water a bit.” Abe moved to the foot of the tub, opened the drain, and turned the water back on. Ty’s eyes widened as he watched Abe’s muscles ripple under his tight T-shirt. He was built like a comic book super hero.

“Do you body build?”

Abe smiled at him and his handsome face became breathtaking.

“Yes, sometimes,” he said modestly.

Wow! Ty felt warm inside and thought maybe it wasn’t all because of the tea and the hot water.

The flow coming into the tub felt very pleasant and his shivering had almost completely stopped. He submerged the back of his head in the water, sighing as the warmth reached his cold ears. He pulled his feet out onto the edge of the tub so he could fit, and much to his discomfort, Abe grabbed his left ankle to examine the bottom of this foot.

“What the hell?” Abe sounded irritated. “What kind of wounds are these?”

Ty tried to pull his foot away, but Abe had a firm grip on his ankle. Ty struggled for a plausible explanation for the wounds, something other than the truth. Coming up empty, he said nothing.

“It’s infected. It needs to be cleaned out,” Abe growled. When he glanced at Ty his eyes were dark with anger.

Fear flashed through Ty; his heart started hammering in his chest as adrenalin raced through his body. He didn’t know this huge man whose place he was in, and now he was angry. Ty gripped the edge of the tub with both hands and yanked his foot out of Abe’s hands, getting ready to stand up.

Abe saw the sudden panic in Ty’s eyes and his anger fled, replaced by remorse at having frightened the youth. The poor kid has obviously been through hell. Small wonder he’s so easily frightened.

“Hey, hey. Calm down. I won’t hurt you,” Abe said in his most-soothing voice. He moved to the head of the tub. Taking one of Ty’s hands between both of his, he held it while he looked Ty in the eye. “You need to trust me, okay? I won’t ever hurt you on purpose. I promise.”

Ty’s gut twisted. Here was a stranger telling him he’d never hurt him when his own father had tortured him half to death. He looked at the wall and swallowed hard. “Okay,” he said. Suddenly he realized Abe was holding his hand. He pulled away and felt his face grow hot with embarrassment.

“I can take you to work with me tomorrow and give you a local before I clean out your foot,” Abe said.

“At the hospital?”

“Yes.”

“I would have to give them my name?”

“Yes.”

“No.”

“Ty….”

“I’m not going. I’ll live with it as is.”

“Ty, infection is not something to mess around with. It needs to be cleaned out. You might even need antibiotics and certainly a tetanus shot.”

“I had a tetanus shot last year. You can clean it out here. I won’t go in.”

“Ty, I don’t want to clean it out without a local. It will hurt too much.”

In answer Ty flipped over on his stomach and presented his foot to Abe.

“You stubborn cuss! Okay, but not in the tub. You’ll drown.”

Abe ran the hot water again as Ty turned back over. “I’ll get you some more tea,” Abe said.

Ty watched as the big man left the bathroom. He tried not to notice how well his sweats clung to his super hero ass.

While Abe was gone, he took the opportunity to look around the bathroom. It was larger than your typical apartment bathroom, modern but with no windows. It was relatively clean but not spotless; Ty noticed a pair of boxers on the floor in the corner. The shower curtain was clear with a map of the world on it in bright, primary colors. The thick towels were bright red. There was a colorful picture of a parrot on the wall above the toilet. A few toiletries were scattered across the counter, and Ty wondered which product it was that gave Abe that slightly spicy scent he had smelled when he had been snuggled up against the big man’s chest.

This whole experience, being taken home by a giant black nurse, seemed surreal. It occurred to Ty that maybe he was still back in the alcove off the alley, close to death and having a vivid dream.

Abe returned, bringing clothes for Ty. “These sweats are too small for me but probably still too big for you, and I brought a T-shirt and a sweater too. They won’t fit either but will help keep you warm. I don’t have a blow-dryer for your hair and want to make sure you don’t get chilled when you get out.”

Ty sipped his hot tea gratefully while Abe took his pulse again.

“You’re almost back to normal. How are you feeling?”

“Almost back to normal.” Ty smiled, and the grin that lit up Abe’s face caused a flush of heat deep in his chest. Curious. Why am I so attracted to him? Maybe it’s because he rescued me—and I’m really tired.

“What’s your job like?” Ty asked. He wanted to distract Abe from asking him questions he didn’t want to answer. Besides, he liked listening to him talk. His deep southern drawl was enchanting.

Abe described his job while Ty finished his tea. The combination of the steamy water, warm tea, and Abe’s soothing voice made Ty’s eyelids grow heavy with fatigue.

“Hey, don’t fall asleep in the tub! Do you want to finish up in the shower?”

“Yes,” Ty said, looking at the bathwater ruefully. It was a pinkish-gray color. “I think I’d better if I want to get clean.”

“Do you need help?”

“No, I’m good.”

Abe eyed him skeptically.

Ty yawned and leaned forward to let the water out of the tub. “I’m fine,” he repeated.

Abe climbed to his feet, unfolding his huge frame with surprising grace. “Okay. Holler if you need anything,” he said on his way out.

Several minutes later Ty limped carefully out of the bathroom. The sweater hung down almost to his knees, but it was warm, and it was a shade of green that brought out the color of his eyes. He wondered if Abe had picked it for the color.

He limped through the bedroom, trying not to be nosy. He did notice the king-sized bed was unmade, its burgundy coverlet spilling halfway onto the floor. There was also a wall of books; the room looked lived-in and comfortable.

He paused in the doorway to the main room, the only other room in the apartment. Abe smiled at him from the kitchen area. “Take a seat on the couch. Do you need help?”

“No, I got it.”

Abe came out from behind the counter, drying his hands on a dishtowel while Ty limped to the black faux-leather couch and sank onto it with a sigh. The couch was cool and he shivered slightly. He felt drained.

“I’m making something for us to eat, but I thought I should do your foot first while the skin is still soft.”

Ty noticed a towel laid out on the arm of the couch, and on the table next to it were various gauzes, a bottle, a tube of something, and a bowl of steaming water. A sharp pang of fear stabbed at him. He swallowed it down.

“So, you want me here?” he asked, stretching out on his stomach on the couch.

“Yes, foot up here on the towel.” Abe fussed over Ty for a minute, tucking a blanket around him and giving him several pillows. He took his pulse and his temperature again, seeming satisfied with the results.

“I know this is terribly cliché, but do you want something to bite on?” He handed Ty a broad strip of leather.

Ty turned the leather over in his hands. It was tooled, decorated with leaves and ivy. He looked at Abe curiously.

“It’s a bookmark.”

“It’s beautiful. Are you sure you want me biting on it?”

“Are you sure you don’t want to go in a get a local anesthetic?”

“Yes. I’m ready.” Ty gave himself over to the big, handsome nurse.

Abe turned the lamp on high and moved it six inches closer. Slipping on latex gloves, he examined Ty’s foot carefully. Damn! he thought. The wound was unusual. The only thing he could think of that could cause wounds like that would be a whip. What kind of sick person would whip the bottom of someone’s foot? That must have been horribly painful. And it begged the question of where else he might have been whipped. The bathwater had been suspiciously pink.

Abe swallowed back the fury that boiled within him and got to work. Holding the foot firmly in place with one hand, he began to clean the wounds carefully with the other. He tried not to think about how much pain he was causing.

Ty took it very well. His foot jerked now and again, although Abe could tell he was trying to control it. He was mostly silent, occasionally letting out a whimper that would rattle Abe’s calm. He had been a trauma nurse in ICU for the past two years. He had seen everything, but for some reason this young man was getting to him. By the time he was finished clearing away the infected tissue, he was dripping with tension.

Throughout the ordeal he had given Ty words of encouragement. Now he said, “I’m almost done, Ty, but I’m afraid this next part might be the worst.”

He felt a quick shudder go through the young man and then he stilled. He glanced at Ty. The youth was hugging the pillow tightly, fists clenched, eyes closed. Wayward strands of his reddish hair had fallen across his face, sticking to the sheen of perspiration on his skin. Abe caught his breath. He was sure he’d never seen anyone so beautiful.

“Are you ready?” he asked gently.

Ty nodded.

Swallowing back the lump in his throat and trying to keep his hands steady, Abe poured disinfecting cleanser across the wounds. As expected, Ty’s foot jerked hard and he let out a grunt of pain.

“Good, good. Once more.” Abe quickly poured the rest of the disinfectant over the wound, catching the overspill on the towel. Ty whimpered and his body started to tremble.

Abe patted his leg. “Okay. That’s it for the bad stuff. You did really well.” He applied antibiotic gel to the wounds and switched out the damp towel underneath it for a clean one. “I’ll wrap it before you go to sleep, but I’d like let it dry out a bit first. Just don’t walk on it yet.”

Moving up to perch on the edge of the couch, he grabbed Ty’s wrist and took his pulse. Ty’s huge green eyes were glassy with pain and his arm shook under Abe’s fingers. He was breathing heavily; his pulse was rapid but strong.

“You did really well, Ty. Most people would have screamed the roof down—had my neighbors calling the police. You’re tough as nails.”

Ty smiled at Abe sardonically. “Too bad my father isn’t here to hear you say that. He’s always trying to toughen me up.” Bitterness flickered in his eyes.

Abe felt a stab of pain in his heart. He’s too young to carry that much pain. Someone has hurt him badly. “I’m sorry,” Abe said gently. He wanted to gather the young man up in his arms and hold him and tell him everything would be okay, but he could tell by Ty’s body language that he wouldn’t welcome physical contact. Sure enough, Ty shifted away from Abe as he pulled himself to a sitting position.

“I’m fine.” His voice was firm and calm.

“How about some food?”

Ty’s eyes widened and he nodded. “Yes, please. I’m starving.”

Abe chuckled. “Good. So am I.” Ty was too thin. Abe wondered how long it had been since he’d eaten, but he didn’t ask.

A half-hour later Ty was falling asleep on the couch while Abe wrapped his foot. He was pleasantly full of tomato soup, grilled cheese sandwiches, and hot chocolate. He had felt like a little kid while Abe was catering to him. There had even been marshmallows in his hot chocolate. He wondered how he’d ever be able to repay the big nurse for his kindness.

Abe finished up and glanced at his watch. “I’d like you to sleep in my bed. I need to go to work in a couple hours, and I don’t want to disturb you. I’ll take the couch.”

“No, I’m—” Ty’s protest turned into a small squeak as Abe scooped him up into his arms. “What are you doing?” He tried to sound irritated, but his voice just came out a pitch higher than usual. His heart started pounding double-time. Abe was so strong he’d picked him up without any effort at all. He could feel the hard planes of Abe’s chest under his hand, which had inadvertently found its way to rest there. His breath hitched.

The big man carried him into the bedroom. “No arguments. You get the bed—I’ll take the couch.”

Ty noticed the bed was made now and wondered when Abe had done that. His rescuer laid him gently down and helped him scoot under the covers. He shivered slightly as he snuggled into the cool sheets. He was too tired to argue, and he fell asleep even before Abe finished taking his pulse. 

Chapter Three

Ty stretched slowly, reveling in the feel of the soft bed and the weight of the blankets on his shoulders. His pains were gentle today. As he eased into wakefulness, memories of the night before came back to him.

I’m in Abe’s apartment!

He felt safe and warm. He wasn’t in a hurry to get out of bed. He breathed in the spicy, slightly musky scent that was on the sheets—they smelled like Abe. He remembered being carried in those strong arms, leaning his head on that huge chest, breathing in Abe’s scent… A shiver of goose bumps broke out across his skin.

He snuggled further under the blankets. He didn’t think Abe was home; he didn’t hear anyone in the little apartment, and Abe had mentioned he would be going to work. He went over the details of what had happened the night before, remembering everything Abe had said and done. He seems like such a perfect guy—gentle … caring … strong … and totally sexy.

Sexy? What the hell? Why am I thinking about him like this? Disturbed by the direction his thoughts had taken, he sat up and looked around.

The king-sized bed dominated the room. The floor was oak, warmed with a few bright, geometric-patterned rugs. In addition to the bookshelves along one wall, there was a desk and a dresser, all in black with clean modern lines. He noticed a tray on the desk that held a carafe of coffee, a mug, an orange, and some muffins.

Curious, he got out of bed, happy to note that his foot felt much better. He still couldn’t put weight on the sole, but the entire foot was no longer hot and painful. He limped to the desk and poured himself a cup of coffee. When he saw there was a small pitcher of cream and some sugar cubes on the tray, he smiled to himself. Abe is so thoughtful.

He limped into the bathroom and took care of business. His black eye was now more greenish than purple; his nose was still slightly swollen. He turned his head to the side, looking at his nose in profile. It had a small bump in the middle of it. He sighed regretfully. He didn’t think he cared so much that his nose was not as attractive as it used to be, but the bump was a visual reminder of what his father had done to him. He wondered if every time he looked in the mirror from now on he’d remember that horrible night.

He finished up in the bathroom and wandered back into the bedroom. The door to the main room was closed. He turned the handle and pulled. The handle turned, but the door didn’t open. What the fuck? He pulled harder. The door yielded a fraction of an inch. Something was preventing the door from opening.

Panic flooded him. Why would he lock me up? Is he planning to hurt me? He pulled on the door with all his might. No matter how hard he pulled, a half-inch was the extent of play in the door. He called for help as loudly as he could for several minutes while he continued to tug at the door in frustration. His efforts were to no avail.

Calming himself down, he rationalized, he’s probably not going to hurt me—he left me food … but why the hell did he lock me up? The fear he felt shifted to anger. Just because he helped me, doesn’t give him the right to hold me captive! He seethed and paced, limping back and forth, so worked up he was oblivious to the pain in his foot.

It finally occurred to him that perhaps Abe was afraid he’d steal him blind by the time he got back from work. Abe wanted to be there when he left to make sure he wasn’t carrying off half his stuff. That thought saddened him, although since he’d clearly been living on the streets when Abe found him, he couldn’t blame him for not trusting him.

It still doesn’t give him the right to lock me up! He clenched his fist and slammed it into the unyielding door. His knuckles smarted, but the heavy door showed no sign of damage.

He began to poke around the bedroom, starting with the closet. Normally he would have respected Abe’s privacy and not snooped, but his anger gave him the excuse he needed. If he’s going to lock me up, I sure as shit am going to find out everything I can about him.

There wasn’t much in the closet: clothes and shoes and a few boxes stacked in the back labeled “Evan.” Ty noticed that Abe had some nice clothes. The closet smelled masculine with a hint of musk.

Moving on into the bedroom, Ty began a methodical sweep through Abe’s drawers, feeling guilty while he did so. In the back of the top drawer, buried behind some socks, was a framed photograph. Ty pulled it out and examined it.

The picture was of Abe and a thin, young, blond man. They were standing close to each other, both smiling broadly for the camera. Fuck, he’s good-looking, Ty thought as he stared at Abe’s smile. The other man was very attractive too, in a delicate sort of way. Ty put the picture carefully back where he’d found it and closed the drawer. He wondered why Abe kept the picture hidden.

He perused the bookshelf then, observing that Abe had an eclectic taste in books. There was everything from The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, to James Patterson novels, to The Lord of the Rings. He finished his inspection with the desk, not finding anything of particular interest. He was just about to turn on Abe’s laptop when he heard a door close.

His fear, which had settled, now screamed to the surface. Abe was much bigger than he was and had locked him up against his will. He had no idea what the big man’s intentions toward him were. His heart pounded frantically as he raced to the door. Listening to the sounds of Abe undoing whatever he’d done to block the door shut, he danced in fearful anticipation.

As soon as the door started to move, he yanked it open and pushed past a startled Abe. His only thought was to get away as quickly as possible. He ran out the front door of the apartment, ignoring the protests of his hurt foot. His heart felt like it was going to explode out of his chest.

“Ty … wait! Stop, please!” The black man followed him.

Abe had been detained at work and had gotten home several hours later than he’d planned. He was caught by surprise when Ty bolted past him. His first impression was, Wow! He’s even more gorgeous today than he was last night. His shining hair flowed away from his pale face. His long body was lithe and graceful. His unusual eyes darted around frantically as he raced to the door.

He’s terrified, Abe realized and immediately figured out why. Fuck! I did that to him. I scared him half to death by locking him up. Shit! I’m so stupid! What was I thinking? Remorse flooded Abe, along with fear that Ty was going to disappear instantly from his life—that he would never see the young man again. For some reason this thought devastated him.

He caught up with Ty as he was waiting for the elevator. Ty glanced at the stairwell as if considering that option, but he stood his ground at the elevator.

“Ty, I’m sorry. Please don’t run.”

Ty said nothing. He refused to look at Abe.

“Ty! You can’t go out without shoes or a coat. There’s four inches of on the ground!” The elevator doors opened and Ty jumped in, smashing the button for the lobby. Abe followed him in and took a position in the opposite corner.

“Ty, what’s going on?”

“You fucking locked me up, asshole! I’m leaving!”

“Oh, Ty—I’m so sorry!” Abe needed Ty to understand. “I didn’t think you’d even wake up before I got back, but I was delayed. It was really stupid of me to lock you in. I just wanted to make sure I got to see you before you left.”

“Well, you’ve seen me. Good-bye!” The elevator arrived and Ty limped quickly into the lobby. Abe followed.

“Ty! I didn’t rescue you from hypothermia to have you go right back out there and commit suicide. You’re not even wearing shoes!”

Ty stood for a minute at the glass door, looking out at the snow-covered street. He glanced down at his bare feet and then up at Abe. His eyes blazed.

“Fuck!” He stomped back onto the elevator and punched the button for the twenty-third floor. Abe followed him, wishing he could figure out what to say to calm the young man down. It tore him up to realize he was the cause of Ty’s fear and anger. The young man glared at the floor in silence the entire ride up. His body was tense, his fists clenched.

“I’m really sorry Ty. I didn’t realize you’d get so upset. I really didn’t mean to hurt you.”

Ty didn’t answer him—didn’t even look at him.

“I’m so stupid. Please don’t be upset.”

“Fuck you!”

At least I got some kind of a response, Abe thought ruefully.

Ty stormed off the elevator, his sore foot barely apparent. Abe followed him back into his apartment. He had left the front door wide open.

“Where are my clothes?” Ty was tight-lipped and pale.

“Oh shit!” Abe went immediately to the double folding doors and slid them open. “I threw them in the washer last night, but I forgot to put them in the dryer this morning.” While he spoke, he hastily pulled Ty’s clothes out of the small washer and tossed them into the dryer above it. After turning the dryer on, he turned back around to find Ty glaring at him.

His spirit crumpled. He couldn’t stand having people mad at him. He collapsed onto the edge of his large leather chair, putting his head in his hands. He stared at the floor. “I’m really, really sorry. The last thing I wanted was to scare you. I just wanted to make sure you were okay before you left. And with the snow and all, I was worried….” He let himself trail off, lost in remorse.

“Fuck you! You locked me up! No one gets to lock me up. Never again—ever!”

Heat flushed Abe’s chest. Shit! He’s been locked up before. It makes sense that whoever tortured him kept him locked up. No wonder he’s so freaked out. Abe felt close to tears. He swallowed and looked up at Ty. “I’m such a fuckhead.” He didn’t know what else to say.

Ty looked at Abe’s face and saw his own pain reflected in Abe’s eyes. The big man was obviously quite upset. This calmed Ty down a little. “I guess I’ll have to wait until my clothes dry,” he said tightly. Stepping over to the dryer, he leaned against it and folded his arms across his chest.

“I was hoping you’d stay a few days until your foot heals and the weather gets warmer. I guess that’s out of the question now?”

Ty had hoped to stay a couple of days as well, for the same reasons. He didn’t feel threatened by Abe anymore. He could see how remorseful the big man was, and he had stayed so calm throughout Ty’s tirade. Ty had yelled “Fuck you!” at him at least twice and had also called him an asshole. Abe hadn’t shown the slightest hint of anger.

“No one is ever going to lock me up again,” Ty repeated with conviction. “Ever!”

“I promise I won’t lock you up—never, ever!” Abe looked up hopefully.

Ty was torn. He had pondered begging Abe to let him stay. Now, he was pretty sure Abe would say yes, but he wasn’t sure he still wanted to stay. He didn’t know Abe and obviously couldn’t trust him. His alternative was grim though. He had no money, and it was freezing outside.

Abe’s big brown eyes were full of compassion and regret. Looking into them, Ty made up his mind. “I’ll stay if you want me to,” he said softly. “Just for a couple of days … unless I feel threatened. If I feel threatened, I’ll leave immediately.”

Abe smiled and the tension left his shoulders. “You’re welcome to stay as long as you like. I’ll sure try not to do anything that might scare you. I’m really very sorry.”

Finally starting to relax, Ty limped to the couch. His foot suddenly hurt like hell.

“Better let me look at that foot again,” Abe said.

Ty made a face at him.

 *****

Julie Iverson swallowed the bile that came up into the back of her throat. She staggered a few steps and collapsed onto the edge of Ty’s bed, his soiled comforter still in her hands.

Her mind reeled. Jeanie had told her what Ty had looked like after the beating. She’d thought her daughter was exaggerating. She had been in denial, but she could not deny the evidence in her hands. Her son had been brutalized by her husband to the point where he had lost control of his bladder—she could smell the putrid scent of dried urine on his comforter. Her son was no weakling. It would have taken a lot to push him that far, and indeed, the coverlet was well-stained with blood as well.

Guilt and shame overwhelmed her. Why didn’t I protect him? My baby! Tears quickly filled her eyes and overflowed down her cheeks. She was surprised that she still had any left, she had cried so much since he had run away. Her boy was gone, and she wondered if she’d ever see him again.

She was so angry with her husband, she had barely spoken three words to him since Monday. Richard had bent over backwards to win her forgiveness, and she was trying hard to ignore him. She had been in a haze of misery since Ty had left. It was only now, five days later, that she’d found the courage to look in his bedroom. She looked once more at the comforter in her hands, and her tears flowed faster. How can I possibly ever forgive that bastard for doing this to my son? How can I possibly forgive myself for being so clueless about what was going on?

She heard the doorbell chime in the distance. She wiped her tears away with a tissue as she hurried downstairs.

The woman at the front door was about forty years old with short brown curls and a warm smile. She was wearing a light blue sweater that matched the blue of her eyes. She looked vaguely familiar.

“I’m Linda Billington, Ty’s English teacher,” she introduced herself. “I hope you don’t mind my dropping by like this. I wanted to see if there was any news.”

Yes, of course. I met her at the parent-teacher conference. Julie shook her head sadly, “No, no news. Won’t you come in?” She stepped aside to let Linda enter. “I’m sorry about the house,” she apologized as she led the way into the living room. “I haven’t felt like cleaning.” I haven’t felt like doing anything. “Can I get you something to drink? Coffee? Tea? …Wine?” She laughed, and it sounded a bit unbalanced even to her own ears. It’s eleven o’clock on a Saturday morning, and I’m offering wine?

“No, I’m fine. Is there anything I can do to help?”

“I don’t know. We’ve called all his friends. No one has heard from him—not a phone call or an email. Or at least no one admits to hearing from him. Maybe they’re protecting him.” Protecting him like I didn’t. Her voice broke as she went on. “Richard plastered the town with flyers. He even took a day off of work and went into Heartland City with a stack of them. No one has called. He’s just vanished.”

Linda patted the other woman’s arm sympathetically. “Ty’s a smart boy. I’m sure he’s doing fine.”

“He’s smart, but he’s not street-smart. I’m so worried about him. With all this wind and snow … I guess it’s good that they haven’t found his body yet.”

“Sshhh! Don’t talk like that! He’s probably staying with a friend somewhere. Surely he had a plan when he ran away.”

Julie’s face was an open book. She was clearly startled by Linda’s comment. Her surprise soon gave way to guilt, which she tried to hide. “What makes you think he ran away? The police are treating it as a kidnapping.”

Linda decided to be blunt. “I saw him the morning he left. I also saw your husband that afternoon. He may have been able to convince his sheriff buddies otherwise, but I believe your husband beat him up—badly. And that’s what I put in my official report too.”

Julie covered her face with her hands and burst into tears. She was embarrassed and ashamed. “How could I let that happen?” she wailed.

Linda slid her arm around the other woman’s thin shoulders. “I know a good councilor. You should talk to her. She can help you.”

“N … nothing is going to bring him back now!” Julie was distraught.

“He might come back on his own soon, don’t you think?”

Julie shook her head, her sleek auburn hair swinging about her shoulders. “He’s too stubborn. He won’t come back—not as long as Richard’s here.”

Linda looked at her pointedly for a moment and then fished around in her purse. She handed a business card to the upset woman. “Call Sara. She’ll help you get it figured out.”

*****

“The email address you have chosen is not available. Please try a different address.” Ty made a few more clicks and got a different entry page with a dropdown that gave him a choice of domains; roughboy18@live.com was accepted.

He was afraid to use his own email account in case his father figured out some way to track him down. He also decided against setting up a new Facebook account. His sister would know who roughboy18 was before she opened the email. She had heard his father say “I’m going to make you into a rough boy” often enough. His best friend, Dave, would probably guess as well.

Once his account was set up, he shot quick emails to his sister and Dave, letting them know he was doing fine. He didn’t tell them where he was, just that he was staying with a new friend. He also didn’t go into detail about his time on the street; he didn’t want them to worry. He asked his sister to pass the information on to their mother and to ask her to please not say anything to their father.

After he was done with his short notes, he felt more settled. It had bothered him to know that his family and friends were worried about him. During his last few days on the street, when he was starving, lonely, and cold, he had longed to go home. It wasn’t his pride that stopped him as much as fear of his father. He sighed and pushed that thought out of his mind. He had dwelled on it too much already.

Ty relaxed on the couch with his feet up and Abe’s laptop on his lap. Abe had set him up with his own login before he left to buy groceries. He’s a generous man, sharing with someone he just met.

He’d hadn’t been at Abe’s a full day yet, and already he felt comfortable. Abe had been gone for some little while and Ty hoped he’d return soon—he was hungry. It was comforting to know where his next meal was coming from, if not exactly when.

It occurred to him that he should be doing research on how to get a new driver’s license—preferably one that listed his age as eighteen and had a different name—but he drifted instead, randomly clicking on links. He didn’t feel like focusing. He’d be at Abe’s a few more days. He could do research later. He was just thinking about logging into his favorite multi-player gaming site when he heard the front door being unlocked.

“Hey, Ty! How’s it goin’?” Abe grinned at him as he unburdened himself onto the kitchen counter. “I got groceries and also bought you a few personal items. I hope you don’t mind.”

“You didn’t need to do that!” he protested as the big man dropped a bag into his lap. Ty had told Abe about his stolen backpack.

“I wasn’t sure what you like … I mean, like what kind of toothpaste you use and stuff, so you get what I felt like buying. I also got you some underwear and socks. I was tempted to buy you some regular clothes, but I thought you should come with me for that.”

“Abe, this is too much,” Ty said, rummaging around in the bag. Abe had bought him all the essentials. He wasn’t upset; he was actually pleased and grateful but uncomfortable with Abe spending money on him.

Abe couldn’t tell from Ty’s expression what he was thinking. “You can’t get by without socks and underwear. And you definitely need a toothbrush if you’re living with me. I don’t like to share.” Abe was joking, and to his relief, Ty smiled.

“Thank you! That’s really kind of you. I don’t know how I’ll ever be able to repay you.”

“Don’t you worry about that. You just get better.”

“I am feeling much better.”

“How about some pizza? I’m starved.” Abe took a premade pizza out of one of the grocery bags and turned on the oven.

As they were waiting for the pizza to bake, Abe pondered how to get Ty to talk about what had happened to him. Who had tortured him? How did he end up on the street? He felt he needed to know more about Ty’s situation in order to help him. He was afraid to broach the subject, however. Ty was skittish. Abe had the feeling that Ty would leave in a heartbeat if he said anything to make him uncomfortable.

If he’s afraid to talk about his past, we’ll start with the future. That’s safe, right? “What do you want to be when you grow up?” he asked with a smile.

To his dismay, Ty’s face reddened and shame flickered in his eyes. Damn! Ty hesitated so long, he thought he wasn’t going to answer him, but finally he said, “I wanted to be a computer programmer, but I don’t think that’s going to happen now.” There was a bitter edge to his voice, and he kept his eyes on the floor.

“Why not?”

“I dropped out of high school.” Ty scowled to hide his disgrace.

“What grade were you in when you dropped out?”

“Senior.” Ty’s nerves stretched tight. The conversation was straying dangerously close to things he was reluctant to talk about. He didn’t want to lie to Abe, but he knew if he asked him direct questions about certain things, he would have to.

I bet he just dropped out, Abe thought. What a shame. Is there no hope of him going back? He was probably living with his parents until recently, which means his father beat him up—unless it was an uncle or a foster-parent, but he’s already mentioned his dad. Likely, Daddy-dearest.

Seeing the despair on Ty’s face, Abe decided not to push him. “Well, if you almost finished school, you should be able to get your GED pretty easily. After that you can go to college. You’re still really young. It’s a setback certainly, but it doesn’t mean you can’t go college.

Ty looked at Abe skeptically. “Well … maybe. I need to find a job first, and since I don’t have any ID, that’s going to be almost impossible.”

“You’ll get it figured out,” Abe said encouragingly.

Ty smiled at him wanly. He wished he were as confident in his abilities as Abe seemed to be.

“Ty…” Abe took a deep breath and dove in. “I know you were injured on your back and your butt—I saw the blood on your clothes when I washed them.”

Ty stiffened and his face became a stone mask. He did not meet Abe’s eyes.

“I’d like to examine you—make sure you’re healing well.”

“No. I’m fine.”

“I’m a nurse. It will be very clinical.”

“I know that, but it’s not necessary. That blood was old. I’ve healed fine.” Ty’s jaw was set, and Abe knew he would get nowhere by pushing.

“All right, but if anything starts bothering you, let me know, please.”

Ty didn’t respond. He seemed to be completely engrossed in examining the saltshaker.

Abe suppressed a sigh. “Shall we watch a movie while we eat?”

“Sure. What have you got?

Chapter Four

Dani peered out the bus window and watched the tall buildings slide by. He saw the streets thronged with people and his stomach twisted into a tight knot. He’d been to Heartland City before but always with his mother and brother. Now he was moving here on his own; it was more than a little intimidating.

He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Remember how bored you were at home? he asked himself. You couldn’t wait to leave. Was that only yesterday?

The bus pulled into the old downtown station. Dani jumped to his feet, anxious to get to his suitcase before someone stole it. He pulled on his grim city face.

*****

Tommy sucked in his breath and his heart started racing. He always enjoyed the thrill of the chase, the challenge of trying to make a sale. He liked to use his wiles to sweet-talk someone into taking a chance. This one would be well worth the effort. If Tommy had been attracted to pretty young boys instead of macho men, he would have had a hard-on already. The boy’s fucking drool-worthy, that’s for sure.

The young man under observation crossed the lobby of the bus station, dragging a huge suitcase behind him. He was a compact package, five foot eight at the most. He was trim, but well-defined muscles in his arms and chest were apparent beneath his snug black tee. The shirt was just long enough to reach the top of his low-slung blue jeans, but when he paused to shrug into a gray leather jacket, a flash of toned abdomen showed.

Fabulous!

His blond hair was cut in an asymmetrical shag, longer in the front than in the back. It was a casual style, and the bangs fell across his lovely face in purposeful disarray. His clear eyes were storm-gray and wary.

Tommy put a bright smile on his face and sashayed over to the boy, earrings tinkling. Don’t overdo it, sugar, he warned himself. This one will bolt if you’re not careful.

“Hello beautiful. Can I help you out? Give you directions to somewhere?” Tommy stopped short of offering to help him with his suitcase. It was huge—he didn’t want to get stuck dealing with it.

The young man looked up at Tommy, measuring him. “No, thank you.” His voice was smooth and perfectly modulated.

“If you need a place to stay, I can assist. We have a house with some spare rooms.”

The storm-gray eyes met his, hesitant and mistrustful. “What kind of house?”

Tommy’s smile broadened. Here was his opening. “My name’s Tommy.” He offered his hand.

The young man’s gaze shifted to his hand then back to his face. His expression was stony. “I’m Dani.” He didn’t take Tommy’s hand.

This one’s chill, Tommy thought. He launched quickly into his pitch. “It’s a huge old house in the River District. It’s on the metro rail route but also walkable to downtown in half-an-hour or so. It’s owned by a friend of mine, a lovely woman. It’s a great place to stay and all the…”

“She rents out rooms?” Dani interrupted.

“Well, not exactly,” Tommy answered. Now here’s the tricky part.

The young man’s eyes narrowed. “What do you mean, ‘not exactly’? I thought you just offered to rent me a room.”

“She lets her employees stay there for free.”

“Employees!” the young man snorted. His eyes swept Tommy up and down again. “Yeah, I can just imagine what kind of work you do.”

Tommy was suddenly flustered. He felt his face go hot. Damn! Something in the boy’s tone had just made him feel ashamed. It had been a long time since he had been ashamed of what he did. When he realized this, his shame turned to indignation.

“I never do anything I don’t want to do!” he huffed, unconsciously putting his hand on his hip and sliding it out to the side. His pale pink pants were skin-tight. “I always enjoy myself.”

“I bet you do!” The blond looked amused.

“Sally never puts the press on anyone,” Tommy continued. “You only do what you want to do. Sometimes it’s just attending a party or going on a date…”

“I’m not interested.” Dani grabbed the handle of his suitcase and started toward the door.

Tommy stepped in front of him, talking fast. “She has a standing offer of the first week free. You can come check it out, see what you think. You won’t be asked to do anything. The room is free with no strings and no pressure for the first week. After that if you want to go, it’s fine. No hard feelings, and you’re welcome back anytime.”

Dani hesitated. “What do you get out of the deal?”

Tommy decided to be honest. The boy seemed pretty astute; he’d probably smell a lie. “Sally gives me twenty-five dollars for every boy I bring home who stays the week. Seventy-five more if they decide to work.”

“You said she won’t put any pressure on me to stay, but what about you? Surely you’ll be trying to sweet talk me at every turn so you can get the rest of your fee. No thanks. I’ll find my own lodgings.”

Tommy put on a hurt look. “I won’t pester you,” he said, although that was exactly what he’d been planning. “I promise I’ll leave you alone. Won’t even talk to you if you don’t want me to.” Twenty-five bucks was better than nothing, and the boy looked like he was seriously considering the free week.

“I’ll come talk to this Sally lady, and then I’ll make my decision.”

A huge smile split Tommy’s face.

*****

Fuck me! “The house is huge!” Dani’s eyes swept across the rambling old structure. It was a turn-of-the-century house, fully four stories tall if you included the windowed attic. It had garrets and even a few turrets and diamond-paned, leaded glass in some of the windows. It was painted in several complementary shades of green with cream accents. It appeared to be well maintained, and the small front yard was immaculate. It was exactly the kind of house Dani had always dreamt of owning. He couldn’t wait to see the interior.

“We currently have fifteen boys living here,” Tommy said. “We have room for eighteen, more if some double up, but Sally doesn’t like boys to have to double up. As a freebie, you might get a roommate, but if you go to work for her, you’ll get your own room.”

Dani didn’t say anything. He wasn’t at all sure he was even going to be a “freebie,” and he damn sure wasn’t going to work for Sally, but the lure of a week’s free lodgings was too much for him to pass up without checking it out. His funds were limited, and this might give him a chance to scout around and find an affordable place to stay long-term.

He was willing to talk to Sally. He had a sixth sense about people. Tommy was a shyster, but he was a well-intentioned shyster; Dani sensed no malice in him. If he smelled anything even a bit off when he talked to Sally, he wouldn’t stay.

Tommy ran up the broad steps that led to a sheltered front porch. Dani paused at the bottom of the steps to adjust his grip on the over-large suitcase. Just as he was struggling to pick it up, a huge man barreled out the front door and down the steps.

“Let me get that for you,” he rumbled. He had a heavy Eastern European accent.

Dani had no intention of letting his suitcase get hauled away by someone else. He looked up into a broad, bushy, smiling face. The suitcase was damn heavy. “Thank you! Just inside the front door, please,” Dani said.

He followed the giant up the steps. The man was built like a Mack truck. He was wearing a tank that did little to cover his bulging muscles or the profusion of dark hair that covered his body.

As Dani stepped into the warmth of the house, he shivered, shaking off the cold. The house smelled of old wood and beeswax.

As requested, the giant set his suitcase down in the foyer. Tommy planted a kiss on the European’s hairy cheek. “Hey, sugar! How was your day?”

The big man smiled broadly. “Better now that you’re here.” His voice was low and growly. He squeezed Tommy’s ass affectionately. Tommy gave a little squeal and slapped at the big man’s hands, but his eyes said that he loved it.

“Dani, this is Yuri. Yuri, Dani.”

“Most pleased to meet you,” Yuri said formally, executing a small bow.

“Me too.” Dani smiled. “Thanks for helping with my suitcase.”

“Any time you need help, with anything at all, you just say the word. I’m your man.” Yuri waggled his eyebrows suggestively.

Dani laughed. He immediately liked Yuri. He was not Dani’s type, but he could turn into a friend.

“Yuri helps keep the boys safe,” Tommy said.

“Yes, I’m the official bad-ass.” Yuri drew himself up to his full height and cracked his knuckles. The man was huge, but Dani was not intimidated. He seemed like a big teddy bear.

“Do you want to wait here while I go find Sally?” Tommy asked.

“Sure,” Dani replied.

Just then they heard raised voices coming from another room.

“Uh, oh,” Yuri said. “Sounds like Andre and Bradley are at it again. I’d better go settle them down before Sal decides to kick them out.” Both he and Tommy disappeared through a set of double doors.

Dani took in the foyer, loving the feel of the old house. The original woodwork had not been painted and the rich wood gave a warmth and character that could not be found in modern structures. A large staircase with beautiful, carved banisters ascended to a second-floor landing that looked down onto the foyer. Dani admired the huge crystal chandelier that filled the room with a cheery, diffused light. Against one wall was a long bench, and above that hung a horizontal mirror with hooks along the frame that held an assortment of coats, hats and scarves. The house was clean but with a lived-in feel. Dani immediately liked the vibe.

He noticed a bulletin board to the left of the front door, and his eyes were drawn to a flyer featuring a gorgeous boy with haunted eyes.

“Runaway!” the flyer proclaimed and proceeded to list the boy’s physical characteristics. Someone had handwritten a note in large letters in the margin of the flyer. “Help find this boy before his sadistic, homophobic father does! Bring him in if you can. (If you see any of these flyers around town—TAKE THEM DOWN!)”

Dani looked again at the boy’s face. There was definitely something compelling about his eyes. They were intelligent and spirited but sad. It seemed like his usual nature was to laugh, but he wasn’t happy anymore. Dani rarely got such a strong impression from a picture.

Shaking off a strange feeling of premonition, he perused the rest of the bulletin board. There was a flyer that advertised a party for Saturday night with a live neo-punk band, and he read with interest the sheet titled, “House Rules.” They were:

  • No drugs!
  • No alcohol if you’re under 21. No alcohol in the common areas.
  • Smoking only on the back porch or in the back yard.
  • No fighting (includes verbal).* All visitors must be approved by a staff member upon arrival.
  • Clean up after yourself.
  • Finish your assigned chores by noon.

There was also a chart listing when different staff members were on duty and their phone numbers.

Suddenly, a small group of people crowded into the room, and Dani found himself the subject of curious attention. A heavy-set woman came forward and extended her hand, a welcoming smile on her pleasant face. She wore layers of brightly colored sweaters in pinks and purples and a long, full, paisley-patterned skirt in the same bright hues. Her salt and pepper hair was swept back into a long braid that reached almost to her waist. Hoop earrings, a multitude of necklaces, and a silk flower in her hair completed her retro-hippy look.

Her sharp blue eyes consumed Dani at once, seeming not to miss any detail. Tommy, Yuri and three other attractive young men clustered behind her, watching.

“Dani, this is Sally. Sal, Dani just got into town and needs a place to stay,” Tommy said.

“Welcome Dani. Where are you from?” she asked in a soft but firm voice.

“I’m from Greensburo.”

“And how old are you?”

“Nineteen.”

She nodded, smiling. Dani had the feeling that she had gleaned more information from him in those two answers than most people would have in twenty.

“You are most welcome to stay here if you like. You’ll need to follow the house rules, of course.” She nodded toward the bulletin board. “I’m sure Tommy’s told you, the first week is free. I’d like you to get to know us a bit, learn what we’re about before you make any decisions. After that, if you want to stay, you’ll need to work, but we never ask anyone to do anything they’re uncomfortable with.”

Dani nodded without saying anything. The woman was intimidating. Her presence dominated the room as if she were Yuri’s size. She was obviously a no-nonsense type of person, but she did not seem cold and calculating. Underneath her business-like demeanor was compassion. She had a multitude of laugh lines around her eyes. Dani quickly made his decision. “I’ll stay for a week.”

A small cheer broke out from the watching crowd. Tommy’s grin was huge.

“Wonderful!” Sally said warmly. “Do you have ID? May I see it?”

Dani pulled his license out of his wallet and passed it to her. She inspected it briefly and returned it. Turning to the small group, she said, “Don’t tease him too much, boys. Give him a chance to settle in first. Yuri, can you show him to the lavender room please?”

“Yes, ma’am.” Yuri picked up Dani’s giant suitcase without any apparent effort and shot him a wolfish grin. “I’ll be happy to show you your room … and your bed!”

“Yuri!” Sally’s voice held a warning.

“Sorry Sal, I couldn’t resist. He’s just too cute.”

Dani laughed. He felt immediately at home. He couldn’t wait to see the rest of the fabulous house and meet the other boys. He followed the gentle giant up the long staircase.

A few hours later Dani was finished putting his things away. He didn’t unpack completely—he was only going to be there a week—but he organized his toiletries and hung up his shirts.

The room was a bit feminine for his taste, but it was lovely. It had a lavender theme with flowered wallpaper, a quilt-covered brass bed, antique furniture, and a view of the backyard garden. He would be comfortable here.

Yuri had given him a tour of the house and introduced him to a few of the boys. The house was amazing—the kitchen had been tastefully updated, but most of the rest of the house had been restored to its original glory. All of the boys he met were young, attractive, and friendly—except for Andre. He wasn’t sure what that young man’s problem was, but he had issues.

He resisted the urge to go out on the back porch for a smoke. He had managed to cut back to half a pack a day. Now that he was living in the city and unemployed, he couldn’t afford an expensive habit. Besides, it was bad for his health and gave him bad breath. He had been smoking since he was fourteen. His mother still smoked two packs a day even though she had a chronic cough. Someday soon he planned to quit entirely.

He relaxed on the bed with a map of the city in his hands, trying to orient himself.

“Hi.” The voice was soft.

He glanced up and saw a peacock standing in his doorway.

Fuck me!

Peacock was his first impression. The young man was Asian. His hair had been shaved off on one side of his head; it was shoulder-length and sleek on the other, and spiked in the middle of the front. The spikes were brilliant shades of pink, turquoise and purple. His honey-toned skin was flawless, his lips lusciously full, and his exotic eyes perfectly outlined with turquoise eyeliner. He was dressed in very low-slung black jeans and a turquoise silk button down shirt that was unbuttoned, showing a smooth, hairless chest and taut stomach.

Dani climbed out of bed to greet him and saw that they were the same height. The peacock was thinner than Dani. “Hi. I’m Dani.” He put out his hand.

“I know. I’m Kaeden.” He smiled shyly. His hands were delicate. His nails were not super-long but were perfectly manicured and painted in sparkling turquoise. He took Dani’s hand, and instead of shaking it, he brought it to his lips and kissed the back of it in a smooth, languid movement that was surprisingly sensuous.

This boy is definitely different. “Do you want to come in? Have a seat?” Dani sat back down on the edge of his bed.

“Sure.” Kaeden plopped down on the bed next to Dani, his peacock spikes bouncing. His eyes danced as he looked at him, and Dani couldn’t help but feel an immediate liking for the striking young man. He noticed Kaeden was wearing false eyelashes.

“Where are you from?” Kaeden began with the standard question.

They spent the next hour sharing their backgrounds.

Dani told his story: he grew up in a town about a hundred miles away. His dad had disappeared when he was a baby, and his mom had raised him and his older brother alone, working as a bus driver. He was obviously proud of his mom, but even more so of his older brother who was in the military on some elite undercover team in the Middle East.

Dani had worked for a year after high school as a cashier at a grocery store, trying to save his money. He wanted to be an actor or maybe a singer. “After a while, I figured out that it would take me forever to really save up the money I need to support myself in the city while breaking into acting, and I should just go for it before I get too old. I probably should move to New York or LA, but Mom talked me into starting here first. Heartland City has some theatre and it’s not as expensive as the bigger cities. I’m hoping to get a part in a musical or something. I love to sing.”

“Ooh! You sing?” Kaeden gushed, flirting with his eyes. “Do you play an instrument too?”

Dani smiled. “Yes, I play the piano, but it was too big to bring with me.”

Kaeden nodded. His movements were small and graceful. He was very feminine—even more feminine than most of the girls Dani knew. Dani usually wasn’t attracted to femmes and was not lusting for Kaeden, but he did find him interesting and beautiful, and he seemed to have a sweet disposition too.

Kaeden’s parents had emigrated from Singapore before he was born. Ethnically, he was mostly Chinese, but his grandmother was from Tonga. He had two brothers and five sisters; he was the youngest. They had lived just outside of Chinatown until he was in eighth-grade, ant then they moved to an affluent suburb. His father was the successful owner a small chain of electronics stores.

When he got to the next part of his story, Kaeden’s face grew tense. “I worked in one of my dad’s stores. He was grooming me to be a manager, but we had a huge fight. When I had my hair done like this and came home wearing make-up, my parents freaked. I thought they knew I was gay already, although I’d never come right out and told them. Dad said I couldn’t live in his house or work in his store unless I looked and acted ‘normal’—so I left.”

His frown quickly returned to a smile as he continued. “It’s way past time for me to move out anyway—I’m twenty years old. But now, I have no idea what I want to do for a living. I was going to school part-time at the community college, but I’m taking a break from that too, at least until I figure out what I’m doing.”

“Well, what do you like to do? What are you good at?” Dani prodded.

“I like people. I love meeting new people and finding out about them.”

“There’s lots of jobs you can do if you’re good with people.” Dani started naming careers and the conversation continued to flow comfortably. Eventually Dani worked up the nerve to ask the question he’d been wondering about.

“You work for Sally?”

“Yes, I just started. I haven’t actually done any work yet. I just got my paperwork from the clinic. Sally makes everyone get tested, which is good. She makes the clients submit their paperwork too and insists on condoms for everything. She’s got a date lined up for me for Saturday night. I’m pretty nervous about it.” His eyes shifted to the floor and his face colored slightly.

Dani wanted to put his arm around Kaeden’s shoulders and tell him it would be all right, but he wasn’t sure it would be. He tried to imagine having sex for money and had to fight the urge to shudder.

“It’s just going to be a blowjob and maybe also a hand job or multiple blowjobs—I’m supposed to spend the entire evening with the gentleman. Apparently we’ll be going to a fancy wine-tasting party. Sally says I shouldn’t do anything I’m not comfortable with. I don’t even have to let him touch me if I don’t want to. She picks her clients very carefully. I guess he was quite taken with my photos. It should be fun.”

Dani nodded silently, watching Kaeden trying to convince himself that it would be fine.

Kaeden’s lovely eyes flitted to Dani’s face. “I was hoping maybe you’d do me a favor.”

Dani looked at him questioningly. “Maybe.”

“Would you let me go down on you? I need the practice.”

Dani’s first reaction was shock. Damn! He’s pretty forward! Even though he hadn’t been harboring thoughts of getting together with Kaeden, the suggestion of a blowjob caused his cock to spring to life. It had been a long time since anyone else had touched him. He tried to hide his disconcert at Kaeden’s request by smiling.

“I don’t know Kaeden. I’m not really into casual sex.”

Kaeden’s face reflected his disappointment, and he appeared embarrassed as well. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have asked.”

“No, it’s okay.” Dani put light fingers on Kaeden’s warm arm and unconsciously stroked him.

Kaeden shivered and his skin broke out in goose bumps. When he looked up into Dani’s face, his almond eyes were dark with desire.

Fuck! He’s attracted to me. This realization fed a reaction in Dani as well—a quickening of his heartbeat and a rush of blood to his cock. He suppressed his own shiver of desire. “Let me think about it.”

Kaeden brightened. “Maybe you can tell me after dinner. It’s almost time to eat. Sally cooks dinner for us on Wednesdays and Sundays. Sunday is open to everyone, but Wednesday night’s just the boys from the house—did you know that?”

“Yes, Yuri told me her meals are not to be missed.”

“Last Sunday night she made pot roast. I don’t usually eat meat, but it was delicious.” Kaeden continued without pausing but abruptly changed the subject. “So, if you’re not into casual sex, what are you doing living here?”

“Taking advantage of a week’s free rent.”

Kaeden’s laughter was musical.

Without giving it any conscious thought, Dani slid his arm around the lovely Asian’s lithe waist and nuzzled him on his neck. It felt good to hold someone and Kaeden smelled like vanilla. What the hell am I doing?

Kaeden shifted closer to Dani, putting his arms around his torso. He threw back his head, his sleek hair sliding back with it, giving Dani full access to his beautiful neck. A low moan came out of his slightly parted lips.

Other than a brief protest, Dani’s thinking mind shut down. He had his arms full of gorgeous, sexy boy who was responding to his touch with such erotic moans that Dani caught fire. He rained little kisses up the side of Kaeden’s neck while his hand roamed up from Kaeden’s smooth stomach to tweak one of his pert nipples. This elicited a louder moan and a small thrust of Kaeden’s narrow hips.

Dani slipped his other hand into his own tight jeans to adjust his rapidly swelling cock. Kaeden’s hands tangled in his hair as their lips pressed together in a passionate kiss. Dani heard himself moan around the firm, soft lips that were sucking gently on his bottom lip. His tongue snaked out, licking those sweet lips, which parted to let him in. Kaeden sucked on his tongue sending spikes of heat straight to his groin. He became aware that he was running out of air, but he was so addicted to this unbelievable kiss that he was willing to forgo breathing.

“My, you work fast!” They broke apart and looked up to find Andre in the doorway, smirking at them. Dani wasn’t sure which of them he was addressing, but in any case he didn’t look like he was teasing. He was being rude.

Dani chose to ignore him. Turning to Kaeden he said with a wink, “I guess after dinner we’ll have to close the door.” It was a subtle way of letting him know he’d be taking him up on the offer of a blowjob. His cock was so stiff, he could use it as a coat rack.

“You boys should save yourselves for the clients. That’s what you get paid for.” Andre flipped his long brown curls over his shoulder and, with a disdainful sniff, turned and walked away.

Dani smiled at Kaeden. “I’d like to take a shower before dinner—change out of my travel clothes. Do you think I have time?”

Kaeden produced an iPhone from somewhere and glanced at it. “You’ve got twenty minutes. Sally frowns on being late to dinner. If you’re more than five minutes late, she might not let you eat with us.”

Dani jumped up and began rummaging through his toiletries, gathering what he needed.

Kaeden came up behind him and slid his arms around his waist. “I could join you,” he whispered, kissing Dani’s neck.

“Mmmm.” Dani melted into Kaeden. He was still so turned on, his brain was almost non-functional. He dredged up a coherent comment: “I think if you joined me, we’d both miss dinner. Maybe some other time.”

“Okay. See you in a little while.” Kaeden kissed his cheek briefly and floated out of the room. Dani could not help but check out his small, cute ass as he left. Damn! What the hell? I’m never this easy! And I’m not usually attracted to femmes.

He resisted the urge to jack himself off in the shower, even though he knew he’d cum quickly. He would save himself for Kaeden. Kaeden needs the practice, right? A twinge of unease lanced through him, but he successfully subdued it, refusing to examine his feelings. He had every intention of having a hot tryst with the sexy Asian after dinner, and he didn’t want his conscience to get in the way of that. There would be plenty of time to have second thoughts tomorrow.

 *****

“So, you’ll tell me what I’m doing wrong, right?” Kaeden murmured breathlessly. They had just pulled out of another mind-blowing kiss.

Dani stroked the other young man’s smooth black hair on the long side and smiled at him. “I honestly don’t think I’ll know. I really don’t have much experience. I’m sure I’ll be blown away by anything you do. Actually, it’s been so long since I’ve done anything with anyone, it will likely be over almost before you get started.” Dani sighed. “Perhaps you should find someone else. Probably any of the guys here would be way better than me, if you’re looking for professional feedback.”

Kaeden stuck out his lower lip in a slight pout. “But I want you. Well … actually I’ve also been getting some practice in with Yuri. He’s such a sweetheart.”

Dani laughed. If this were a normal relationship, he would have been outraged by this confession—burning with jealousy. But since he’d just met Kaeden and had no expectations, he was simply amused. At least Kaeden wasn’t soliciting everyone.

“So how much experience do you have?” Kaeden asked curiously.

“Not much. I had a boyfriend my senior year of high school, but we took things really slowly. We were just figuring out what we were about. Since we broke up, I’ve had a couple of very brief affairs—well, not even affairs. One was a one-night stand and the other lasted only a few weeks. That’s it.”

“I wish I had taken things slowly,” Kaeden responded. “I lost my virginity when I was fourteen—and I mean, went all the way. My boyfriend was a couple years older than me.” Kaeden’s eyes softened with remembrance. “He really knew how to turn me on.”

Dani was quite turned on himself by then. He was lying on his bed with Kaeden draped over him. They were both still fully clothed, but he could feel the other man’s hard-on pressing into his hip. He was sure Kaeden could feel his as well.

“Mmmm.” Dani caressed Kaeden’s small butt. “I’d like to turn you on.”

Kaeden squirmed on top of him, rubbing his hardness against Dani’s. “You do turn me on.” His almond eyes were lowered, sensuous.

On a whim Dani asked, “Will you strip for me? I’d like that.” And your clients might too. He didn’t say that last part aloud, but the thought brought another pang of unease.

Kaeden smiled a slow sexy smile. “Oh yeah, I can do that.” As he slid off the bed, he trailed his hand lightly across Dani’s crotch causing his dick to pulse.

Kaeden had his phone in his hand—it never seemed to be far away. “I got the music.” He started punching buttons as he headed out the door. “I’ll get my speaker. Be right back.” He returned a few seconds later with a portable speaker. After closing and locking the door, he set the speaker on top of the dresser and plugged his phone into the top of it.

“The sound’s not great, but it gets pretty loud.” The thumping beat of techno-electronica filled the room with the opening notes of Kesha’s “Take It Off.”

Dani laughed. “That’s perfect.” He was about to make another comment, but Kaeden started moving and he was instantly mesmerized. The beautiful peacock spun in a slow circle undulating his hips and running his hands lightly down his chest. His lithe form kept perfect time to the music.

Wow! That’s hot! Dani’s heart started beating double-time. He’d thought his cock was already fully aroused, but now it swelled even more. He reached down and unzipped—there was no way his ultra-engorged cock would still fit in his too-tight jeans.

Kaeden was already barefoot. Dani watched with bated breath as he slowly unbuttoned his shirt, casting him sultry looks while continuing his graceful, suggestive hip movements.

“Oh Jesus, Kaeden! You are hot!”

Kaeden smiled and cast his eyes down, at the same time bringing his open hands, palms out, in front of his face to hide the lower half. His feminine movements reminded Dani very much of a Geisha, flirting shyly with her eyes above a fan while she danced.

His shirt was now fully open. He turned and began dancing with his back to Dani as he slowly slid the silk off his shoulders and let it slide to the floor. His shoulders were narrow but his waist was tiny. The expanse of smooth, golden skin was enticing. As he spun slowly to face him, Dani noticed that his arms, although slender, had nice muscle definition.

He turned his head so his long hair swung to the front, hiding his face. His peacock spikes bounced to the movements of his thrusting hips. He sank smoothly to his knees, continuing to roll his hips.

“Take it Off” ended, and the music shifted right into Rihanna’s “Rude Boy.”

Kaeden threw his head back, exposing his long neck. His sensual lips parted. He slowly unzipped his jeans, letting a sizeable erection push its way out. The mushroom tip poked out of the top of a pair of tiny black silk briefs.

Dani was surprised to hear a low moan come out of his own mouth. His cock was leaking pre-cum. He fought the urge to jump off the bed and slide his needy organ between those perfect, panting lips. Fuck! His balls were already high and tight. Am I going to orgasm just from watching him dance? He slipped his hands underneath his butt to keep from touching himself.

Kaeden managed to stand up in one fluid motion. He pulled his hard cock out of his pants and stroked it a few times before swinging around in another slow circle, lowering his tight jeans. Once they were to his knees, he simply thrust his hips causing them to slip to the floor. He stepped out of them, dancing now with his hands over his head and his back to Dani.

His silk briefs were thongs, fully exposing his small, nicely rounded butt. There wasn’t a hair anywhere on his body. He must shave—or maybe wax. I’ve never seen anyone so smooth. Dani preferred a bit of hair, a nice treasure trail and some curls to run his fingers through, but he had to admit that this look was incredibly erotic on Kaeden. Dani slid over to sit on the edge of the bed. The overwhelming need in his cock and balls was almost painful.

Kaeden’s dancing was graceful and rhythmic. He swung around again to face Dani, running his hands down his chest, pausing to tweak his nipples. He threw his head back and moaned.

Dani was about to melt down.

Aware of Dani’s lust, Kaeden danced closer. Dani reached for his narrow hips, leaning forward to lick a bit of pre-cum off the tip of Kaeden’s cock which had grown much too big for his tiny briefs.

Dani moaned as the salty-sweet flavor coated his tongue. He wanted more. Kaeden sank to his knees in front of him, removing his cock from within reach of his mouth. Dani’s disappointment was short-lived as he felt Kaeden’s tongue touch his own cock, delicately playing around the slit, lapping up the pre-cum. Dani groaned and his organ began to produce pre-cum in copious amounts, as if wanting to make sure Kaeden was well fed.

Kaeden laughed, catching the emission with a swirl of tongue around the head of Dani’s cock. Dani fisted the quilt with both his hands, threw his head back, and fought his impending release.

Kaeden grabbed his jeans on either side of his hips and tugged. Dani lifted his butt to help, and soon he was naked from the waist down with a gorgeous Asian boy kneeling between his legs. He was ready to explode.

Kaeden smiled at him and began slowly unbuttoning his shirt. The music changed again, this time to “Animal” by Neon Trees. The sexy peacock began to kiss his bare chest as he exposed it, kissing lower with each button he undid. When he had it completely unbuttoned, he slid it over Dani’s shoulders, taking a nipple in his mouth at the same time to suck gently.

This time a loud groan came out of Dani’s mouth. His cock was poking into Kaeden’s ribs, slicking his smooth skin with pre-cum. “Oh, Kaeden. I’m … I’m not gonna last,” Dani panted.

“Here, this will help.” Kaeden produced a condom package and tore it open with his teeth. “I’m supposed to use these,” he apologized. “I should have had it on you already.”

Dani nodded, too far gone to speak. He hoped he didn’t cum while the lovely boy was sheathing him.

Kaeden’s tongue began a slow exploration of Dani’s balls while his deft fingers made short work of sliding the condom over his cum-slickened shaft. He pulled Dani’s balls into his warm mouth one at a time, sucking with just the perfect amount of pressure to make Dani cry out in ecstasy. His hand began slowly stroking Dani’s cock.

“Kaeden … Kaeden…!” Dani wanted to warn Kaeden that he was about to cum, but he was incapable of speech.

Kaeden’s hands abandoned his cock at the same time that his lips released his balls with a slurping sound. Dani groaned. He was so close. Then Kaeden’s hot mouth enveloped his cock, taking it to the back of his throat in one swift movement. In spite of the condom, Dani could feel the heat. The pressure was incredible. Kaeden bounced a few times, letting his cock head rub against the back of his throat.

With a cry of tortured pleasure, Dani orgasmed, unable to control his hips as they bucked into Kaeden’s throat, forcing his cock further in.His body shook with his release. His mind blanked out, fully succumbing to the amazing sensations that rippled through him. When they finally subsided he sank back onto the bed, no longer having the strength to sit up.

“Fuck, Kaeden!” He looked at the other young man through half-closed eyes and found him carefully removing the spent condom. There were tears in his eyes and his makeup was smudged a bit. “Oh, Kaeden, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to force myself down your throat like that. I just couldn’t help it. You felt amazing!”

“It’s okay.” Kaeden smiled at him. “I should have been expecting it. Yuri has so much control, he manages to cum almost without moving, but I bet most people are like you.”

Once again Dani was surprised at his feelings, or maybe it was his lack of feelings that surprised him. It certainly bothered him that Kaeden was planning to share himself with a client, but he wasn’t upset that he was sharing himself with the big Russian. Curious.

Kaeden tied off the condom and dropped it into the trash bin, then he climbed on top of Dani to kiss him passionately. Somehow he had lost his thong. His cock poked rapaciously into Dani’s stomach.

One of Dani’s hands stroked Kaeden’s hair while the other caressed his smooth butt. The lithe Asian began to hump him wantonly while he sucked aggressively on Dani’s tongue. Dani’s spent cock began to revive. He slid his hand around and grabbed Kaeden’s hard cock firmly, rubbing his thumb softly around the tip. He snaked his other hand down and began a gentle massage of his hairless balls.

Kaeden’s moan was high-pitched and sweet, sending shivers down Dani’s limbs. “Tell me what you want,” he whispered hoarsely.

“Just what you’re doing is perfect,” Kaeden answered, his voice low and breathy.

Kaeden’s cock began to leak pre-seminal fluid. Dani used it to coat his erection and began stroking his hand slowly up and down, all the while continuing to massage his balls. He could feel Kaeden’s slender body tense up, every muscle becoming taut.

Kaeden started making little whimpers and pulled out of the kiss to pant. Dani sucked on his ear as he sped up the rhythm of his strokes. “Nnngh! Dani!” Kaeden dissolved into little high-pitched cries. His legs started to tremble.

Dani pulled back to look at his face and caught him just reaching climax, his eyes squeezed tightly shut, his mouth open. His face held an expression close to intense pain. With a shrill cry he bucked into Dani, and long white ropes of cum spurted out of his cock to splash with wet heat onto Dani’s stomach and chest. He milked Kaeden’s cock gently as his orgasm wound down.

Kaeden’s cries turned to whimpers and then to soft moans. He settled onto Dani, utterly relaxed. “That was beautiful. Thank you,” he whispered in Dani’s ear.

“My pleasure, peacock.”

Kaeden giggled.

A few minutes later, when Kaeden began to clean Dani’s stomach with his tongue, Dani’s cock stiffened again. This time Kaeden’s ministrations were devastatingly slow as he thoroughly worked Dani’s cock with his mouth and tongue. He kept him panting with pleasure for an eternity. Eventually he slid a wet finger between Dani’s legs to stroke his tight hole. Dani stiffened in surprise.

Kaeden pulled his mouth off of Dani’s cock to look at him questioningly. “You don’t like that?”

“No, it’s not that. It’s just … unexpected. I’ve never done that before.”

“Really?” Kaeden’s tone was incredulous. “You’re still a virgin, then?”

“Yes.”

“Not even any anal play?”

“No.”

“Oh, sweet boy, you don’t know what you’re missing! Someday soon I’ll rim you. It will blow your mind! For tonight I’ll just stick to what you’re comfortable with.”

“You … you can finger me if you want. It feels good.”

“Mmmmm.” Kaeden went back to slow licks of Dani’s cock, and his finger continued to stroke his anus gently. Eventually, when he had Dani begging for more, Kaeden began deep-throating him while still petting his sensitive entrance. With a quiet scream, Dani exploded in another intense climax.

Later, as he relaxed with Kaeden spooned tightly against his chest, his last thought before he fell asleep was, it was an amazing first-day. I already love living in the city.

Chapter Five

“Hey guys!” Yuri stepped between Dani and Kaeden, sliding an arm around each of their shoulders as they walked down the street toward Sally’s house. They both beamed up at him. “Hi Yuri!” they said, almost in unison.

“What are you boys up to?”

“We’re just coming home. We’ve been looking for a new place for Dani,” Kaeden answered.

Yuri frowned. “You’re moving out? So soon?”

“Yes, well … I don’t want to work for Sally.”

Yuri nodded. “It’s not for everyone.” As they approached the house he said, “Hey, before we go in, do you want to help me smoke this J?” He produced a slim joint from his breast pocket.

Dani’s eyes widened. “Sure!”

“No, thank you.” Kaeden’s refusal was almost prim.

“You don’t get high?” Dani asked.

“No.” Kaeden smiled and added, “My body is my temple.”

“I’d like to worship in your temple,” Yuri said in a low voice.

Kaeden giggled. “Have fun, boys. See you inside!” They reached the house and he headed up the front walkway.

Dani pulled out from under Yuri’s arm, not wanting to encourage the big Russian too much. He and Yuri kept walking. “What about the rule of no drugs in the house?” he asked. Yuri was staff, after all.

Yuri grinned. “That’s why we’re not smoking in the house.” He lit up and casually passed the joint to Dani. They continued walking through the residential neighborhood of old, well-kept houses. Dani took a deep toke and passed it back to Yuri. The smoke expanded in his lungs and he let it out slowly through his nose. It was strong, and his eyes watered as he suppressed a cough. He had just barely recovered when Yuri handed the joint back to him. This time he took a smaller hit.

“This is good pot.”

“Always!” Yuri smiled, handing him the rapidly diminishing joint again.

“You get high often?” Dani asked.

“Pretty much. What about you?”

“Not so much. I like it, but I seldom buy it. For me it’s more of a party thing.” Dani was feeling the effects of the weed already. The edges of his awareness seemed softer. His mind mellowed.

“Social smoker, huh?”

“I guess so.”

“Well, if you ever want any, I almost always have some,” Yuri said.

“I’ll keep that in mind.”

The joint was tiny now. Yuri deposited it in a small can that he pulled out of his pocket. “Cigarette?” Yuri held an open pack out to him.

“Sure. Thanks!” You’re supposed to be quitting, a voice in Dani’s head chided him.He squashed the guilt. Shut up! It’s free.

As they rounded the corner heading back toward the house, Dani felt slightly paranoid. Normally he trusted Yuri, but at that moment he was worried that he might read more into the closeness of getting high together than Dani wanted.

He needn’t have worried though. Yuri was cool.

*****

“Honey, I’m home,” Abe joked as he walked in the front door. “Wow! What smells so good?” He set the bag of bakery bread on the counter. Ty was in the kitchen with a large dishtowel tied around his waist. His face was flushed from the steam coming off of whatever he was stirring on the stovetop. The kitchen was a disaster—dirty dishes, ingredients, and bits of debris were scattered across the counters.

He looked up and flashed Abe a heart-stopping smile.

God, he’s gorgeous! Ty had been living with him for two weeks and every time Abe was away from him for a few hours, he still managed to be surprised by the young man’s beauty when he returned. He stayed on the far side of the counter, resisting the urge to go to him. He was very conscious of giving Ty his space. He was also very aware of his own growing desire for the bittersweet young man who had entered his life.

“I’m making coq au vin.”

“Huh?”

“Coq au vin. It’s French.” Ty moved to peer at the laptop, which was stationed at the far end of the counter away from the mess of the rest of the kitchen.

“I’m impressed, Ty.”

“Better wait ‘til you taste it before you start with the compliments. I’ve never made anything this complicated before. I didn’t cook much at home, at least not for the past several years.”

“It smells wonderful … and I just happen to have bought some French bread on the way home.”

“Perfect! You just have time for a shower before dinner if you hurry.” Ty smiled at him and Abe was once again smitten.

After showering and dressing, Abe set places for them at the counter. He didn’t have a table—the apartment was too small—but he found placemats and brought in a couple of tall candles from the bedroom.

Ty raised an eyebrow at the candles.

“If we’re going to have a fancy dinner, we need candles,” Abe explained.

“I’m not sure how fancy this is…”

“Nonsense! It’s French. It must be fancy.”

“It’s basically just chicken stew,” Ty protested.

A few minutes later when Abe tasted it, he closed his eyes to savor it, and said, “I don’t care if you call this fancy or not, it’s incredibly delicious.” Ty beamed with pride while he watched Abe eat three helpings.

After dinner Abe insisted on doing the dishes, but he couldn’t prevent Ty from buzzing around the kitchen, putting food away and wiping off the counters. The closeness felt really good. His thoughts turned to how well Ty fit into his life. The young man was intelligent and considerate, sweet and spirited. He was just what Abe had been missing.

A familiar ache formed deep in his chest and he found a lump starting in the back of his throat. Ty was taking the place of Evan. Well, not taking his place, really. No one could ever take Evan from his heart, but Ty was helping to fill the wrenching loneliness that had plagued him since Evan’s death almost two years earlier.

He had met Evan when he was still in school, doing an internship in the cancer care center. Evan was battling leukemia, but he was beating it. He was courageous and spunky, and Abe had fallen head-over-heels for him in spite of the little voice in the back of his mind that told him not to. He couldn’t help it. Evan was adorable. He was everything Abe had been looking for in a boyfriend.

When Evan had finished up his treatment, he’d moved in with Abe. His distraught parents blamed Abe for “turning our son gay.” Evan had been desperate to get away from his smothering mother, and Abe had been more than happy to share his space with his lover. He’d adored waking up every morning with Evan in his arms.

They’d lived together for two wonderful years before Evan relapsed. He got very sick very quickly, and within a few months he was gone. Abe had stayed with him until the bitter end, weathering the hostility of his family at every turn. In the final days, when Evan was too sick to protest, they’d had Abe barred from Evan’s hospital room and the hospital had to comply. He had friends at the hospital though, and they snuck him in to see Evan every night when visiting hours were over and the family had gone home. Abe had been at Evan’s side when he died.

Abe found that he was blinking back tears. He glanced up to see Ty watching him from the other side of the counter. He swallowed the lump in his throat and refocused on the dishes. He hadn’t told Ty about Evan. He hadn’t even told Ty he was gay.

He was out to his friends and family; with strangers he usually didn’t say anything unless it came up in conversation. Ty was no longer a stranger, but Abe was afraid to tell him. He was sure it would scare Ty. He didn’t want to do or say anything to make him uncomfortable. He wanted him to stay and was hoping that some day Ty would come to return the feelings that Abe felt stirring within himself. He was falling hard for the young man and, once again, in spite of the warning voice in the back of his mind, he couldn’t seem to prevent it.

Ty was quite pleased with himself over how dinner had turned out. He had wanted to do something nice for Abe—the big-hearted nurse had done so much for him. Even if he couldn’t bring in any money yet, at least he could make dinner for Abe and keep his home clean.

When he finished cleaning, he moved around the counter to sit on a stool and talk to Abe while he finished the dishes. He was about to start telling Abe about the book he was reading when something in the black man’s face stopped him. Ty had never seen him look so forlorn. Abe glanced up at him just then and there were tears in his eyes.

Ty’s chest tightened. It disturbed him to see Abe’s sorrow. What could make him so sad? He wanted to make the big man feel better, but he wasn’t going to ask what was wrong. If he wants me to know, he’ll tell me.

Abe busied himself with the dishes again, and Ty thought if he engaged him in conversation it would get his mind off of his troubles. “I made dessert,” he said brightly.

“Did you?” Abe smiled and Ty sensed his mood lighten.

“It’s not much—just some instant butterscotch pudding that I found in the back of the cupboard. We’ll have to get more milk for breakfast though.”

“Maybe we can go out for breakfast and then go shopping for some clothes for you.” Abe didn’t have a lot of money. Living in the city was expensive, but since Ty had been staying with him he’d been eating at home instead of eating out. Ty had actually been saving him money.

“Abe, no!” Ty protested as Abe knew he would.

Abe interrupted whatever Ty had been about to say next. “How about just breakfast then? It’s high time you got out of the apartment for a while. How’s your foot?”

“It’s fine. You know that.”

“It’s supposed to be a beautiful day tomorrow. Why don’t we eat outdoors at one of those little cafés on Alder Avenue? Then we could wander around that big park that’s nearby—catch some sun.

Ty hesitated. He had been so hurt and afraid when he’d arrived, he’d just been grateful to have someplace to relax and heal. He hadn’t wanted to go anywhere at first, but the last couple of days he’d been getting restless. Going out would be good.

But am I taking up too much space in Abe’s life? What did he do before I came along? “Don’t you have friends you do stuff with?” he asked. Instantly he regretted the question as that intense sorrow flashed in Abe’s eyes again.

“Sometimes,” Abe said, pulling himself together quickly. “I could invite some of them to meet us there if you like.”

That idea scared Ty. He wasn’t sure he wanted to meet Abe’s friends yet. He was afraid he’d be uncomfortable around them and that they’d disapprove of him moving in with Abe. “You can if you want to,” he said, “but it’d also be nice if it’s just us.”

Abe had offered to invite his friends without considering that he hadn’t come out to Ty yet. As soon as the words were out of his mouth it occurred to him that when his friends saw him with the beautiful, graceful young man, the first thing they would do is tease him about his sweet, new, boyfriend. He was flooded with relief when Ty gave him an out. “So you’ll let me take you to breakfast?”

Ty noticed that Abe looked relieved, and in spite of his own reprieve he couldn’t help but wonder, doesn’t he want to introduce me to his friends? “Breakfast, yes, but not shopping,” he said.

*****

The music was loud and insistent. It wasn’t what Dani usually listened to, but it had a fast beat and the band was interesting to watch. The drummer of the neo-punk band had an eight-inch-high purple Mohawk. The lead singer’s hair was bright red and very spiky. All of the band members and many of the undulating fans sported multiple piercings and tattoos. Dani hung back at the edge of the crowd, watching the show.

He had gotten high with Yuri on the way there and was now wishing he hadn’t. He was on the shy side; when he got high sometimes he got paranoid. He took a swig of his beer. This will help me relax.

He had come to the neo-punk party with a small group of boys from the house. The cover was fifteen dollars, which Dani thought was steep. It included the beer though, so he was determined to get his money’s worth.

The party was in a mid-century residential neighborhood, a twenty-minute walk from Sally’s place. The house where it was being hosted was huge—an updated 1960’s mansion. The band was setup in the daylight basement. There were several hundred people at the party, almost fifty of whom were gyrating on the dance floor. Yuri was the only one there Dani really knew, and he hadn’t seen him since shortly after they’d arrived.

He wished Kaeden had come. With his bright spiky hair, he would have fit right in, but Kaeden was on a date with his client. A sharp pang of worry lanced through Dani. He’d expressed his concerns to Yuri, but the big Russian had only shrugged. “He’ll be fine. It’s what we do,” he’d said.

Dani had nodded and let it go. He hoped Kaeden would be fine. He couldn’t stand the thought of him getting hurt.

Several beers later Dani was led out onto the dance floor by a tall, handsome stranger. He smiled up at the man while they danced. He was almost Yuri’s height but not as heavyset. His dark hair was cut in a short conservative style. He was wearing a stiff, button-down shirt, but his jeans were tight, showing off a nicely rounded ass.

The tall man looked at him through lowered lashes and licked his lips suggestively, letting his eyes float to Dani’s crotch while they danced. A chill raced up Dani’s spine. The feeling wasn’t attraction so much as it was a premonition of danger. There was something about this stranger that wasn’t all right. Dani was not afraid; he was mainly curious why his internal warning system was going off. The man looked perfectly respectable.

The stranger touched him while they danced—nothing rude or overt, just small touches now and again. Dani couldn’t help but respond by dancing more suggestively. His cock, wanting to contribute to the show, swelled to a noticeable bulge.

Just chill, he told himself, a bit surprised at his own behavior. He was a good dancer, but he was usually reserved. I don’t even know this guy’s name, and it’s not as if I haven’t been getting any lately. He had been helping Kaeden “practice” several times a day. The thought of Kaeden sobered him up a bit. The song ended and he flashed a quick smile at the preppy man and headed back to his beer, pounding it back. He was hot and sweaty.

The man appeared at his side a few minutes later with a couple of full beers. Grinning, he handed one of the beers to Dani without saying anything. In any case, the music was so loud they wouldn’t be able to hear each other.

Dani felt he’d already had enough beer for now, but he took a swig anyway and smiled up at the man.

The stranger leaned down and yelled in his ear, “What’s your name?”

Dani turned his head so his mouth was near the man’s ear. The rough stubble on the stranger’s face scraped his smooth skin as he yelled back, “Dani! What’s yours?”

“Craig! You came with those boys from that house, didn’t you?”

Dani shrugged. It was too noisy to talk and he didn’t want to associate himself too closely with the others from the house. He wasn’t like them.

That was the extent of their conversation. They drank beer and danced, and after a while he began to relax and wonder why he’d gotten the impression that the attractive stranger was dangerous. He was aggressive and arrogant, but Dani liked aggressive and arrogant. Well, maybe not arrogant—he liked confident and cocky, which was sometimes hard to distinguish from arrogant.

As he drowned his inhibitions in beer and flirted, his dancing became overtly sexual. He ran his fingers down his chest and lightly touched his crotch. The stranger watched him with lust in his eyes and danced closer. After a time he began humping against his butt and Dani pushed back into him, wiggling suggestively. This was way out of control for him, but it felt good to let loose for once.

When the man leaned down and bit his ear, Dani laughed and broke away. Suddenly he realized he needed to pee really badly. He signaled to the stranger that he was going and quickly wormed his way off the dance floor. When he found the closest bathroom, he discovered a long line of girls waiting to get in. “I think the boy’s bathroom’s outside,” one of the girls told him with a giggle.

“Ah, right,” Dani said. He turned and made his way back through the crowd toward the sliding glass doors. He had just stepped outside when Yuri appeared at his side.

“You okay, Dani?” The big Russian peered at him with concern.

“Yeah, I’m fine, why?”

“Nothing. I saw you dancing. You’re pretty hot.”

Dani blushed, embarrassed that someone he knew had seen him dirty dancing with the preppy guy.

“Do you want to get high?”

“Maybe later. I gotta pee.”

“Okay. Come find me when you’re done. I’ll be watching the dancing.”

Dani went around the side of the house where it was dark, noticing that he was unsteady on his feet. The grounds were surprisingly extensive for a city lot; he could not see the edge of the property through the abundance of foliage. He stepped between some bushes, and after making sure no one was around, he relieved himself as quickly as possible. When he finished he made his way back to the main path, pulling out a cigarette.

“There you are. I was wondering where you’d gotten away to.” The handsome stranger came toward him down the path.

“Hey,” Dani smiled up at him.

The man took the cigarette from his fingers. Dani thought he was going to light it for him, but instead he broke it in half, tossed it on the ground, and crushed it under his boot.

“Hey! Those are expensive!” Dani complained.

“They’re nasty things,” the man said, glowering at Dani.

“I would have put it away. You didn’t have to destroy it.”

The man ignored his comment. “Come on,” he said, putting a hand on the small of Dani’s back and urging him further down the path.

“Where are we going?” Dani asked.

“I’ve got something for you. I think you’ll like it.”

Dani perked up. Maybe he was going to get him high. Maybe he even had cocaine. Dani had only done coke a few times, but he really liked it.

As the man urged him down a little side path between the bushes, he tried desperately to remember his name. He remembered the man had told him. That was three beers ago. Or was it four?

The small path opened into a tiny clearing with a stone bench that backed up against the property’s tall wooden fence.

“Here’s good,” the man said. He stepped close behind Dani, sliding an arm around his waist to hold him firmly in place. His other hand found Dani’s fly, expertly undoing it.

“Hey!” Dani protested, squirming. He might be willing to have a go with this handsome stranger, but he didn’t like being mauled without even any foreplay or kissing.

The man slipped his hand down the back of Dani’s now loosened pants and squeezed his bare ass. “Yeah! That feels fine. I got something for your tight hole … right here.” As he spoke he moved his hand away and Dani heard the sound of the man’s jeans being unzipped.

White-hot fear flashed through him as his beer-soaked brain realized what was happening. He struggled in earnest then, trying to yank himself free, but the man tightened his grip with both arms around Dani’s waist.

“You’ve been teasing me all evening! Now I’m gonna fuck your sweet, tight ass!”

“No!” Dani panicked. Doubling his efforts, he twisted frantically, managing to turn to face his attacker but unable to break free. Fingers dug painfully into his upper arms.

“Oh, no you don’t, you little ass-tease!”

The preppy was six foot three and two hundred pounds. Dani was a small guy; he was in good shape but had no fighting experience and little chance of getting away. His unzipped pants hung loosely off his hips, his limp cock hiding under his briefs. He wasn’t turned on, he was scared—perhaps more scared than he’d ever been.

“Come on little boy! I’m gonna fuck you silly!” The man tried to force him to turn back around.

“No! Fuck no!” Dani cried, struggling valiantly. The stranger had a determined look on his face and the light of lust in his eyes. Fuck! This is not how I pictured losing my virginity. “Help!” he screamed as loud as he could. “Help!” He tried to knee his attacker in the groin, but he was too close and ended up kneeing the man’s thigh.

“You fucking shit!” The preppy shook him roughly, causing his head to spin. “Shut up or I’ll gag you! Nobody’s gonna hear anyway.” The music was pounding; someone would have to be pretty close to hear him.

Perhaps the man registered Dani’s terror, or maybe this was his solution to keep Dani from screaming. In any case, he suddenly changed tactics. Instead of trying to turn him around, he pushed hard on his shoulders, dropping him to his knees. He kept a firm grip on one of Dani’s wrists as his other hand grabbed a fistful of his hair. His hard cock swung in Dani’s face.

“Put this in your mouth,” the man ordered. “That’ll shut you up!”

Fuck! He didn’t want to suck this man’s cock, but he was terrified of being raped. If I suck him off, he won’t be able to fuck me, he rationalized.

Dani wrapped his free hand around the man’s cock and began to stroke it slowly. Maybe I can just jack him off.

“Oh, yeah, baby! Yeah!” the man crooned.

Dani stroked for a few minutes, quickening the pace, hoping the asshole would come soon.

“Okay, that’s enough of that,” the man said. “Let see what you can do with that lovely mouth.”

He grabbed Dani’s other wrist and pulled them up and back so they were against the rough fence behind him. This forced Dani to bend backwards. He lost his balance and would have fallen if the man hadn’t had his hands restrained. The fence bit into the back of his hand, but that barely registered.

“Come on, baby! Suck me!” The man pushed his dick toward Dani’s mouth.

“Do you have a condom?” Dani asked, turning his face away from the glistening dick.

“Sure I do. Are you ready to give me that pretty little ass?”

“No!”

“Well I ain’t fucking wasting a condom on your mouth now, am I?” The man glared down at Dani, a snarl curling his lip.

“No condom, no blowjob,” Dani said firmly, even though his heart was racing. I can’t believe I’m even considering giving this asshole a blowjob!

“Well, aren’t you the shit? I’m not gonna argue about this. If I put a condom on, I’m taking your ass. And if you don’t start licking me soon, and real nice, I’m taking your ass anyway!”

Dani’s eyes widened. He’s fucking serious! There was no one around. The man had him well-pinned against the fence and he was uncomfortable as hell. He put his tongue out and touched the tip of the man’s penis. The man had a handsome cock, and Dani could smell the scent of his arousal. Under normal circumstances, Dani would have been crazy-hungry for him at this point, but all he felt now was fear and disgust.

It’s not as if I haven’t done this before, he told himself. Inside he was cringing. Am I such a coward? An idiot is what I am—flirting and teasing him, getting him all turned on. I brought this on myself.

The man grew impatient with Dani’s tiny licks. He shifted his grip on his captive’s wrists, pinning him against the fence with just one hand. Dani renewed his struggle to get away to no avail. The rapist grabbed a fistful of Dani’s hair to hold his head still and started to fuck his mouth.

Dani gagged.

“Oh yeah, baby. That’s good,” the man said breathlessly. “No teeth!” he warned. “If I feel any teeth, I’m switching holes.”

Shit! How did I get myself into this? How stupid am I? How drunk am I? Dani fought to get air into his lungs on the outstroke and battled not to gag on the instroke, otherwise the man was doing all the work. There was no tongue involved. There was no finesse. Dani just tried to endure.

The stranger moaned and quickened his pace.

Dani heard a giggle and realized a couple was coming down the path. He struggled to get away again, but the man tightened his grip on his hair and his wrists.

Fuck me! How embarrassing!

The couple stopped and stared for a second and then disappeared the way they had come, laughing.

The man laughed too and began to slam into Dani’s face with renewed vigor.

Dani whimpered softly. His teeth were cutting into the inside of his mouth as the man’s large cock pummeled him. He choked and gasped for air and prayed it would be over soon. Time seemed to slow down. Dani’s jaw ached. The man’s sweat, although probably clean, smelled putrid to him. He was overcome with dizziness and wondered if it was from lack of air or too much beer. Please finish! Please!

“Oh fuck! Yeah!” The man let go of Dani’s wrists to grab his head with both hands. He started slamming into Dani forcefully.

Dani put his hands on the man’s hips and tried to push him away, but he was thrusting hard and his hands had Dani’s head in a death grip. His cock was so far down Dani’s throat that Dani didn’t realize he was cumming until he pulled out a little and Dani tasted jism. The man slammed back in one more time, shuddering.

“Fuck!” he said, then, “Okay,” as he pulled out of Dani’s mouth. He let go of Dani and shook his penis as if he had just peed. Tucking his softening cock away, he zipped up his pants.

Dani looked up at him, feeling numb. His brain had completely shut down. He felt as if his emotions were wrapped in thick layers of wool.

Scorn flashed in the man’s eyes. “You really are quite the whore,” he said, his voice full of contempt. Without another glance at Dani, he took off down the path.

Dani stared after him, mouth open. I can’t believe that just happened.

He took deep breaths, trying to recover. When the stranger’s words finally registered, he flushed with shame. He felt used and discarded, like a piece of garbage. Goose bumps crawled up his arms like insects, causing him to shudder. He stayed where he was, kneeling on the damp earth, for several long moments before he zipped up his pants with shaking hands and moved to a sitting position on the stone bench. His stomach churned and his mouth filled with saliva. He leaned over and began to spit onto the ground, cum, saliva and traces of blood. Without further warning, his stomach turned itself inside out and he retched, expelling volumes of beer and the remains of his supper onto the ground at his feet.

Shit!

When he was done vomiting and spitting, his head felt clearer. He wiped his face carefully on his sleeve and ran his hands through his hair. Standing up on shaky legs, he made his way slowly to the intersection with the larger path where he paused to light a cigarette. The familiar actions calmed him.

“Dani! There you are. I’ve been looking for you!” Yuri hurried down the path toward him. Dani did not want to talk to anyone right now.

“Dani, what’s wrong?”

“Nothing.”

“You’re shaking like a leaf.”

Dani took a drag off his cigarette, refusing to meet Yuri’s eyes. “I’ve had too much to drink. I just threw up. I’m gonna go home.”

“Oh Dani, I’m sorry. I’ll walk you home.”

“No, that’s okay. I’ll be fine.” Dani risked a glance at Yuri, hoping his face didn’t give away the emotions roiling inside of him.

“No, I insist.” Yuri pulled out his own cigarette and lit up. “You’re new. I don’t want you getting lost on the way. If you end up in the wrong neighborhood, no telling what could happen.”

No shit! “I’ll be fine.”

“I’m coming with you.”

“Fuckin’ stubborn Ruskie!”

Yuri grinned, and Dani gave him a wan smile.

On the way home they talked about everything except what had just happened to Dani. By the time they reached the house Dani felt much calmer.

Yuri walked him to the back door. “You sure you’re okay?”

“Yes. I’m going to make myself some tea and head for bed.”

“Okay. I’m off back to the party to make sure everyone else makes it home too.”

“Have fun.”

As soon as he was inside, Dani headed for the bathroom. His bladder was uncomfortably full. As he yanked down his pants, he felt something foreign on his butt. He peeled it off his ass and discovered it was a fifty-dollar bill.

That bastard fucking paid me! He must have stuffed it down my pants at some point. At that moment, Dani’s humiliation could not have been greater. With his shame, came rage. He was furious at that man and furious at himself. By the time he was done pissing, he was shaking all over again.

He was tempted to flush the money down the toilet, but his practical mind wouldn’t let him. You can certainly use the money, and it’s not like you did it for the money. There’s nothing that can be done about what happened now. You can use the money for your clinic visit.

On the way home, during a pause in his conversation with Yuri, he had decided that it was high time he get tested for VD. It wasn’t just this one incident. His high school sweetheart had been clean; they had been each other’s firsts. But he had sucked cock bare with both the one-night stand and the two-week guy. He needed to find out his status and be more careful from now on—much more careful.

He went into the kitchen and made himself a cup of Tummy Mint tea to calm his still-queasy stomach. He was sitting at the table drinking his tea when Kaeden waltzed in the back door.

“Hi, Dani! How was your evening?”

“Fine,” Dani mumbled.

Kaeden was all smiles as he set his glittery bag on the table and swooshed over to him. He plopped lightly onto Dani’s lap and put his arms around his neck. He looked like he was about to kiss him when his happy expression changed to one of concern.

“Oh my God, sweetie! What happened?”

Dani was taken aback. How can he tell? “What do you mean?”

Kaeden put a gentle finger on Dani’s lips. “Your mouth is swollen and you have a bruise starting on your cheek. Did you get in a fight?”

Bruise? The man had been really rough. “No. I got drunk. I don’t want to talk about it right now.”

Kaeden looked into his eyes and Dani looked away. He didn’t want sympathy.

“Oh, Dani, I’m sorry.”

Kaeden hugged him tightly and he hugged back. A hug was okay. It felt good. He bit his lip to keep the tears from spilling out of his eyes. Finally he took a deep shuddering breath. “How was your date?”

Kaeden pulled out of the hug to look at him with concern again. Dani smiled at him, swallowing his emotions.

Climbing out of Dani’s lap, Kaeden began rummaging in the cupboard for a cup. “Oh, Dani, it was so much fun! Yoshi could not have been sweeter.” He sat down at the table with his cup of tea and prattled on. “He’s Japanese—he barely speaks English. He lives in Japan and comes here on business all the time. He travels all over the world.” Kaeden’s eyes danced with excitement. “He’s here for a few more days this trip. He wants to take me out to dinner on Tuesday.

“Oh, Dani, he’s really super-rich!” Kaeden continued. “And the party was fantastic—one of the fanciest I’ve ever been to. It was catered—I mean they had people in tuxes carrying around trays of exotic little foods and everything. They had live music too—a quartet playing classical. And the house was huge; it was amazing.”

Kaeden glowed. “Yoshi is so attentive. I had no problem with the work part of the evening. He was very appreciative and so turned on by me—it was fun! And he’s cute too. Not anyone I would normally ever pick to date. He’s like forty, and he’s shorter than me but in good shape. And he tipped me $300—can you believe it? Sally’s going to pay me $200 for spending the evening with him, so I just earned $500 for going to a fantastic party and giving a couple blowjobs, which I probably would have done for free anyway.”

Kaeden finally wound down and looked at Dani for comment.

“I’m glad you had a good time. I was worried about you.” Dani tried to smile but wasn’t sure if he was successful.

“It was awesome. I can’t wait to see Yoshi again.”

“Be careful. Don’t go falling in love with a client, whatever you do.”

“Of course not!” Kaeden answered, but Dani’s comment took some of the light out of his eyes.

They were both finished with their tea. Dani cleared the dishes and loaded them into the dishwasher. Kaeden picked up his glittery bag. He was wearing high-heeled boots that made him several inches taller than Dani. He slipped an arm around Dani’s waist.

“Hey, tall girl!” Dani said, not used to looking up to him.

Kaeden giggled. “You okay?” he asked, peering intently at Dani as they started up the back stairs to the second floor.

“Yeah. I’m fine. I’m going to bed.” Dani was suddenly bone-tired.

“Do you want some company?”

“No, not tonight. I just want to be alone.”

Disappointment flashed in Kaeden’s eyes, but he smiled. “Okay. You know where to find me if you need me.”

“Thanks.”

“Goodnight, sweetie.” Kaeden squeezed his hand and slipped away.

Once in his room, Dani shed his shirt, shoes and socks. Grabbing his toiletry bag and sleepwear, he headed for the bathroom. He desperately wanted a shower. He felt slimy … disgusting … unclean.

While he was brushing his teeth, he noticed the back of his left hand was sore. Upon examination, he discovered a multitude of small splinters embedded in it. He found his tweezers, and with a sigh, he sat on the toilet seat to pull them out. He was just getting started when the door swung open. He hadn’t closed it all the way because there were two sinks. He didn’t want to be a bathroom hog while brushing his teeth.

Kaeden came in dressed in a long silk dressing gown, also carrying a toiletry bag. “Hey, do you mind if … what happened?” He set his stuff on the counter and knelt in front of Dani, going into mothering mode. When Kaeden reached for it, Dani gave up his hand.

“Oww! Honey! How did this happen?”

Dani started to pull his hand away. He could feel his face growing red.

“No, let me,” Kaeden didn’t let go of his hand and reached for the tweezers. “You just close your eyes and relax. I’ll take care of you.”

Dani didn’t close his eyes, but he did try to relax.

Kaeden focused on the splinters for a while, not looking at Dani’s face. Finally he looked up and gently touched Dani’s swollen lips with his fingers.

“What happened honey? Did someone get too rough when you were giving them a blowjob?”

“Something like that,” Dani said. He could not keep the hint of anger out of his voice. Kaeden looked at him expectantly. There was no judgment in his eyes.

“I didn’t want to give him a blowjob in the first place!”

Kaeden’s eyes widened. “You mean he forced you?”

Dani looked down, ashamed, but he let the whole story pour out. “It was my own fault. I met this guy … he was really cute, but I should have paid attention to my first instincts which told me he was not okay. I got really drunk and got carried away on the dance floor. I never should have teased him like that. I was so stupid.”

“Dani, he never should have taken advantage of you. Why did you drink so much?” Kaeden’s eyes were full of sympathy.

“I don’t know … he kept bringing me beers—and he was drinking too.”

“Uh, huh! Sounds like he got you drunk on purpose.”

“Well … maybe.” Dani shrugged. “I should have known better than to drink so much. Anyway, when I went outside to pee, he followed me. He led me to a private area of the yard. I never should have gone with him. I thought we were going to get high. God, I’m such an idiot!” Dani tilted his head back and closed his eyes in pain.

Kaeden was silent, waiting for him to continue.

Dani finally looked at Kaeden again. “I mean, at first I liked him. He was really attractive—I might have given him a blowjob voluntarily. But once he got me alone he turned into a total asshole.” He blew out an angry breath and looked at the floor. His voice was low but full of emotion when he said, “He wanted to fuck me, Kaeden! He got my pants down and whipped his dick out. I was fighting him like crazy. It totally freaked me out.”

“Oh my God, Dani!”

Dani glanced at Kaeden’s horror-stricken face and looked away again in shame. “He was a lot bigger than me. I don’t think I could have stopped him. He ended up blackmailing me into a blowjob with the threat of a full-on rape.”

“Oh, Dani!” Kaeden still held Dani’s hands in his, and now he squeezed them. “And how did you get splinters in your hand, sweetie?”

“The fence. He pinned my hands against the wooden fence with one hand and held my head with the other. It was horrible!” Dani’s voice had risen now and the words tumbled out faster. “The worst part was, when it was all over he called me a whore. And when I got home, I found money down my pants. He fucking paid me!” Dani looked up and found that Kaeden was crying.

“Hey, why are you crying?” he asked softly, wiping a tear off Kaeden’s cheek with the back of his fingers.

“Oh, Dani, he was so mean! If you’re not going to cry, I’ll cry for you.”

“That’s very sweet.” Dani felt his heavy heart lighten; there were plenty of kindhearted people in the world. He needed to remember that and not dwell on the jerks. He pulled Kaeden into his arms and they hugged each other tightly.

Kaeden finally pulled back and reached for Dani’s hand again. “I only have a couple more splinters.” He began to work on a particularly large thorn. “I can’t believe that asshole!”

Dani gritted his teeth against the pain.

“He probably didn’t wear a condom either, did he?”

“No, I asked him, but he refused. He said he’d only wear one if he was getting my ass. I cut up my mouth with my teeth.” Dani ran his tongue around the inside of his cheeks, gently probing the sore spots. “I was bleeding by the time he was done.”

“Oh God, Dani, that’s terrible!” Kaeden looked stricken again. “I’ll go to the clinic with you, although I think you have to wait at least a couple of weeks for any of the diseases to become detectable. HIV takes months to show in your system.”

Dani made a frustrated noise. “I hate dealing with stuff like this, but I definitely need to get checked.”

“Did you call the police? Are going to file assault charges against him?”

“Fuck no! I was so drunk, I don’t even remember his name. I have no way of finding him, and even if I did, I’m sure his daddy would hire a very expensive lawyer who would make me look like a prostitute.” Dani’s voice was bitter.

Kaeden didn’t say anything. His eyes were downcast, and the expression on his face could only be described as devastated.

“I’m sorry, Kae. I didn’t mean…” Dani hadn’t meant to make Kaeden feel bad about his profession. In the heat of the moment he’d forgotten.

“No, it’s okay. I understand what you meant.” Kaeden kissed the back of his hand and handed him the tweezers with a small smile.

“I was going to take a shower now,” Dani said, suddenly fighting a bout of shivers.

“Me too, as soon as I brush my teeth and take off these eyelashes. Do you mind if I join you? We don’t have to do anything. I could wash your back.”

“That would be nice.” Dani felt like he could use some more comforting. He stripped off his clothes and, after adjusting the temperature, climbed into the shower. The water felt wonderful and he stood for a few minutes, eyes closed, not doing anything except letting the warmth beat down upon his shoulders.

Suddenly the shower was full of naked boy. Kaeden stood next to him, scrubbing the makeup off his face with a vanilla-scented soap. Sex was the furthest thing from Dani’s mind, but he couldn’t help touching the luscious expanse of smooth honey skin. As his fingers trailed down Kaeden’s back to rest lightly on his butt, his cock responded. It had its own mind which was completely separate from the one in Dani’s head.

Kaeden rinsed his face off and smiled at Dani. Barefoot, in the shower, they were exactly the same height.

“Turn around. I’ll wash you.” He took the scrubbie out of Dani’s hand and added some soap to it.

Dani leaned against the wall and tried to relax. Kaeden stood behind Dani and scrubbed his neck, shoulders, and arms with a firm but gentle hand. Moving on to Dani’s back, he took his time, touching him tenderly. Dani felt his tension drain away. As Kaeden stepped closer, Dani became aware of what felt suspiciously like a hard cock poking against his butt cheek. It occurred to him that, after his narrow escape, he should be freaked out, but he wasn’t. He trusted Kaeden. In fact, he was getting turned on.

Kaeden moved slightly to the side to give himself room to scrub Dani’s butt. He still stood very close. When Dani glanced over, he could see Kaeden’s cock, wet and glistening and ever so stiff, snugged tightly up against his taut stomach. His own cock responded in kind.

Kaeden scrubbed his butt thoroughly and began to slide the scrubbie gently between his legs to touch the back of his balls. Dani sucked in his breath. Kaeden passed the scrubbie to his other hand between Dani’s legs.

“This is okay, isn’t it?” he asked, as he began to very softly wash Dani’s cock, which was now fully hard.

“Oh, yeah!” Dani began to pant.

Shortly Kaeden gave up the pretense of washing Dani’s cock and began to stroke him up and down. With his other hand, he began to tease Dani’s tight hole.

Oh God, that feels good! Sensation tingled through Dani, pulling a groan from the back of his throat.

“Do you want me to stop?” Kaeden murmured in his ear.

“No!” Dani was fast approaching orgasm. With the emotional turmoil of the evening, he seemed to have lost whatever scant control he normally had. He needed to distract himself or it was going to be over too soon. He turned to face Kaeden which pulled his ass out of reach of Kaeden’s hands. The other young man’s beautiful cock poked into his stomach. Dani grabbed it gently and began pulling it in long, slow strokes.

Kaeden moaned and started to kiss him. Dani pulled his face away; his mouth was too sore.

“Oh, sorry,” Kaeden whispered. He began to kiss along Dani’s jaw line instead, letting out little moans of passion.

Dani was on the edge again immediately. The noises Kaeden was making were so sexy, so sweet. By unspoken agreement they sped up their rhythm. They rested their foreheads together and watched themselves pleasure each other’s cocks. It was one of the most erotic sights Dani had ever seen.

“Kaeden—fuck!” Dani gasped, feeling a tingle in his balls.

Kaeden moaned in response and suddenly he was thrusting into Dani’s hand as his warm cum shot all over Dani’s stomach. A beautiful whimper escaped his lips.

“Jesus—God!” Dani’s orgasm followed and he pulled the Asian tightly to him as his body shuddered its release.

Afterward, they held each other close for a long time, winding down, relaxing. Eventually Dani found the scrubbie, which had fallen to the floor, and proceeded to wash Kaeden slowly and thoroughly. By the time he was done the water was starting to cool.

“Do you want to sleep together?” Dani asked as they finished drying each other off.

Kaeden slipped his arms around Dani’s waist. “I would love to sleep with you.”

Chapter Six

Dani glanced around his room, looking for anything he might have missed. He spotted the city map on the floor underneath the nightstand. Picking it up, he slipped it into his backpack. After one more brief look, he was satisfied that he had everything. He closed his giant suitcase and snapped the locks shut.

He hadn’t seen any sign of Kaeden yet and wanted to say good-bye to him before he left. He walked down the hall and hesitated in front of Kaeden’s closed door. Is he still sleeping? Then he heard what sounded like a sob. Putting his head against the door, he listened carefully. Kaeden was definitely crying.

He knocked softly on the door. “Kaeden. It’s Dani. Can I come in?”

“Yes … it’s not locked.”

Kaeden was sitting on his bed. He wiped his wet face with a tissue and looked at Dani through teary eyes. He was wearing gray sweats, a black T-shirt, and no make-up. It was a very masculine look for him.

Dani closed the door behind him and went over to sit next to Kaeden on the bed. “What happened, Kae? Did … did Yoshi hurt you?” The night before had been Kaeden’s second date with his client.

“No. No, Yoshi was great. It’s my mom! She came and visited me here. She just left!” Kaeden’s face crumpled, and Dani pulled him into a tight hug.

“It was awful!” he wailed and burst into tears again.

“Oh, Kaeden, I’m so sorry.” Dani didn’t know what to say. He couldn’t imagine confronting his own mother over a situation like Kaeden’s. He stroked his friend’s back and whispered soothing words into his ear.

Kaeden sobbed as if his heart was breaking for several minutes, and then he began to speak haltingly, still crying a little and gasping for air.

“Oh, Dani! I don’t know what to do. My mom tried to talk me into coming home. She said they miss me, and Dad wants me to work in his stores again. But she said I’d have to cut my hair. No hair dye. No makeup. No earrings. No boyfriends. No nothin’!” Kaeden sniffled.

“Dani, I can’t go back to that—it’s not me!” He pulled out of the hug to look at Dani, his eyes pleading.

“I get it. You have to be true to yourself.” Dani stroked Kaeden’s arm. “Your mom doesn’t understand?”

“No, she doesn’t. Oh Dani, she’s figured out what I’m doing here.” Kaeden’s voice rose again, almost to a wail. “She’s so upset with me! They’ll never understand. They’ll never accept who I really am.”

“Maybe someday they will. You just came out to them, right?”

“I thought they knew all along. I mean, I’m not exactly masculine—and I’ve had boyfriends since I was fourteen. All my siblings figured it out years ago. I’ve never talked about it with my parents, but I assumed they knew.”

“People often see what they want to see. They probably ignored all the signs that you were gay because they didn’t want it to be true.”

Kaeden laughed wryly. “On the day I got my hair done I also let Raul do my makeup, eyelashes, nails—everything. You should have seen the expression on my dad’s face when I walked into the house. I don’t think he’ll ever be okay with me like this.”

“Your Mom came to see you to talk you into coming home?”

“Yeah. And to get my iPhone back if she couldn’t talk me into it.” Kaeden’s voice was bitter.

“Did she take your phone?” Dani rubbed Kaeden’s back soothingly. A lump had formed in the back of his throat.

“No. I talked her into letting me keep it until I get the data off of it. She said they’re turning off the account though. I guess I’ll have to buy one of those pay-as-you-go phones.”

Dani knew the phone was a big deal for Kaeden. He tried to think of something encouraging to say, but as he was pondering, Kaeden spoke again, his voice twisted with emotion. “The worst part, Dani, is I think my mom’s more upset that I’m gay than she is about me being a prostitute!”

“Really?”

“Yeah! I mean, I’m having some trouble with the idea of selling myself—but I don’t feel guilty about being gay at all. It’s what I am. I can’t change that.

“She told me it’s unnatural. She said it was against God. She said I wasn’t trying hard enough—that I was following the path of the devil. She made me feel bad!” He started crying again. “She said that she and Dad are so disappointed in me.”

Dani hugged Kaeden tightly again and the young man shook in his arms. “There’s nothing wrong with you Kaeden. Being gay is totally normal. Every society has gays. It’s not against God.”

“I know that. I just wish…” Kaeden took a deep breath. “Maybe someday they’ll get used to the idea. I guess I shouldn’t let their attitudes get to me. It’s just—they’re my parents. I mean, I love them. I want them to be proud of me. But I can’t change for them. I don’t want to change. Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t!”

“It’ll be okay, Kaeden. Eventually they’ll either come to accept you, or you’ll build a satisfying life without them.”

“I guess … eventually.” Kaeden reached for another tissue, wiped off his face, and blew his nose. “Thank you, Dani.” He looked Dani in the eye and smiled through his tears. “Are you leaving today?”

“Yes. I’m all packed.”

“I wish you didn’t have to move out. I’ll miss you.”

“You can come visit me, and I’ll for sure be back for Sunday dinners.”

“Yes, I know, but it won’t be the same.” Kaeden looked wistful. “I guess it won’t be the same anyway after last night.”

“What do you mean? What happened last night? I thought you said Yoshi was great.” Dani’s voice was full of concern.

“Oh, the date was really nice,” Kaeden said quickly, alleviating Dani’s worry. “Look! He gave me a gold chain. It’s real gold.” He fingered the chain around his neck.

“That’s very nice.” The small link chain glinted enticingly against Kaeden’s golden skin. “So what happened?”

“He wants me on exclusive retainer. I agreed, and Sal went for it as well.”

“Exclusive retainer? Does that mean you can’t go out with anyone else?”

“Yes, he’s going to be out of town for some weeks. He’s willing to pay Sally not to set me up with other clients. She’s going to give me a hundred and fifty a week for doing nothing. Then on the weeks he’s here, she’s going to pay me four hundred a week to see him whenever he wants.”

“So, you don’t have to go out with anyone else? That’s a good thing.” Dani felt a tight ball of worry, which he hadn’t even realized he was carrying around, start to unwind. He thought Kaeden’s newly chosen profession was dangerous; dating only one client would be better.

“Yes,” Kaeden’s sensual lips turned down in a pout. “But it also means I can’t fool around with anyone else. No more practice sessions!”

“Oh, that’s too bad.” A sharp sting of loss sliced through Dani, which surprised him. He didn’t think he felt anything except friendship for the passionate young femme—but he was going to miss those practice sessions.

Suddenly Kaeden had his arms around him. “But I can still hug you!” Kaeden kissed him briefly. “And kiss you—as long as I don’t get carried away.”

Dani smiled at him, his arms around Kaeden’s thin waist.

“How’s he going to know what I do anyway?” Kaeden asked. “But, I won’t do anything, because I said I wouldn’t. God, I’m going to be so horny by the time he gets back!”

Dani smirked. “You’re the horniest person I know already.”

“I know, right?” Kaeden pulled away with a rueful smile. “So you’re all packed already?” He stood up and started rummaging in his dresser drawer. Pulling out a hot-pink T-shirt, he quickly exchanged his black one for the pink. “That’s better. I automatically dressed like a boy when I heard my mom was here. I look good in pink, don’t you think?”

“Yes, it matches your hair.”

Kaeden grinned and nodded, making his colorful spikes bounce. “I’ll go fetch Yuri to help you with your suitcase. Ooh! He’s not going to happy about the exclusive arrangement.”

*****

She’s very pretty. She looks just like Abe, in female form, Ty thought. She had the same huge, velvet-brown eyes, the same high cheekbones, the same smooth mocha skin.

The three of them were having lunch at a little café, sitting outside in the spring sunshine, watching the city go by. Abe had invited his sister, Kate, and Ty was feeling shy.

Abe’s sister was a firecracker. Ever since she sat down—you almost couldn’t call it sitting, she bounced in her chair so much—she’d been talking a mile a minute. Ty had heard all about her work as a grant writer, her love life, and how much she and Abe had fought growing up. Luckily, she’d kept the questions for him to a minimum and still she’d asked too many.

Ty liked her, but he was intimidated by her. Somehow her opinion of him mattered a great deal, and he got the feeling that she didn’t approve. She was very nice to him—it was just a feeling. His self-doubt made him even quieter than usual, which fed his insecurity. She’s going to think I’m dull if I don’t say anything. He twisted the napkin in his lap and tried to look like he was paying attention to what was being said instead of stressing over what Kate thought of him. After a while his nerves became unbearable. He excused himself to use the restroom, glad to get away from her scrutiny for a few minutes.

As soon as Ty was out of earshot, Kate turned to Abe and said, “I can’t believe you! Are you a glutton for punishment or what?”

“What?” Abe asked innocently, knowing he was about to get an earful.

“What? Fuck, Abe! You’ve been mooning over Evan, bless his soul, since he died two years ago. You haven’t dated. You’ve barely even gone out with your friends. Now, suddenly you pick up some fifteen-year-old runaway—”

“He’s not fifteen, he’s eighteen,” Abe interrupted.

“Oh, come on! You’re not stupid. If he was eighteen, why would he run away? He doesn’t look a day over fifteen.”

“He’s not fifteen,” Abe insisted. He was pretty sure Ty was seventeen. If he’d gone to school on the normal schedule, he’d turn eighteen before the end of the summer.

“Regardless of how old he is, he’s still homeless,” Kate pointed out, giving him her “I’m your big sister and I know better than you” look.

“He’s not homeless—he’s living with me.” Abe grinned at her, although inside his spirit was crumbling. She doesn’t like him. I need her to accept him. I need her to see how good he is for me.

“Abe, he’s got issues! You’re afraid to even tell him you’re gay. What does that say about him?”

“He’s been hurt, Katy. Have a heart!”

“Oh Abe, you big lunk, I’m just worried about you.” Her eyes narrowed as she looked at him with concern. “I’m worried you’ll give your heart away to someone who can’t love you back. I just don’t want to see you get hurt again. Please don’t fall in love with him.”

Kate’s word resonated deep within Abe. He had thought the same thing himself. He’d fought against his feelings, but Ty had won him over with his sweetness and his beauty and his quiet intelligence. “I’m afraid it may already be too late,” Abe answered softly.

“Oh, come on Abe! You’ve only known him—how long? Three weeks?” Kate’s voice rose in exasperation. “You’ve got to get rid of him before he causes trouble!”

At that moment Ty walked up behind her. The color drained from his face and his haunted eyes became luminous. His lower lip trembled slightly. He looked like he was about to cry.

She didn’t see him, but she saw Abe’s expression and realized that Ty must be behind her. She choked back what she was about to say next. Turning to Ty, she was struck by his air of damaged innocence. She suddenly understood why Abe felt the way he did. Her little brother had always wanted to help those in need, and Ty fit that profile. The youth had strength in him too, though; she could tell by the way he was biting his lip, trying to control his expression, trying not to let her and Abe know how devastated he was by what he’d just heard. What was it I just said? It was bad, wasn’t it? Ty looked so forlorn her heart went out to him.

“Ty!” She smiled brightly. “I’m sorry. I was just telling Abe to be careful. He hasn’t known you that long.”

“I know,” Ty answered softly, taking his seat. He turned to Abe. “I’ll leave. When we get home, I’ll gather my stuff and…”

“No, Ty!” Abe’s heart hit the floor. “Please—I don’t want you to leave! I like having you living with me.”

“Abe, I can’t stay on your couch forever. It’s time I move out.”

“No, Ty, please!” Abe’s chest was tight and hot. His voice trembled. “I … I thought maybe we could be roommates. We can get a two-bedroom place. You’ll get a job soon.”

“Abe…” Ty wasn’t sure what to say. He didn’t want to move out. He liked living with Abe, even if he did have to sleep on the couch. But he had been feeling guilty; perhaps he was taking advantage of Abe’s good nature. Now his sister had made it clear that he was imposing … and not to be trusted.

“Ty, I’m sorry,” Kate said gently. “I spoke out of turn. I can see Abe really wants you to stay.” Fuck! I need to fix this. My little brother is already crazy-in-love with the beautiful white boy.

Ty looked down at his mostly empty plate and felt even guiltier. Abe would be buying his lunch. He had no money.

“No, you’re right. I shouldn’t have stayed so long. I … I’m a leech.”

Suddenly Abe was on his knees next to Ty’s chair. “Ty, look at me.”

Ty looked into Abe’s big brown eyes. Abe looked worried and … heartbroken? Ty didn’t want to be the cause of making Abe look like that—ever.

“Ty, if you leave, I’ll be really sad,” Abe said gently. “You’re good for me.”

Ty could smell his spicy scent and it calmed him down. He didn’t understand why or how he could be good for Abe, but he believed that’s how Abe felt.

“Ty, I take back everything I said. You are good for Abe. Please stay,” Kate said.

What all had she said while I was gone? Ty wondered. He looked up at her uncertainly. He was still very aware of Abe, kneeling next to him, so close he could feel the heat from his body. Kate smiled at him warmly.

“I…” His mind was a whirl of conflicting emotions. He desperately wanted to stay with Abe, but was he truly not in the way? He turned back to Abe. “Are you sure? I feel really bad that I’m sleeping on your couch, eating your food, watching your TV. I do need to get my own place, but right now…” He trailed off. He’d had no luck finding a job. He didn’t see himself moving into his own place anytime soon. The only other choice he had, living on the streets, was a scary option.

“It’s okay, Ty. I like having you there. You’re no trouble at all. Please don’t feel bad about it.”

“So it’s settled. You’ll stay, then?” Kate interjected, flashing him another brilliant smile.

“Well, maybe just for a few more days.”

Abe sighed and took his seat again. He was terrified Ty would walk out of his life, and he’d have to go back to being sad and lonely all the time. “You are welcome to stay forever, Ty,” he said. I do want him forever, he realized with surprise. I’ve only known him three weeks and I can’t imagine life without him.

Ty cocked an eyebrow at him. “I don’t think I’ll live that long!” he joked.

*****

Tommy spotted Ty as soon as he entered the bus station. The boy was striking. He had the greenest eyes Tommy had ever seen. They were wide-set and huge and surrounded by thick, dark lashes. His pale face contrasted with his auburn hair. His walk was a graceful glide; he seemed almost like a dancer. He has no idea how gorgeous he is, Tommy thought.

He looked around and, spotting Tommy, headed straight for him.

Tommy noted that Ty looked well-fed, well-rested, and clean. He’s obviously not living on the streets.

Tommy smiled broadly, “Ty, my man! Whazup? You’re looking good. The city has been treating you well.”

“Hi Tommy.” Ty smiled shyly at him and glanced around nervously. Seeing that no one nearby seemed to be paying attention to them, he asked in a low voice. “I was wondering if you knew where I could get a fake id.”

Tommy quirked an eyebrow at him. “It’s always easier and much cheaper to get one through the normal channels—unless there’s a particular reason you need one with false information on it?”

“Uh, yes.” Ty didn’t elaborate. “How much would it cost and how long would it take?”

“Ahem,” Tommy cleared his throat. “I didn’t say I could get one for you. I could look into it. It would be at least three hundred dollars to get one that’s believable though. And you’d need to provide a photo that’s the correct size with the proper background.”

Ty’s face fell. “That much, huh?”

“Sorry, Ty. I wish I could help you. You don’t have an older brother you could steal an id from?”

Ty shook his head.

“Sometimes people buy them off of other people who look like them, but I don’t know anyone who looks like you. You’re … unusual. Actually, I do know one gorgeous redhead, but she’s shorter than you, and you’d have to change genders.” Tommy’s wide grin held a hint of mischief.

“Uh … no. Thanks anyway.” Ty smiled back.

“You’re doing well though, otherwise?” Tommy asked.

“Yes. I’m staying with a friend. It’s working out.”

“I’m glad. Don’t be a stranger. Any time you need anything, or even if you just want to chat, come by. Hey there’s a great party this weekend. A group of us from the house are going if you want to join us?”

“No. No thanks. I … well…” Ty was tempted to tell Tommy about Abe, but decided against it. He was too confused himself over his feelings for Abe to try to express them aloud. “No thanks. See you around Tommy.”

“Bye Ty. Take care.”

Well, that’s nice that he’s doing so well, Tommy thought. I’m glad he came by. I was worried about him.

*****

Jeanie smiled at Kevin who grinned back at her. Her heart was racing a mile a minute. It was exciting to spend time with a boyfriend, unsupervised. He lifted their twined fingers to his lips and kissed the back of her hand, his dark eyes staring intently into hers the whole while.

She giggled nervously. She was very aware of their thighs touching as they sat close on the couch. She had turned on a previously recorded episode of Pretty Little Liars, but they weren’t watching it. They were too focused on each other.

She and Kevin had started dating the week before. It wasn’t really dating so much as hanging out together every possible minute while they were at school, holding hands, and staring longingly into each other’s eyes. They hadn’t ever gone anywhere together, and this was the first time he’d come over to her house.

He leaned in and kissed her. His breath smelled of mint. The kiss was hesitant, clumsy. She didn’t kiss back—she was too surprised.

He pulled away slightly and smiled at her. She smiled back. That was enough encouragement for him. He dove in for another kiss, this one a bit bolder.

“Jeanie!” It was her father’s voice, bellowing from right behind her.

With a squeak Jeanie pulled away from Kevin and jumped to her feet.

He stood up as well, turning to face Jeanie’s father. “Mr. … Mr. Iverson!” he stammered. Redness flushed his cheeks.

Her dad was standing behind the couch, his face dark with rage. Jeanie’s heart started pounding. Oh, my God! What is he going to do to us?

“Out!” he yelled at Kevin, pointing to the nearest door, which happened to be French doors that led to the back porch.

Kevin lost no time in grabbing his backpack and his jacket. Not stopping to put his jacket on, he ran. He glanced back at Jeanie once with wide-eyed sympathy just before he disappeared through the door.

Her father focused his attention on her, his eyes narrowing. “How long has this been going on?”

“This is the first time anyone has ever come over, Dad!” That was not quite true. She’d had Brad over one time the first week after Ty had left, but they hadn’t even kissed.

“It’s a good thing I came home when I did. Who knows what would have happened in a little while?” He came around the couch.

“Nothing was going to happen, Dad. We were going to study together. We have a math test on Friday. Kevin’s really good at math.” Jeanie was talking fast now. She took a step back as her father approached her.

“You call that nothing?” he yelled. He was upon her then, grabbing her ponytail tightly near her scalp. He held her head still and screamed in her face. “You were kissing him!”

“Dad!” Jeanie began to cry. “Dad, that hurts! Please!” She was terrified. Her father had never physically assaulted her before, but she’d seen what he’d done to Ty.

His expression softened a bit and he loosened his hold. The glare in his eyes remained.

Jeanie desperately searched for something to say that would diffuse her father’s anger. Perhaps if I make him feel guilty about Ty he’ll calm down. “I’m lonely here in the afternoons by myself now that Ty is gone,” she said.

Richard Iverson was seeing red. He was trying very hard to control his temper with his daughter. He didn’t think he could live with himself if he hurt her the way he’d hurt his son, but the voice in his head was yammering at him. (You couldn’t control your son. Now you can’t control your daughter. You’re an utter failure. She’s trying to manipulate you by bringing up Ty. Are you going to let her get away with that, you pussy?)

Egged on by his internal abuser, he was about to start twisting her ponytail, but something stopped him. (What’s the matter pussy? You too weak to give your daughter what she so clearly deserves?)

Shut up! Let me think. There was something about her comment that bothered him. What is wrong here? Suddenly he knew the answer: she’s not sad enough! She should be devastated that her brother is gone, but she isn’t.

Once this thought occurred to him, all of his recent discussions with his wife about Ty spun through in his mind. Julie had acted distraught, but it hadn’t rung true. She’s not as upset as she should be either. In a flash, he knew. They’ve heard from him!

“He’s contacted you, hasn’t he?” he yelled at Jeanie, his face close to hers, her ponytail held in his tight fist.

Jeanie’s bright eyes flickered with alarm.

Yes! I’m right! They’ve heard from him. “Get your cell phone!” he ordered, releasing her hair and giving her a little shove at the same time.

She scrambled for her backpack and quickly pulled out her phone, giving it to him with shaking hands.

“What’s your pass code?”

“Three, two, one, nine,” she whispered.

He punched in the code and checked her recent calls. Only her friend, Gayle, and his wife had called her. He checked her texts. The most recent was from Kevin.

“Is Kevin the boy who was just here?” he demanded.

“Yes, sir,” she said meekly.

His blood boiled. (She’s a little slut!) He fought to keep the voice quiet and focus on the task at hand—finding out about Ty. He glanced briefly through the rest of the messages. None were from Ty or anyone else he didn’t know. He slipped her phone into his pocket. Losing her cell will be part of her punishment for having that boy over.

She was trembling before him. He was sure she had heard from her brother. He grabbed her ponytail once more and dragged her roughly behind him as he headed for the stairs.

“Dad, that hurts!” she cried, but he didn’t loosen his hold. When they got to her room, he shoved her onto the bed and took a seat in front of her computer.

“What’s your password?” he demanded.

“Dad, please!”

(She deserves to be punished), the voice told him. (If you don’t show her that resisting you is wrong, she’ll keep doing it. She’ll get worse. She’ll become uncontrollable just like your boy. She’ll let all the boys in her school fuck her. She’ll suck their cocks.)

Shut. Up. Richard closed his eyes and took a deep breath. “Tell me your password before I do something we’ll both regret,” he said through clenched teeth.

Her eyes widened and tears began to spill down her face. “It’s capital Z-i-l-c-h-3-a-d,” she said in a small voice.

He entered her password and brought up her email. With a glance through her messages, he saw it. There was a new one from “roughboy18.” That’s Ty. He smiled grimly to himself. (Gotcha now, you little fag!)

He swiftly perused the message. It was indeed from Ty, but had no information on his whereabouts, just general comments about the books he’d been reading and the meals he was cooking. Cooking! Richard Iverson’s anger raged. (The pansy-boy is cooking!) He had forbidden his son to cook several years ago. Cooking was for women.

He glanced through the rest of the emails. There was only one from Ty although clearly not the only one she’d received. She must be deleting them as soon as she’s read them. Smart girl, but I’ve caught her now.

She was sitting on the bed with her knees pulled into her chest, shivering with fear.

“So, you’ve been corresponding with your brother.” It wasn’t a question, and she didn’t answer him. “Where is he?” Richard demanded.

“I don’t know.” Her eyes were huge and her voice shook slightly. She quickly followed up her assertion with more information to convince him she was telling the truth. “He’s somewhere in the city, staying with a friend. He hasn’t said the name of the friend or where he is.” Her expression suddenly became defiant. “You can’t hurt him anymore!”

Richard Iverson jumped to his feet and drew back his arm, fist clenched. (Don’t let her get away with that!)

Jeanie shrieked and immediately curled into a fetal position on the bed. “No, please don’t!” she begged.

His heart softened.Somehow when his son begged, it enraged him, but when his daughter begged, it mellowed his temper. So help me, I can’t hit her. (Pussy!) Women are meant to be taken care of.

He turned back to the computer and began yanking out cables. “We’ll see about that. I bet my friends at the sheriff’s office will be able to figure something out.” He picked up the machine and stalked out of her bedroom.

A minute later, just as she was getting her heartbeat under control, he returned. “Get up!” he demanded.

Jeanie scrambled out of bed, still shaking. He grabbed her by the back of her neck and herded her up the stairs to Ty’s bedroom where he pushed her roughly onto his bed. Memories of what she had witnessed in this room flooded back to her. Her fear was so great, she began to choke.

Her father glared at her and said sternly, “You’ll stay here. I don’t want you warning him.” Then he left the room, locking the door behind him.

*****

“Oooh! Reese’s! I love Reese’s!”

“Sorry! It’s mine,” Abe said, shoving the rest of the chocolate patty into his mouth and smirking at Ty.

“But there’s two cups in the package!” Ty said, eyeing the wrapper in Abe’s left hand. “Surely, you can give me a bite.”

“Oh, you mean this one?” Abe teased, holding the wrapper up so that Ty could see the candy in it. “This one’s gone as well.” He started to slide the chocolate into his hand in preparation for shoving the whole thing into his mouth. He didn’t care about the candy, but it was fun to tease Ty this way.

Ty’s eyes widened in outrage. He launched himself at Abe’s hand, managing to snag the chocolate.

Wow! He’s fast! Abe had thought he was ready for such a move. He grabbed Ty by the arm and pulled him closer, intending to put a headlock on him. With a quick, expert movement, Ty twisted away and ducked under Abe’s arm. He danced out of reach.

Damn! How’d he do that? Abe took off after him. “Come back here, you!”

With a small scream, Ty launched himself over the back of the couch. Abe ran around the end. Ty dashed behind the counter into the tiny kitchen and turned to face Abe.

Abe stood on the other side of the counter grinning. “How’d you get away so fast? What kind of move was that?”

“Basic self defense. I’ve been trained.”

Ty started to slide the candy out of the wrapper into his hand. Abe bolted around one end of the counter, and with a squeal Ty fled in the other direction. He ran into the bedroom with Abe hot on his heels.

In the processes of making a quick turn into the bathroom, the rug under his foot slid away and he went down onto one knee. Abe was immediately upon him, tackling him the rest of the way to the floor. Ty squirmed onto his back on the way down. Still protecting his precious candy, he reached his arm as far up as he could, trying to keep the candy out of Abe’s reach.

“Gotcha now!” Abe said, straddling him. He started to tickle him and Ty shrieked loudly. He was very ticklish.

He tossed the candy as far as he could throw it and used both hands to try to block Abe. As overcome as he was by laughter, he was still very aware of the muscular thighs clamped on either side of his hips, holding him down.

Abe laughed heartily as he ran his tickling hands around Ty’s stomach.

“Stop! Stop! I give!” Ty finally begged, breathless.

“You had enough?” Abe asked. He stopped tickling but pinned both of Ty’s hands down on either side of his head. As soon as he did this, he thought the better of it, ever aware of Ty’s unique background. He released him immediately.

The look that glinted in Ty’s eyes wasn’t fear though. Abe caught his breath sharply as heat flooded his body. He climbed to his feet abruptly, trying to control his panting breaths.

Ty lay on the floor and looked up at him, still giggling a little, his chest heaving.

He’s too beautiful for words! Abe retrieved the Reese’s cup, pulled it out of the wrapper and broke it in half. He sat down on the bed as he handed Ty half of the candy.

“So you’ve studied self-defense?”

Ty sat up cross-legged on the floor. “My dad showed me that get-away move. He’s an ex-cop. But I used to study Tae Kwon Do. I really liked it.”

“How long did you study?”

“Two years. I was actually getting pretty good, but my dad made me quit.”

“Why’s that?”

“He said it was a pansy sport. He signed me up for football instead. I sucked at football.”

“That’s too bad.”

“Yeah.” Ty let out a big sigh and shrugged. “At least I don’t have to deal with him anymore. I can do what I want now. If I had any money, I might sign up for Tae Kwon Do again.”

Abe smiled at him. “You’ll get there.”

*****

“Yes!” Richard Iverson swung his fist through the air in victory. A huge smile lit up his face. “Let’s go get him!” He turned toward the door.

“Wait, Richard.” Sheriff’s Deputy Andrew Leevie stopped him with his words. “We don’t have jurisdiction there. We’ll have to get a regular black and white to come with us. Let me call them.”

Iverson paced back and forth while Andrew placed the call. When Andrew said, “Okay, we’ll meet Officer Dunning at the station at eight,” he glanced at his watch, frowning. It was six forty-five now. There was no way they’d make it to the city by eight.

“What…?”

Andrew silenced him with hand. “Okay. Yes. I understand.”

As soon as he hung up, Iverson exploded. “Are you talking tomorrow? We need to go down there now! It’s already taken a whole day to find out where that fucker lives. I don’t want him to have any more time with his hands on my boy. He kidnapped him, after all. Who knows what the fuck he’s doing to him!”

“Calm down, Richard. I’m sure your son is fine, and he’ll be there tomorrow morning when we go to pick him up. All of the deleted messages we recovered had a positive tone. He wasn’t kidnapped. He’s not being harmed.”

Iverson fumed and Andrew looked at him sympathetically. He had known something was up from the first moment Iverson had come to him about his son. Iverson was hiding something, but it had taken him a while to figure out what. He had known Richard since they were both rookies on the force, twenty years earlier. He knew that, although Iverson was a bit of a hothead, he was a good man. He knew he would never do anything to harm his son, but he had been confused about why Richard was being so cagey about the circumstances surrounding his son’s disappearance.

Then he’d figured it out. While he was looking through photos of the beautiful boy, he’d had a flash of inspiration: Ty was gay. It wasn’t too much of a jump after that to figure out that he’d run off with his homosexual lover. That’s what had Iverson all riled up—and that’s why he wouldn’t talk about it.

Hell! Deputy Leevie almost couldn’t think of anything worse than finding out your son was gay. He gave silent thanks to God that both his sons had turned out fine. Well, not fine exactly—one of them had gotten his girlfriend knocked up, and the other one kept getting into fights at school—but at least they were both firmly heterosexual.

“We can’t go without a regular city cop, and they’re not staffed to give us one this time of night. We’ll find him first thing in the morning. Now, let’s see if…” He glanced at the printout on his desk. “Abraham Williams has a criminal record.” He began punching keys on his keyboard and Iverson moved to look over his shoulder.

“No criminal record … at least not one under that name. Let’s see if he’s in any of our databases.” A few minutes later Leevie said, “Bingo! There he is. He’s a nurse.”

“A nurse?” Iverson’s voice was full of scorn. “Fucking pansy-ass job!” His eyes widened as he leaned toward the screen, taking in the photo of a handsome black man. “Is that him?”

“Yep, that’s him.”

“A fuckin’ nigger! A fuckin’ big-ass, damn nigger. Fuck!” Iverson slammed his fist onto the desk, causing it to vibrate dangerously. He was a bit shocked at his own reaction. He had not thought of himself as particularly bigoted against blacks—no more so than most white men his age. He had never used the N-word before. But now that he was confronted with someone who might be his son’s gay lover, he was furious and race seemed to matter. (Your faggy son is being fucked up the ass by a nigger), the voice in his head sang.

“Deep breaths, Richard. Calm down.”

“Fuckin’ A! What’s the fucking address?”

Andrew flicked off his screen. “I know you’re upset Richard, but you don’t need to be getting yourself hurt—or thrown in jail. We’ll pick up your son tomorrow morning. You can talk to him then. Maybe you can send him to one of those schools that’ll straighten him out. I think they have summer sessions.”

Iverson took a deep breath and glared at his friend. He thinks Ty’s gay too. (All your friends are gonna know what a pansy-ass father you are, raising a fag for a son.) His chest tightened and bitterness crept into his voice. “I really tried Andrew. I got him on the football team, but they never let him play. I wouldn’t let him cook or sew or any of that shit. I really tried to steer him right.”

“It’s not your fault. Sometimes these things just happen.”

“Yeah. Well, tomorrow! Tomorrow I’ll get another chance at him.” (We’re gonna teach that homo that fags are evil. By the time we’re done with him, he’ll never look at another man again.)

*****

“I packed you a lunch, Abe. I hope you don’t mind leftovers from Tuesday night.”

“God no—that pork roast was delicious.” After five weeks of living together, Ty was getting more and more domestic and Abe was enjoying every moment of it. “Wow! That’s so thoughtful of you.” Abe moved around the counter to take the brown paper bag from a sleepy-looking Ty. Abe wasn’t fully awake either. He had worked late the night before and had the early shift again this morning. Apparently Ty had heard him jump into the shower bright and early at five in the morning and had gotten up to make him lunch. “Thanks Ty.” He bent over and touched his lips to Ty’s.

What the fuck am I doing? Panic struck him full force. He pulled quickly back and froze for a fraction of a second. He had been on autopilot and had started to kiss Ty as if he’d been Evan. Fuck!

Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!

Subduing his emotions, Abe tried to act as if nothing had happened. He smiled casually at Ty as he headed out the door. Ty looked absolutely dumbstruck. “See you tonight,” he called over his shoulder. He didn’t hear an answer from Ty as he closed the door behind him.

Damn! Abe lamented. What a stupid-ass thing to do. I can’t believe I started to kiss him. Maybe he won’t care? Maybe he didn’t notice? Yeah, right! I am so screwed! What the hell am I going to tell him about that? Sorry, I mistook you for my ex-boyfriend? Fuck!

Ty stood staring after Abe in disbelief. He kissed me! He fucking kissed me! He put his fingers lightly on his lips. Not only did he kiss me, but I liked it. A strange fluttery feeling grew in the pit of his stomach. He made his way slowly around the end of the counter and sat down on one of the kitchen stools in a daze. What is going on? Abe is gay! he guessed.

Somehow that thought did not come as a complete surprise to him. He realized that he must have been picking up on those signals for a while. He thought about the picture he’d seen of Abe with the pretty blond man and everything clicked.

Abe is gay. Abe likes me. Abe wants me as a lover. Panic ensued. Oh, hell! I need to get out of here!

A twenty minutes later Ty was ready to walk out the door. He had thrown the toiletries Abe had bought him along with all of the clothes he owned into a small backpack that Abe had given him. He wasn’t sure if Abe had meant for him to keep the backpack or if he had just loaned it to him. A pang of guilt sliced through him, but he didn’t want to carry all his stuff in a grocery bag, and he really didn’t think Abe would mind about the backpack.

He paused at the kitchen counter, paper and pen in front of him, to write Abe a note. Ten minutes later he was still agonizing over what to say, his agitation rising rapidly. He was afraid Abe would come back any minute to settle him down. If he saw Abe, he’d have to face what he felt about him, and that thought caused his chest to tighten painfully, making it hard to breathe.

Finally he just muttered, “Fuck it!” and took off without leaving a note. He left his keys on the counter and made sure the front door was locked behind him.

Chapter Seven

“I need to go home for a while.” The big black man’s expression was fierce, his body tense, his movements quick and jerky.

“Abe, what is going on?” Teresa had never seen him so agitated.

“I just need to go check on something.”

“Like what—you leave your iron on?”

He smirked at his boss, realizing she was teasing. “I … I had kind of a fight with Ty. He’s so skittish. I’m afraid he’s going to leave. I just need to go talk to him—pulleeze!”

“Well, call him!”

“He doesn’t have a phone. If I run, I can be home in twenty minutes. I’ll be back in an hour.”

Teresa gave in. “All right.” She had noticed a change in Abe’s behavior weeks ago, and after much pestering, she had finally gotten the story of Ty out of him. Abe seemed much happier since he had taken in the stray, but she couldn’t help but worry about him. He was emotionally vulnerable, still recovering from the tragic loss of his lover, and the situation with Ty hardly seemed stable.

“I’ll cover for you. Take two hours, but be back by nine-thirty.”

“Thank you!” Abe called over his shoulder. He was already running out the door.

Nineteen minutes later he burst into his apartment. He knew already that Ty was gone—the door had not been dead-bolted. Sure enough, Ty’s keys were on the counter.

Fuck! “Ty!” he screamed as he tore through the apartment. In the bathroom he ripped open the cupboard. All Ty’s stuff was gone.

Fuck! Abe’s head reeled. He staggered into the living room and collapsed onto the couch.

“Ty!” he wailed, “Oh, Ty!” The pain in his chest was so real, he wondered briefly if he was having a heart attack.

Where would he go? He has no place to go. He’ll be on the street somewhere. Abe ran out the front door, barely pausing to lock it behind him. He would find Ty. Hopefully, soon.

 *****

Abe let himself into his apartment and dropped wearily onto the couch. He spotted the pillow Ty had been using, sitting on top of the neatly folded blanket on the end of the couch. He picked up the pillow and held it to his face. It smelled like Ty.

Oh, Ty! He hugged the pillow tightly to his chest and blinked back the tears that began to well in his eyes.

It was almost four o’clock in the morning. He had called Teresa and begged off of work. She wasn’t happy, but she’d let him go. He had spent the entire day looking for Ty. He’d only eaten once—a hot dog from a street vendor. He had spent hours running through back alleys calling Ty’s name. He worried that the emotionally fragile boy wouldn’t come even if he heard Abe calling. He might even try to hide from him.

He had seen no sign of Ty.

He was exhausted and heartbroken and very worried. He was not going to give up looking though. He had the next day off. He would spend the entire day searching for Ty.

When his phone beeped, he pulled it out of his pocket and glanced at it. It was just a message telling him he had voice mail. He had not answered his phone or even listened to his voice mail all day. Teresa had been trying to get in touch with him. He didn’t want to be called in to work. He needed to find Ty before the youth got hurt.

I’ll find him, he tried to convince himself. But Heartland City was big; he could be anywhere.

He collapsed onto his side and soon fell into a troubled sleep with his head cradled on Ty’s pillow.

*****

He awoke with a start. Someone was pounding on the front door.

Ty! Hope bloomed in his heart. He sprang to his feet, shedding the remnants of sleep from his mind as he sprinted for the door. Without even looking through the peephole, he yanked it wide open.

Disappointment flooded him, followed by surprise, followed by anxiety.

Standing at his door were three men, two of whom were police officers. The officer in front was black and almost as big as he was. He noted that the policemen’s uniforms were slightly different, and upon further inspection, he realized that the black officer worked for the city and the other was a sheriff from a neighboring county. The third man, a big white guy, was glaring at him ferociously.

“Can I help you?”

“I am officer Dunning and this is Deputy Sheriff Leevie. Are you Abraham Williams?”

Abe confirmed he was.

“We would like to ask you some questions. May we come in?”

Abe glanced again at the man in the back who looked like he was about to jump him and slit his throat. His gut clenched. This is about Ty.

“Sure, of course,” Abe led the way to the seating area and sat on the edge of the couch.

The other men took seats as well. “We’ve been trying to track you down since yesterday morning.”

Abe was still wearing his scrubs from the day before. They were rumpled and dirty. “I’ve been out,” he said shortly. “What’s this about?”

Did something happen to Ty? Abe was going out of his mind, but trying to appear calm.

The deputy sheriff produced a photo and handed it to him, asking, “Do you know Ty Iverson?”

He glanced down at the photo. That would be Ty’s senior portrait. What a beautiful picture! A lump rose in the back of Abe’s throat.

“Yes, I know him. Did something happen to him?”

“We were hoping you could tell us.”

The big white man jumped to his feet. “Tell us where he is, you fucker!”

“Richard! Calm down,” the deputy sheriff said.

Goose bumps broke out across Abe’s skin. “I wish I knew,” he said. His emotions were an odd mix of relief because they weren’t here to tell him something bad had happened to Ty and fury at the man who was surely Ty’s father.

“But you’ve seen him recently?” Officer Dunning prompted.

“Yes,” Abe said cautiously. He wanted to cooperate, but he was getting a bad feeling. “Yesterday morning.” How did they link me with Ty?

Ty’s father paced back and forth like a caged lion. A low rumble that sounded like a growl came out of the back of his throat.

“Where did you see him?” Officer Dunning asked calmly.

“Here. He’s been staying with me.” Abe wasn’t going to lie to them.

“I knew it!” Richard Iverson’s face was livid. “You kidnapped him!”

Abe shrank back. Ty’s father looked ready to attack.

“Arrest him!” the enraged man screamed at the city cop. He looked barely in control of himself. Abe shifted, putting some of his weight on his feet so he could jump up if need be.

“Richard, calm down,” the deputy sheriff said again, moving his hands in a downward motions to emphasize his words. He looked like a lion tamer trying to subdue an angry lion.

“I didn’t kidnap him!” Abe protested, turning toward Officer Dunning. “I just let him stay here. He had no place to go.”

“I could arrest you for kidnapping,” Officer Dunning said, still calm. “He’s a minor.”

“A minor? Really?” Abe pretended to be shocked. “How old is he? He told me he was eighteen.”

“You couldn’t have believed him!” Ty’s dad shouted.

“He doesn’t look eighteen,” the deputy sheriff pointed out.

“No, he doesn’t, but he acts at least eighteen. He said he was eighteen.”

“Suppose you start at the beginning. Tell us when and how you met him.” Officer Dunning said quietly.

“Arrest him!” Ty’s dad was practically dancing with fury. “He should be interrogated down at the station. He kidnapped my son! What the hell did you do to him, you fucking faggot?”

Abe’s temper flared. “I think a better question is, what the hell did you do to him?” he yelled back. He jumped to his feet as Ty’s dad flew at him.

Mr. Iverson seemed to change his mind at the last minute as Abe loomed over him. Both the policemen had jumped to their feet as well.

“Calm down, both of you!” Officer Dunning ordered.

Abe looked at Dunning. “Can I talk to you in private?” he asked, casting a sideways glance toward Iverson.

“I think that might be best,” Dunning agreed.

Abe led the way into the bedroom and closed the door behind them.

He spoke softly but urgently. “Look, when I found him the kid was in bad shape…”

“Are you gay?” Dunning interrupted.

“What the hell does that have to do with anything?”

“The deputy is under the impression that Ty ran off with his gay lover. That would be you.”

Abe looked at him incredulously. “Ty’s not gay!” At least, not that he knows.

Dunning raised an eyebrow at him.

“Look! He left home because that bastard was torturing him. I mean, literally torturing! When I found him, his hands had burns all over them, he had bloody welts on his back and butt, he had a broken nose and a black eye…” He took a deep breath. “I’m an ICU nurse. I know what I’m talking about. His father is one sadistic son-of-a-bitch! He whipped him on the bottom of his fucking foot, for God’s sake!”

Dunning’s jaw tightened. “He told you his father tortured him?”

“No, he didn’t want to talk about it.”

“So, it could have been someone else?”

Abe shrugged. “Someone he randomly met on the street? I guess, but it doesn’t seem likely. What day did he leave home?”

“He disappeared on March twenty-first.”

“I found him in the early hours of the morning on March twenty-sixth—the night of that bad snow storm. He might have frozen to death if I hadn’t taken him home.”

“You should have called the police.”

“Maybe. He didn’t want me to call the police and I was mostly concerned with getting him warmed up right away. We were just around the corner from my apartment. In any case, his injuries were five or six days old—so pretty much right around the time he left home. No wonder he didn’t want me to call the police. He knew you’d hand him right back over to that monster.”

Officer Dunning was making notes.

“That fucker’ll kill him if you send him home,” Abe said vehemently.

“We have to find him first.”

“Well, I’m afraid I can’t help you there.” Abe sighed. “He took off yesterday with all his stuff. I don’t know where he went and I don’t think he’s coming back.”

“Okay. I’d like to get a full statement from you. I’m not going to arrest you for kidnapping, although I think you certainly could have used better judgment.”

*****

Wally, the security guard, stared at the kid sleeping on the couch. He’d seen that kid around a lot the last couple of days. He was obviously homeless. He knew the look: skinny, scared, filthy. This kid seemed cleaner than most but still homeless.

He had been reading books and using the computers mostly. There was nothing he could do about that. It was a public library, and homeless people were members of the public. He wasn’t supposed to let them sleep on the couches though. The couches were for reading.

He walked up to the kid to wake him and paused. The kid looked dead tired … and really young.

Aw hell, let him sleep! He walked away quickly before anyone noticed he wasn’t doing his job.

*****

There is more than one way to skin a cat. Richard Iverson smiled in triumph. “Can you meet me for an online chat tomorrow at 4?” he typed. “I’ll be waiting for you. I miss you. –Jeanie”

Iverson hit the send button. It took only a few minutes for a reply to come back. He’s there now! If I wasn’t two hours away, I could go down to the library and snag him right now.

Jeanie had continued to get emails from Ty, even after he had moved out of Abe’s house. Iverson had had the sheriff’s department trace the Mac addresses. They were sometimes different, but they were all machines in the main branch of the public library in Heartland City.

Tomorrow at four I’ll have him!

*****

Jeanie was five minutes late. Something niggled at the back of Ty’s mind. Her last couple of emails had seemed a little weird. He hadn’t really thought about it, but his subconscious mind had been churning away on the matter. Now it was tugging on his sleeve, making him feel inexplicably nervous.

He was on the second floor of the library. He usually worked on a computer in the back, but they were all full today. Instead he was on one that was close to the balcony overlooking the first floor.

He glanced around and froze. The hair on the back of his neck stood on end.

There, on the first floor, searching with a purpose, was his father! Just then his father looked up and met his eye.

Fuck! Ty leapt to his feet, quickly stashing his water bottle and zipping up his backpack. His heart immediately went into overdrive, pounding a mile a minute. Another quick glance showed his father taking the stairs two at time. He’s coming fast!

Ty raced toward the nearest exit, a set of back stairs.

Wally was busy reading the paper. He wasn’t supposed to be reading the paper, so he wasn’t sitting down to do it. He was standing near the back of the second floor, idly leafing through a paper on one of the tables. Ty flashed by him.

“Hey!” he yelled, suddenly aware that something was happening that required his attention. Where the hell is that kid going? Did he just steal something? He took off after the kid.

As the youth pushed open the door leading down the back steps, he looked back over his shoulder. His face was stark with terror, but he wasn’t looking at him. His wide eyes were focused on something behind Wally. That’s when Wally became aware of a set of heavy footsteps pounding up behind him.

The kid disappeared through the doorway. Wally skidded to a stop in front of the door and turned to face whoever was chasing the kid.

A large man came barreling toward him. He looked furious.

“Out of my way!” he demanded, slowing as he came up on the closed door and Wally.

“Why are you chasing that kid?” Wally demanded, standing his ground. He was in charge here. This was his territory. The man’s glare could have melted steel. Wally started having second thoughts.

“Get the fuck out of my way!” the man growled. He slammed into Wally, knocking him to the ground.

Wally gasped, more in shock than pain. No one fucks with me on my shift! He was instantly furious. The big man looked ready to tear that poor kid to shreds. It didn’t matter what the kid had stolen—he didn’t deserve that.

The man was pushing through the door and Wally launched himself toward him, grabbing one of this feet. The man went down with a great crash.

Wally kept a death grip on the man’s foot.

“Let me go, you idiot! He’s getting away!” The man kicked hard with other foot, landing a bruising blow on Wally’s hand. It was enough for Wally to lose his hold.

The man scrambled to his feet and careened down the stairs.

Wally jumped up, rubbing his hand. Damn! That hurts! Just as he was reaching for his walkie-talkie, the alarm went off. The kid must have gone out the emergency exit.

*****

Dani took a long drag off his cigarette, savoring the flavor. The afternoon sun felt good on his shoulders. There was finally some warmth to it. In fact, it was almost too hot. His hair, which always grew a warm caramel color in the winter, would lighten to a sun-kissed blond in a few weeks if the weather stayed nice.

He shook his bangs out of his eyes. It was past time for a haircut. Damn! There’s always something else to suck my money away. I need a job bad!

His view out the back of his tiny apartment was of a narrow alley and the tall brick buildings lining it. He had a second floor unit and was lucky to have gotten one that had a window which opened onto the fire escape. It wasn’t a porch, but he used it as one. It was a place to step out for a smoke and take in the city. This time of day was best; the sun was at the perfect angle to slant between the buildings and bathe his little piece of real estate in warmth.

His attention was caught by a young man who raced around the corner of the alley. His huge eyes were wide with fear, and his face held such a look of desperation that Dani’s heart leapt into his throat. The auburn-haired youth jumped into a doorway and doubled over. Dani could hear his great gasps for air from where he stood. The kid had been running hard.

Who the hell’s chasing him? And why?

The kid had been catching his breath only a few seconds when Dani heard the sound of sirens. The young man’s head jerked up. He looked around wildly, clearly frantic. His face looked familiar. Something inside Dani twisted with sympathy.

It was not in Dani’s nature to interfere in other people’s business, but he knew the expression on the kid’s face would haunt him for days if he didn’t help him. He could not simply stand by and watch him get caught by whoever terrified him so. He made a quick decision followed by instant action.

“Hey, you can hide up here!” As he called to the youth, he unlatched the ladder to the fire escape. It descended with a loud clang.

The youth looked up at him in surprise. When he saw the ladder descending, he did not hesitate. By the time the ladder was fully extended he was already climbing it.

Ty barely glanced at the blond who was helping him. He pushed past him and dove through the open window onto a carpeted floor. There he stayed on his hands and knees, sucking air into his lungs. He could feel his heart pounding in his chest.

“Jesus Christ!” he wheezed, starting to realize that he might be safe. He took a few more great gulps of air. “Thank you!” He turned to look at his rescuer who was climbing in the window.

The blond looked about his age, small, but well built with a handsome face and striking gray-blue eyes. He turned to look back out the window as the wail of sirens seemed to surround them.

Ty’s relief was short-lived. There’s so many of them! Will they look for me here? What if this guy turns me in?

“Are those cops after you?” Dani asked. He was already having second thoughts. Am I harboring a criminal?

“Maybe.” The kid was starting to recover his breath. He looked up at Dani with huge green eyes. “Probably.”

“What’d you do?”

“Nothing!”

Dani looked at him skeptically. “I don’t believe that,” he said bluntly.

The kid’s eyes widened. He had the kind of beauty that made people stop what they were doing and stare. Dani had seen him before, he was sure of it.

“I…” He paused as if weighing what to say. “I’m a runaway.”

Suddenly Dani remembered. This was the boy from the flyer—the one with the homophobic father. That doesn’t mean he’s not a criminal.

“I don’t think the cops usually chase runaways with sirens blaring.”

Ty felt his face grow red although it had already been hot with exertion. He hated admitting to his dysfunctional relationship with his father, but his rescuer deserved an explanation.

“My father is chasing me. I’m not sure when the cops got involved—maybe it’s because I tripped the alarm at the library when I ran out the emergency exit.”

Dani remembered the look of sheer terror on the kid’s face when he had entered the alley. He is terrified of his father! he realized with shock. Dani had not known his own father and had always been bitter about that, but … to be afraid of your father—that’s so sad.

“My name’s Dani,” he said, extending his hand with a smile.

“Ty.” The young man’s answering smile was hesitant.

“That’s right … Ty,” Dani said, remembering details of the poster.

“What?”

“I saw your poster.”

“Poster?” Ty’s face paled.

“Well, it was a flyer really. It had your picture on it and a description of you and a phone number to call.”

“Holy shit! Maybe I need to get further away! Maybe I should disguise myself!” Ty was panicked.

“Calm down. I haven’t seen any of them around town. I heard that Tommy followed your dad around and took them all down.”

“Tommy?”

“Yeah. You know Tommy? Tall, black femme—hangs out at the bus station?

“Yes, I’ve met Tommy.” Ty calmed down slightly. “He met my dad? He took the flyers down?”

“I gather that he didn’t have a very good impression of your father, and yes, he took all the flyers down.”

Ty grinned. “I can just imagine what Dad thought of Tommy!”

Dani chuckled as well. Tommy was a homophobe’s nightmare.

“I guess I’d better be careful though. I didn’t realize that Dad was so actively looking for me.”

“How old are you, Ty?”

Ty stiffened slightly. “Eighteen.” He met Dani’s gaze and held it, challenging him to believe.

Dani glared at him for a few moments waiting for him to tell the truth. When no other age was forthcoming, Dani said, “I don’t believe you. How old are you really?”

“Why don’t you believe me?” Ty countered, his gut twisting. He hated lying, but he wasn’t admitting his real age to anyone.

“If you were eighteen you wouldn’t be a runaway, just another person who didn’t get along with their parents.”

“Oh.” That’s pretty basic logic. Why didn’t that occur to me earlier? Surely Abe figured that out as well. He must have realized I was lying to him. Shame washed over him. For some reason it was important to him that the big black man have a good opinion of him. He had been surprised at how much he missed Abe. He missed him almost as much as he missed his mother and sister. He swallowed the lump in the back of his throat.

Dani was still glaring at him. He shifted uncomfortably under the other man’s intense stare and decided he’d risk telling Dani the truth. He deserved as much for sheltering him. Abe deserves the truth too.

“You’re right. I won’t be legally responsible for myself until the end of July. I have to avoid my father until then.”

“July, huh? You look much younger.”

“So everyone keeps telling me.”

Dani’s attention was drawn to the end of the alley. A large white man was conversing with the cops, showing them something—it could have been his id or a photo.

“Is that your dad?” Dani asked, nodding out the window.

Ty stood up and cautiously peered out, standing well back from the window. Dani saw raw emotion ripple over his face: fear … anger … perhaps even hatred. The youth took a deep breath and composed himself.

“Yeah. That’s him.” His voice and face were calm. The only indication of his raging emotions was his tightly clenched fists.

He sank back down to the floor and let his backpack slide off his shoulders. “Do you mind if I stay here for a little while, just until everyone goes away?”

“That’s fine, Ty. You could even take a shower if you want. I was gonna do some laundry. I could throw your clothes in too.”

“Oh, you don’t need to do that.”

“It’s no trouble—really. If you’re gonna be here a couple hours, which you probably will be, you might as well.”

Ty appeared to struggle with himself briefly and before giving Dani a big smile. “Okay. Sure. Thank you! Um … except I don’t have anything else to wear.”

“I’ve got stuff that will fit you, I’m sure.” Dani went to a suitcase that was sitting on the floor in the corner and rummaged briefly.

Ty noticed that the only furniture in the studio apartment was a large futon on the floor. “Did you just move in?”

“Yes. I haven’t had a chance to get much yet. I kind of need a job first.”

“Me too.”

Dani found a pair of board shorts and tossed them at Ty. “These will probably fit you—well enough for just hanging around the place.”

“Do you have a T-shirt I could borrow as well, please?”

“Sure.” The kid’s modest. He handed Ty a T-shirt.

“Help yourself to whatever you need in the bathroom.”

“I’ve got my own stuff,” Ty said. “But thanks!” He disappeared into the bathroom.

A moment later Dani tapped on the door. “I brought you some clean towels.”

Ty opened the door. He was shirtless and looked like he was in the middle of shaving, although Dani hadn’t noticed any stubble. He took the folded towels and stepped backwards to set them on the counter.

“And I should warn you. The faucets in the shower—” Dani broke off with a small gasp of surprise. He could see Ty’s bare back in the bathroom mirror. It was crisscrossed with dark pink marks; in some places they were a darker purple, as if a scab had recently come off. It was clear they were whip marks, slashing across his entire back and disappearing behind the waist of his jeans.

Ty’s face immediately colored and he looked down in shame.

Trying to pretend he hadn’t noticed anything, Dani picked up his sentence where he left off: “are opposite. The hot is cold and the cold is hot.” Dani started to make a fast retreat to save Ty from his obvious embarrassment, but the boy spoke up.

“Now you know why I ran away,” he said bitterly.

“No shit, Ty! Your father whipped you?”

Ty nodded, and turned back to the sink, rummaging in his backpack, not looking at Dani.

“I would have run away too.”

Ty glanced up into the mirror, meeting Dani’s eyes. “I can’t go back.” His voice shook slightly. “I’m afraid if I got released into his custody that he’d end up killing me. I have to hide from him.”

“I can understand that.”

“Thanks for helping me.”

“No problem, Ty. Anything you need … I’ll do what I can.”

“Thanks!” Ty picked up the razor and began to shave again.

“Enjoy your shower,” Dani said as he closed the bathroom door. Jesus Christ! The evidence of Ty’s brutal beating had shaken him. No wonder he’s so scared. Dani went to the window and looked out. There was no sign of the police or Ty’s father now, but they were probably still out there looking for him.

Twenty minutes later, Ty emerged from the bathroom feeling much refreshed. He carried a small pile of dirty, sweaty clothes. The room smelled of incense. Glancing around, he noticed a stick smoking away in a holder on the kitchen counter. Dani was sitting on the floor next to the window.

“Hey, feel better?”

“Very much. Thanks!”

“I hope you don’t mind if I smoke some pot.” Dani picked up a thinly rolled joint and a lighter. “I like to get high before I do mundane things like laundry.”

Ty was startled, but he tried to cover it. “Uh, sure. I mean, no problem.” He sat down near Dani. “What’s it like?”

“You’ve never tried it?”

Ty shook his head.

“I like it. It relaxes me—gives me a different perspective—takes my mind off things that are worrying me.” He lit the joint, taking a long draw on it.

Ty watched him silently. Dani held the smoke in his lungs for a few moments then let it out in a long slow whoosh. The pungent odor of marijuana permeated the room. Ty’s heart beat a little faster. This is exciting! Is he going to offer me any?

Dani continued, “It can also make me kind of lethargic and sometimes a little paranoid. I don’t like to get high in the morning. I smoke it maybe once a week or so. Do you want to try it?”

“Sure,” Ty replied eagerly. “What do I do?”

“Just pull it into your lungs and hold it there, if you can. Take a small hit at first—it’s kind of harsh.”

Ty took the cigarette from Dani and took a small puff. He handed it back immediately.

Dani took another hit and handed it back to Ty.

Ty didn’t feel any different. This time he took a bigger hit. Suddenly his lungs felt like they were going to explode. He started coughing and his eyes watered as he handed the joint back to Dani.

“Careful! That’s what I mean. It’s kind of harsh. Not like cigarettes.”

They shared the rest of the joint until it became very short and Dani put it in a small bowl which he hid in his kitchen cupboard.

“Well, what do you think?”

“I don’t feel any different,” Ty said. He was disappointed. Several of his friends had told him how much fun it was to get stoned.

“Hmmm. I’m pretty high. Your eyes are red. Are you sure you’re not high?”

“I don’t think so.”

“Well, maybe that’s a first-time thing.”

A few minutes later when Dani returned from putting the clothes in the washer, Ty had decided maybe he was feeling a little strange. It was very subtle, not like the feeling he got with alcohol.

“Are you hungry?” Dani asked.

At the mention of food, Ty was instantly starving. He hesitated. He didn’t want to impose on Dani, and he had no money.

“Yeah! You’re hungry! You’ve got the munchies as much as I do! I’m really not much of a cook, but I have stuff to make spaghetti.”

“You don’t have to feed me,” Ty said softly.

“It’s no problem. Spaghetti’s cheap and it’ll be nice to have someone to eat with for once. I just moved here. I don’t know too many people.” Dani went into the kitchen area and began pulling ingredients out of the cupboard.

Ty followed him. “I can help.”

By the time they were done with dinner, Ty decided he really had gotten high. While they’d cooked, they’d chatted, and almost every comment one of them made was hysterically funny. Ty hadn’t laughed like that in a long time.

They made a huge amount of spaghetti with meat sauce, a green salad, and garlic bread. Ty was amazed at how little was left when they had eaten their fill.

“I can’t believe I ate that much!”

“It’s the pot. It makes you hungry.”

“I was hungry anyway, but maybe. Yeah. Thanks for getting me high and feeding me. I’ve … this was a lot of fun.”

Dani gave Ty a huge grin. He really liked the thin redhead. He seemed shy and much too sweet to be living on the streets. “I’m going to go get the laundry. It should be dry by now.”

When he returned with the clean clothes, he dumped the bag out onto the futon, sat down, and began to sort and fold. Ty sat down on the edge of the futon as well and began pulling his few things out of the pile.

“Those are all the clothes you have, huh?”

Ty sighed. “Yeah. I couldn’t really bring much with me when I left. Then my first backpack was stolen out from under me while I slept.”

“Wow! That’s tough. I can’t imagine sleeping on the streets. You look like you’re doing okay though.”

“The first week was really rough. I almost froze to death in that snowstorm we had.”

Dani’s eyes widened. “I remember that. It was fucking cold! It would have been miserable to be out in it.”

“Yeah. It was horrible. I was in bad shape. I was rescued by this guy named Abe. He’s a nurse. He’s super-nice.” Ty’s face took on a wistful look. “He saved my life. I ended up staying with him for five weeks.”

“So you’re not living with him anymore?”

“No.” Ty’s voice sounded weary. “I’ve been living on the street again for four days now. It’s not as bad this time—at least the weather’s warmer and I’ve found a secluded place to sleep—as long as it doesn’t rain.”

“So, what happened with this Abe guy? Why’d he kick you out?”

“He didn’t kick me out. I left.”

“Why?”

Ty squirmed. He was obviously uncomfortable talking about this, but Dani didn’t want to let him off the hook. He wanted to know if he could trust Ty. He was considering offering to let him stay with him in his studio for a while. He looked at the youth expectantly, waiting for an answer.

Ty took a deep breath and blurted out, “I found out he was gay,”

“Oh!” Dani was surprised. Ty had not seemed bigoted. In fact, he seemed like he might be gay himself. Well, I’d better get this out in the open now.

“I’m gay too.”

Ty’s eyes widened and he gulped. “It’s okay. I mean … of course it is!” His face darkened in a deep blush. “I … I don’t hate gays,” he finally stammered.

“But you don’t want to live with them?” Dani couldn’t help but push. He wanted to understand the extent of Ty’s aversion to gay. The young man seemed to be struggling with his feelings.

“No, it’s not that … it’s just … he kissed me.” Ty looked down at the floor, but briefly, before he did, a deeply painful emotion flashed in his eyes.

Dani’s chest tightened and he was suddenly furious. His own recent encounter with unwanted sexual aggression was fresh in his mind. What a jerk—to rescue the poor kid off the street in order to take advantage him! Ty had the kind of beauty that would make him a target.

“It’s never cool to force yourself on someone,” Dani said tightly.

“Oh no!” Ty appeared taken aback. “He didn’t force himself on me. He … I don’t think he meant to kiss me. I think it was an accident.”

“An accidental kiss?”

“Yes.”

“And it was horrible?”

“N … no. It wasn’t horrible. It was barely a kiss.”

“It scared you?”

“Yeah. It freaked me out.”

“So you left him?”

“Yes.” Ty suddenly looked close to tears. “I couldn’t deal with staying there knowing that he liked me like that.”

Interesting. Ty fell in love with the man he was living with, but he has no idea. He doesn’t even know he’s gay.

“Well, if I ever kiss you, it won’t be accidental!” Dani quipped and then was immediately sorry. Ty was obviously pretty sensitive about the issue. He needed to be careful what he said. Much to Dani’s relief, Ty laughed.

Day had turned to night outside. Ty slipped into the bathroom and changed back into his own clothes. When he came out he said, “I think the coast is probably clear now. I should be going.”

“You’re welcome to stay,” Dani offered, “for tonight or even for a little while. I only have the one bed, but it’s big. Or you could sleep on the floor—it’s carpeted.”

“Wow! That’s really nice of you, but no. I don’t want to wear out my welcome. I’ll be going.”

Dani was not surprised at Ty’s response, but he tried again. “Are you sure? It’ll be no trouble, and when you get a job, you can help with the rent.”

“Yeah, no. I’d better go.” They had already talked about the difficulty of finding work, especially without id. Ty didn’t think he was going to find a job any time soon and he knew Dani couldn’t afford to support him. Besides, Dani was gay too. If he couldn’t live with Abe, how could he justify moving in with Dani? He looked down and shuffled his feet a bit before heading for the door.

“Any time you want a shower, or to wash your clothes, or just to hang out, come on by. I’m here sometimes in the daytime and almost always in the evenings. I had a great time with you, and I don’t know too many people here yet.”

“Thanks! Maybe,” Ty said with a smile.

“Hey! There’s supposed to be an awesome party on Saturday night. I’m going to go with Tommy and another friend. Do you want to come? You could come over here early and take a shower.”

Ty looked at Dani hesitantly. “Really? What kind of party is it?”

“It’s the after-concert party for the band, Leather. The concert’s at the Shay-Shay Club so we can’t get in to the main floor of the club, but apparently they’ve got a private area where they’re a bit more lax on checking IDs. We’ll be able to watch the concert from the balcony. It won’t be like being with the crowd on the floor, but we’ll have a good view. You do need to be on the guest list but Tommy says he can get Kaeden and me in. I’m sure he could get you in too. I’ll call him and make sure.”

Ty wavered. He’d heard of the band Leather but had never seen them in concert. They were a local phenomenon with a reputation not only for their unusual music—a combination of metal, punk, and funk—but their extreme personalities as well.

“There’ll be free food and booze. The spread is supposedly legendary.”

That clinched it. “Okay! Yes! That sounds really exciting. I’ve never been to an adult party … well, except for the ones my parent had sometimes, but I don’t think that counts.”

“So come by anytime after four. You can do your laundry again if you want. I said I’d be at the house to get ready with those guys around seven. I think the concert starts at nine.”

“Great! See you Saturday.” Ty left with a smile. 

Chapter Eight

Ty woke with a start, brushing at a tickle on his arm. A large spider scampered away. He started to bolt to a sitting position, but branches in his face brought him to an abrupt halt. He didn’t have room to sit up. He shuddered slightly and glanced around. He didn’t see any more spiders, but that didn’t mean they weren’t there.

With a sigh he sank back onto his blanket. He was careful to keep his head on his backpack. The blanket was cleaner than he had expected it to be, considering that he’d found it on the side of the road, but he still tried not to think too much about what it might have been through before it had come into his possession. He was going to bring it with him to Dani’s place tonight to wash it.

Need drove him to get up; he had to pee. Carefully avoiding the scratchy branches, he crawled out of his hidey-hole in the bushes, dragging his backpack behind him. He paused just at the edge of the bushes and looked around. No one was in sight. Moving the tumbleweed which blocked the entrance, he climbed to his feet and replaced the concealing snag of bushes when he was done.

He stretched, groaning softly. He’d been sleeping on the hard ground for a week, and still he was stiff in the mornings. He really wanted to wash his face and brush his teeth, but first things first. He stumbled a short distance down the sidewalk to where the concrete wall of a building bordered the vacant lot. There he followed a narrow trail next to the wall a short distance away from the street. He always felt guilty peeing in public, but there was really no place else close by. Someone walking down the street might figure out what he was doing, but they wouldn’t really see anything. He finished up quickly.

His stomach rumbled, reminding him that he hadn’t had anything to eat since the previous afternoon, and that had just been a hot dog. He had forty-two cents in his pocket. He brushed the twigs off his clothes and ran his fingers through his greasy hair as he sauntered down the street.

He started to head toward his usual spot in the business district and then changed his mind. It was Saturday. Maybe he’d have better luck near the shopping center, although it was too early for shoppers yet. He walked briskly for ten minutes until he started to pass stores, then he slowed down and looked in the windows as he walked.

When he came to the McDonald’s he ducked in. Guiltily ignoring the sign that read “Restrooms for customers only,” he headed for the bathroom in the back and slipped through the door. He made liberal use of their soap and hot water, brushed his teeth, and filled his water bottle. He glanced at the stalls but decided he wasn’t ready for that yet. Maybe he could wait until he got to Dani’s house. Properly taking care of basic bodily functions was a challenge when you didn’t have access to a toilet.

As he headed out the front door, he noticed the manager glaring at him. Damn! I’ll have to be sure to buy something next time I come in.

He walked a few more blocks, passing outdoor cafés that were just opening for business and boutique stores full of merchandise that he’d probably never be able to afford. Finally he found a good spot. There was a brick wall to lean against, it wasn’t too close to the front door of any shop, and it was in the sun.

He set his backpack down against the wall and pulled out his cardboard sign. Turning to face the street, he stood on his pack straps so no one could steal it out from underneath him. Blushing slightly he held up his sign which read, “Will work for food.”

It embarrassed him to beg for money. The first few minutes were always the worst. After that he became kind of numb—until someone was mean to him, which happened several times a day, and then he would feel bad again.

I’m not really begging for money, he told himself. I’m begging for food and a job. No one had offered him a job yet.

He had almost given up looking for a job. He was too busy trying to survive. He didn’t have time to spend hours going from place to place filling out job applications or doing research in the library. The first few days he was on the street he had spent most of his time at the library, but he’d also been starving the whole time. And going back to the library was out the question now that his father was looking for him there.

He needed to eat and for that he needed cash. The only way he could think of to get quick money was to do what he was doing. Well, there was one other way, and he was propositioned for that several times a day—sometimes subtly, sometimes blatantly. Usually the come-ons were made by men but also sometimes by women. He always politely declined.

A man in a business suit handed him a dollar, but didn’t look him in the eye.

“Thank you!” he called after him.

Twenty minutes later a woman handed him a box of raisins. It was unopened.

“Wow! Thanks!” he said to her retreating back. He immediately tore it open and demolished them. Raisins had never tasted so good.

Shortly after he had finished with the raisins, a girl came by who looked about his own age. She was dressed to the nine’s. He guessed her six-inch heels were Prada and her bag was definitely Coach. She was frowning at her latte. She glanced up and saw him, and then handed him her cup as if he were her personal butler. “They made it wrong. I asked for non-fat milk,” she said with a sniff.

“Uh, thanks!” Ty said as she moved on. The latte was barely touched. He took the lid off—it had bright pink lip prints on it—and took a long sip. Delicious! Maybe today is going to be a good day after all.

By four o’clock in the afternoon, Ty was done for the day. He had eighteen dollars and eighty-five cents. He planned to pay for his own load of laundry with some of the quarters he had earned.

For breakfast he’d had a latte, some raisins, and a donut that someone had given him—untouched, it appeared. For lunch he’d splurged on a sub sandwich, chips, and a coke. He was hungry again but in high spirits as he headed back toward his sleeping spot. He wanted to grab his blanket to be washed and ditch his sign.

“Hey sugar, you’re looking awfully sweet.”

The woman who was suddenly walking next to him gave him a toothy smile. She had blond hair which hung in lank strands to her shoulders. Her blue eyes were slightly blood-shot but were framed by long dark lashes. She was of average height and busty. Her wide hips balanced out her considerable breasts, but she wasn’t fat. Ty guessed her to be about thirty. She was also a bit dirty. Ty assumed she was living on the streets as well. He looked at her warily and said nothing.

“You look awfully young to be out here by yourself,” she said.

“I’m fine,” he said shortly, wondering how to get her to go away.

“You living out here too?” she asked. Her smile was huge.

“Yeah.”

“You want some company?”

“No.”

“Oh, come on. We could help each other out. It’s dangerous out here by yourself. We could look out for one another.”

“I don’t have anything,” Ty said. Except eighteen dollars and eighty-five cents, but you’re not getting that.

“I only asked for your company. I didn’t ask for nothin’ else.”

“Yeah, well, I’m kind of busy right now.”

“Busy? What the hell does a homeless person have to do?”

“I’m going to a party.”

“A party! Can I come?”

“It’s … it’s exclusive—for boys only, I think.”

“You’re gay then?”

“No.”

“Bi?”

“No.”

“But there’ll be free drinks there, right?”

“Uh, yeah, I think so.”

“Are you sure it’s boys only?”

“No, but I couldn’t get you in. I was told you had to be on the list.”

“How did you get on the list?”

“Through a friend. Me and some other guys are going.” In any case, you look homeless. I don’t think they’d let you in.

“Hmm. Well, you better watch your pretty ass. By the end of the party you might not be so straight.”

Ty gulped. She’s right, of course. Why am I going to this party? He had no intention of letting anyone touch him. He was planning to just show up and eat the food and drink the drinks and do what? Mingle? Flirt? Maybe I shouldn’t go. I’ll probably spend the entire evening trying to keep from getting groped.

He had told Dani he would go though. He decided he’d at least go to Dani’s and get a shower and maybe do laundry. Once he found out more about the party, he’d decide for sure if it was worth it.

“Thanks for the advice,” he said.

“No problem sugar. My name’s Trish.” She stuck out her hand. She had dirt under her fingernails.

Ty shook her hand. “I’m Ty.”

“Well Ty, if you should ever decide you want company, I usually hang out under the bridge on Fifteenth and Ash. Look me up sometime.”

“Okay. Sure.”

She stopped walking and he kept going. “You watch your pretty ass!” she called after him.

He blushed and apprehension settled into the pit of his stomach.

 *****

“Pop!”

Ty jumped at the sudden sound and turned to see Tommy pouring champagne out of the bottle into a waiting plastic flute.

“There’s champagne and sparkling cider, so help yourself. If you do it when I’m not looking, I’ll never know which one you took,” Tommy proclaimed. His grin was infectious. He was the only one of the four who was legally old enough to drink.

Kaeden bounced up and sashayed over to the dresser where the champagne was waiting. “Oh, I love champagne!” He threw a sideways glance at Tommy who was disappearing into the walk-in closet. “Er, I mean cider.” He quickly poured himself a glass of champagne. Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” was blaring out of the stereo, and Kaeden did a twirling dance on the way back to his chair.

Dani sauntered over to the dresser, and Ty left his perch on the edge of a velvet chair to join him.

“Champagne or cider?” Dani asked.

“Which do you think?”

“Definitely cider for you, little boy!”

“Hey!” Ty protested, but he was happy to see that Dani was already pouring him some champagne. He took it gratefully and headed back to his seat, trying to relax. He almost choked on his first sip when he realized Kaeden was putting on false eyelashes. He watched the lithe Asian with perverse fascination. He was wearing a silk dressing gown, and if Ty hadn’t known better, he would have thought Kaeden was female.

“I’ve never seen anyone do that before,” he murmured.

“What? Put on false eyelashes? I have almost none of my own. The falsies give my eyes some exotic flare, don’t you think?” Kaeden batted his lashes at Ty. He had only done one eye so far, and Ty had to admit it really made a difference.

“It looks very … feminine.”

“You look gorgeous, sweetheart,” Dani said. He had been futzing with his hair in front of Tommy’s full-length mirror and now he took a few steps over to Kaeden to nuzzle him on the back of his long neck.

“Mmmm!” Kaeden seemed to melt into Dani, a look of pure bliss on his face.

Ty felt his face going hot. I don’t belong here. I’m not gay. He took a big swig of champagne to settle his nerves.

Tommy had a third floor turret room in the huge old house. The architecture was unusual, and the femme had decorated the round room to resemble the inside of a sultan’s boudoir. Silks in bright colors and fake furs covered the huge bed, which was also partially hidden by sheer magenta drapes. Magenta and teal pillows and cushions were scattered about the window seats. There were a few velvet chairs in sapphire and a chaise lounge covered in purple damask.

The décor would have been even more striking if the room hadn’t been so messy. Clothing covered almost every surface except the floor—shoes and boots and purses were scattered about the floor. Tommy’s vanity, where Kaeden was sitting, was covered with a vast array of make-up and jewelry.

Tommy emerged from the closet. “Which shirt, do you think? This one?” He held up a warm green shirt with sequins scattered across the front and a very low-cut back. “Or this one?” He held up another shirt in turquoise which buttoned up the front and had three-quarter-length sleeves which belled into ruffles.

“I think the turquoise,” Kaeden said. “It matches the pants better and it’s so you!”

Tommy was wearing skintight, knit, bellbottom pants in a dizzying paisley print of turquoise, lime, and blue. They looked very retro.

“Ty, what do you think?” Tommy asked. “Oh, Ty! Look!” Tommy swished over to him and held the green shirt up against his chest. “This one matches your eyes perfectly, Sweetie! You should wear it.”

“Uh, no.”

“Oh, come on. Take off that boring old T-shirt and try this one on!” Tommy insisted.

“No.” Ty was suddenly very uncomfortable. “It’s backless.”

“What? You afraid to show a little skin? I bet you’ve got a gorgeous back!”

“No. I don’t”

“Maybe something that’s not backless?” Dani suggested, realizing Ty had more than one reason not to want to wear Tommy’s sequined shirt.

Tommy laughed and donned the turquoise shirt. He left it unbuttoned and tied the tails together in a knot above his belly button. It was a provocative look, showing a vast expanse of smooth brown skin.

“Okay, Mr. Modest!” he said, turning his attention back to Ty. “We’ll find something that will work for you. I’ve got tons of clothes! I never throw anything out.”

Looking around at the sheer quantity of stuff in the room, Ty believed him. He had his doubts about finding anything that would suit him though. Ty had never seen Tommy wear anything that wasn’t outrageous.

“Uh, thanks, but I’m fine with what I’m wearing.” Ty was dressed in his only pair of jeans and a tan T-shirt. They were both freshly laundered.

“No offense, honey, but your outfit’s boring.” Tommy grinned at Ty to take the sting out of his words.

“Yeah, but I don’t think any of your clothes will fit me.”

“I’m sure I’ve got something that will fit you.” Tommy disappeared into his closet.

Ty heard a small snort and looked at Dani. He was trying to hide his mirth. “I’m sure Tommy will come up with something that will be lovely on you, Ty!”

Kaeden joined in the laughter.

Ty groaned. “Uh, Tommy!” He went to the closet door and looked in. Tommy was rummaging around in the back. “Tommy, I really don’t think…”

“Hey, how about these!” Tommy pulled out a pair of bright red snakeskin pants.

“No! I don’t think so. Not my style.”

“Oh, come now. What’s your style? Drab?”

“I don’t mind tight but no wild colors or crazy fabrics.”

“Oh, oh! I got just the thing. Let me find them.” Tommy dove once more into the back of his closet.

Ty looked at Dani and rolled his eyes. Dani grinned.

“Here they are! I haven’t worn these in years. They’re way too small for me. They might fit you.”

Ty eyed the bundle of black leather in Tommy’s hands. Tommy held them up. They were essentially black leather jeans, and they looked about the right size.

“Try them on!” Tommy demanded.

Could be worse, Ty thought. He took the leather jeans from Tommy and held them up to himself. “Okay. Where can I change?”

“Modest much?” Tommy asked.

Dani glared at him as Ty’s face colored.

“Oh, just use the closet, honey. We won’t look,” Tommy said.

Ty went into the closet and changed pants. The black leather jeans seemed to fit him really well. “What do you think?” he asked, stepping out into the room and doing a slow turn in front of Tommy’s full-length mirror.

“They look great on you!” Kaeden said. “Could not fit better.”

“Wow! Very sexy, Ty!” Dani said appreciatively. “You’ll be fighting off the boys—and the girls.”

Ty colored. “Well, maybe not then.”

“Nonsense! Those are fantastic on you! They’re yours!” Tommy’s tone was insistent. “I don’t know why I kept them so long. They certainly don’t fit me.”

“Really? I can have these?” Ty was staring at himself in the full length mirror. The pants fit low on his hips, but not dangerously so. They hugged his butt and clung to his thighs perfectly, showing off his long lean legs. There was something about the leather fabric that made him feel sensual—and a little bit bad.

“Those are perfect, honey! Now we just need to find you a shirt.” Tommy started pulling shirts out of his closet.

Many rejections later, Ty finally said, “I’m sorry, Tommy. I am not flamboyant like you are. I’m afraid I’m not comfortable in anything other than my staid, old shirts.”

“How about just a tight T?” Kaeden suggested. “It’s a simple, sexy look. I’ve got some I bet would look great on you.”

“This one’s too boring, huh?” Ty asked. He looked down at his shirt which had a picture of a moose on it in black ink and a slogan that read, “Big Sky Country, Montana.”

“Not tight enough, sweetie. You need to show off your lovely biceps.” Kaeden squeezed Ty’s upper arm as he danced past him out the door. “I’ll be right back.”

“Yeah, right!” Ty blushed again.

Kaeden returned shortly with a selection of several shirts. He also brought some clothes for himself. Much to Tommy and Kaeden’s amusement, Ty disappeared into the closet to try on shirts. Kaeden had no qualms about changing in front of everyone and even danced briefly wearing nothing but his G-string. Luckily Ty was in the closet at the time, so he missed the show which surely would have made him uncomfortable.

They quickly settled on a teal shirt for Ty that was tight fitting and decorated with strategically placed zippers. The color looked good against his pale skin and brought out a hint of blue in his green eyes.

Kaeden donned purple pants in a slightly shiny knit fabric and paired them with a cropped, fringed, lavender shirt which showed off his tiny waist and toned abs.

Dani was wearing tight, very low slung, black jeans and a form-fitting, blue shirt that barely touched the top of his jeans. Kaeden fussed over Dani’s hair, adding a bit of spray and arranging it in a slightly wavy, tousled look that gave him a sexy, just-out-of-bed, appeal.

“Let me do your eyes!” Kaeden urged.

“What? You mean makeup?” Dani asked. “I’ve never worn makeup. I don’t think—”

“How about just eyeliner then?” Kaeden interrupted. “Let me put some on, and if you don’t like it you can wash it right off.”

Tommy was standing at the mirror applying kohl around his own huge, dark eyes. “Oh, yes! Try it out Dani. You’ll love it.”

“Well … okay.”

Kaeden carefully circled Dani’s eyes in black pencil, smudging it a bit to give it a smoky look. “What do you think?” he asked when he was done.

Ty thought Dani looked like a rock star from the seventies.

Dani surveyed himself in the mirror, turning his head back and forth. “It’s different. It makes my eyes really striking, but I’m not sure I’m comfortable with it.”

“Everyone will be made up,” Tommy said. “Well, maybe not everyone, but you won’t stand out because of the makeup, that’s for sure.”

“All right. I’ll leave it on for now.” Dani’s stomach fluttered with excitement. It was going to be an interesting evening, if nothing else.

“Now, your turn!” Tommy approached Ty, kohl in hand.

“No way! Absolutely not!” Ty cried. He jumped up and backed away from Tommy.

Tommy laughed but didn’t pursue him.

“He doesn’t need makeup,” Kaeden said. “I’ve never seen such long dark lashes on a boy.”

Tommy glanced at the clock. “We’d better go soon. I don’t want to miss any of the concert.” He looked around on the floor. “Now, what shoes?” 

Chapter Nine

They took the metro to the concert, reveling in the shocked looks they got from conservative folks and the admiring stares from those who were more open-minded. Ty, Kaeden, and Dani were bursting with excitement by the time they arrived at the venue. Tommy was his usual exuberant self.

Instead of going in the front door, Tommy led the way around to an unmarked door off the alley in the back of a large brick structure. He knocked on the door, which was opened presently by a very large, blond man who at first seemed grouchy.

His surliness dropped away, and a huge grin split his face as soon as he saw the black femme. “Tommy!” he cried, pulling the tall man into his arms.

Ty looked away uncomfortably while the blond and Tommy shared a passionate kiss. He couldn’t help but notice out of the corner of his eye that the man’s hands roamed over Tommy’s bare midriff, caressing sensually.

The kiss seemed to last a long time. Ty and Dani shared a glance that said, “Wow!”

Kaeden finally interrupted, “Are you going to introduce us Tommy, or are you just going to entertain us with a hot sex show right here in the alley?”

Tommy pulled out of the kiss, but his eyes did not leave the big man’s face. “Whew!” He sounded breathless.

“Hey, sweet thing. I’m glad you made it.” The man’s voice was low, with a hint of growl and a Swedish accent.

Just as Tommy was diving in for another kiss, Kaeden cleared his throat—loudly.

“Sven, these are the boys I told you about.” Reluctantly Tommy took his eyes off the Swede to point at each of them as he gave their names.

The man nodded to Kaeden. “You’re in,” he said, stepping aside to let the slim peacock slip by him. He looked at Dani. “You’re in.” Dani also disappeared into the dark recesses beyond the door.

Lastly he turned to Ty, who had been looking down in embarrassment. Reaching out, he cupped Ty’s chin in his hand and lifted his face so he could see it.

“Just gorgeous,” he murmured.

Ty could feel blood warming his face as he blushed. Tommy tightened his arms possessively around the big man’s waist.

“Stay out of trouble,” Sven said, moving aside so Ty could slip past him. “Leave your backpack behind the table there.”

“Up the stairs, girls,” Tommy called. “I’ll join you in a minute.”

Girls? Dani’s irritation at being called a girl was forgotten as soon as he reached the top of the stairs.

The large building had started life at the turn of the century as a warehouse, and much of the original character of the building remained. The flooring was made of wide, worn, pine planks. The ceiling soared to massive beams high overhead, and industrial pipes crisscrossed the great open space.

Kaeden immediately crossed to the railing that made up one long wall of the room. Dani followed him and was astounded by the view of the club below. Along the far wall was a wooden bar, running almost the entire length of the room. Dani assumed the floor space was normally crowded with tables and chairs, but they had been removed for the concert. A large stage dominated one end of the immense space. Concert-goers milled around and queued up at the bar, with more arriving by the minute.

“Wow!” Ty said, appearing at Dani’s side and surveying the scene with obvious excitement.

“Yes, Wow!” Kaeden echoed. “We’ll have a great view here and not have to deal with the crowd.”

Ty and Dani were both transfixed by the scene below them. Neither had ever been to a bar and it was interesting to observe the happenings. Kaeden, only slightly more urbane, finally tore his gaze away from the first level and looked around the balcony room. A bar was set up along one wall, but no one was manning it. There were old-fashioned, high-backed chairs, a few overstuffed chairs, and end tables scattered about the open space. Large black and white architectural sketches helped fill up the soaring walls.

There were only a few other people in the room, all standing along the railing as well. They occasionally stole surreptitious glances at the boys—mainly directed at Kaeden. He grinned back, bobbing his peacock spikes and was rewarded with smiles.

A woman in black pants and a white shirt, wearing a nametag, entered the room at the top of the back stairs carrying boxes. She disappeared through a set of double-doors. Kaeden noticed a broad set of stairs leading up to another level where another balcony overlooked the room where they stood.

“Interesting place,” he commented, pulling Dani and Ty’s attention from the bar scene. In just the few minutes that he had been looking around the room, the crowd below seemed to have swelled. Just then several more people entered the room at the far end, and Kaeden guessed that there were more stairs there leading down into the main bar.

“I wonder if we’ll see Tommy again,” Ty said. “He seemed pretty … er … wrapped up in the Swedish bouncer.

“Oh, I don’t think he’d miss the concert. They’ll be quick the first time. Later on, maybe he’ll disappear for the duration.” Kaeden laughed softly.

Ty felt his face coloring again and wondered if he would ever be able to listen to sexual innuendo without blushing.

Ten minutes later Tommy appeared. “Where are your cocktails, girls?”

“In case you hadn’t noticed, I’m a boy,” Ty said.

Tommy’s laughter was raucous, causing even more heads to turn. Already most of the people in the vicinity were watching the ostentatious femme. “So you are, sweetie. So you are!”

“Have not seen any sign of beverages,” Kaeden said, indicating the empty bar.

“No food either,” Ty added. His empty stomach was growling.

“Let me see what I can do!” Tommy swished away and disappeared through the double-doors. He returned a few minutes later.

“Sorry Ty, the food is not going be ready until the concert’s over, but I sweet-talked them into bringing us champagne and beer right away.”

“You can fill up on beer!” Dani said.

“I prefer champagne, I think,” Ty replied. He had almost no drinking experience, but he had tried champagne, wine, and beer. Beer had a sour, bitter taste. Champagne was much easier to drink—it was almost like soda with a bit of a bite.

“A man after my own tastes,” Kaeden said.

“At least you’re not calling me a girl!”

“Well, you’re definitely more masculine than I am.”

“Everyone I know is more masculine than you are, girls included!” Dani teased.

“Oh, you’re so sweet!” Kaeden kissed Dani’s cheek.

The lights suddenly dimmed. A hush fell over the crowd and all eyes went to the stage. A single blue spotlight appeared in the center of the stage. As the tension mounted, the audience started chanting, “Lea–ther! Lea–ther!” Just when the crowd had reached a fever pitch, the band trotted onto the stage.

Ty had never been to a concert before. He found that he was gripping the railing with both hands and hanging as far forward as he could, all of his attention focused on the action on stage.

There were only three band members, a singer who also played lead guitar, a bass guitarist, and a drummer. The lead singer was tall and thin with long platinum hair that flowed out behind him, dancing against his shoulders as he made his grand entrance. The blue spotlight found and followed him, casting a garish hue on his aristocratic features.

The bass guitarist was close on his heels. He was both tall and muscular—almost Abe’s size, but maybe not quite so buff, Ty observed with a wistful sigh. He was also completely bald, and when he briefly turned his back to the audience to adjust his equipment, Ty saw that he was inked with some sort of tattoo that started below his shirt and ran up his neck onto his skull.

Dani’s attention immediately went to the drummer. He had seen this band twice before, and both times he’d found himself completely enamored with the tall, thin, longhaired drummer. The last time he had seen them, he’d been lucky enough to be near the stage and observe the musician’s long thin fingers. He shuddered slightly in remembrance. Those long fingers had fueled his sexual fantasies for weeks: wrapped around his hard cock … stroking … caressing … pumping…

Fuck me! Get control of yourself! Dani mentally shook himself as he realized that his cock was rapidly swelling. Calm down, for fuck’s sake!

The drummer’s name was Nigel, and he was English. That was all Dani knew about him other than that he played the drums better than almost anyone Dani had ever heard, and he moved like a dream. Every turn of his head, flick of his wrist, shift of his stance, was masculine and sensual.

“I love this band,” he whispered.

“Me too,” Ty replied.

“I thought you’d never heard them?”

“I haven’t, but I’ve seen them now.”

Dani chuckled. You are so gay!

The opening notes of their first song were loud, distinctive, and memorable. The drum kicked in and Ty was swept up in the rhythm. When the lead singer belted out the single word, “Controversy!” he was blown away by the power and the sound. The song was fast paced with a strong beat, and when the chorus came, the singer’s voice was melodic, almost hypnotizing.

Ty barely noticed when Tommy pressed a glass of champagne into his hand, but he drank hungrily, never taking his eyes off the stage.

Partway through the concert Kaeden remarked, “Wow! They’re amazing! All of them are really talented. The lead singer is very good.”

Dani sniffed. “He’s got a good voice, but I can play the guitar almost as well as he can.” He couldn’t hide the scorn in his voice.

“I thought you said you played the piano, not the guitar.”

“I play the piano well,” Dani said. “I play the guitar poorly, which is why I didn’t mention it.”

“Oh.” Kaeden paused. “You’re saying his guitar playing sucks?”

“Well, not in so many words, but … well, the other two are so much better than he is. I mean, he’s got a strong voice. He can carry a tune well. That’s his talent, I guess.” Dani was uncomfortable criticizing, but the disparity in skill levels among the band members was glaring. The bass guitarist could strum circles around the lead.

The concert lasted just over two hours. By the time it ended, Ty was tipsy and starving. Out of the corner of his eye he’d been watching the wait staff bring trays of food into the other room for the past half-hour. He had noted that only staff members were being allowed into the room. The smells wafting off the trays almost had him fainting from hunger. He was ready to drop to his knees in front of the next person he saw with a tray of food and beg for a morsel.

Luckily, the wait staff was efficient. A short three minutes after the final round of clapping for the encore ended, the doors were flung open and the small crowd that had assembled on the mezzanine level was allowed entrance to the feast. They queued up eagerly.

They were about halfway through the line when Kaeden suddenly gushed, “Oh. My. God! I can’t believe their sushi spread. I’m in heaven!”

Close behind him, Dani eyed the sushi suspiciously. “I’ve never tried sushi!”

“You’ve never had sushi? Honey, you have truly led a deprived existence!”

“And you’ve led a depraved existence!” Dani countered. The beer he’d had on an empty stomach had robbed him of his usual politeness. He’d lashed out to hide his embarrassment over his lack of sophistication.

Kaeden just smiled at his joke, understanding that Dani was not trying to be mean.

Ty already had his plate heaped with food. When he got to the sushi, he added several pieces. “Spider rolls are to die for!”

“If you’ve never had sushi, start with a California roll,” Kaeden said, placing a small, neatly wrapped rice bundle onto Dani’s plate alongside his chicken wings, tater tots, and meatballs in sauce.

“I can’t believe you’re eating that stuff! It’s so bad for you!” Kaeden exclaimed. His own plate held mostly green salad and fresh fruit. “Try the sushi. See what you think.”

Dani popped the sushi into his mouth and gagged. The flavor was one of the most disgusting things he’d ever tasted. He swallowed as quickly as possible and guzzled what was left of his beer.

“Oh, my God! Eeech!”

Kaeden was trying hard not to laugh and not succeeding very well. “Oh, honey, I’m sorry. I guess it’s an acquired taste.”

“It’s probably the seaweed,” Ty said. “I didn’t like it at first either.”

They found a table and were too busy eating to talk for a little while.

Dani finished before Ty and Kaeden. While he was waiting for them to finish, several more wait staff arrived carrying trays laden with seafood. They started unloading it at a separate table that had been set up with ice.

“Oh! Look at that!” Ty cried. “They have crab and shrimp!”

“And oysters!” Kaeden squealed.

“Blech!” Dani said.

“You don’t like seafood?” Ty asked, incredulous.

“Shrimp’s okay.”

“Honey, you don’t know what you’re missing!” Kaeden pranced happily over to the seafood bar.

“I’m getting full, but I can’t pass this up,” Ty said standing up.

“I’m done for now. I’ll be in the other room.” Dani got up as well.

“See you soon.” Ty grinned at him as he headed over to fill up a new plate.

When Dani entered the other room, there was a small commotion happening. The drummer and the bass guitarist had just arrived. Dani’s eyes immediately went to the drummer and widened.

Oh my God! He’s even more gorgeous close up. He wasn’t model-handsome. His face was a bit too long and thin, his nose perhaps a touch large. But he had a sexy look—a hint of stubble on his chin and a wide, sensuous mouth. Dani could not pull his gaze off the drummer’s eyes. He had known they were large and intelligent. He had not realized that they were tawny. He had never seen a person with such light brown eyes. They didn’t seem to have a hint of green in them.

His attention was so focused on the drummer he didn’t realize he was backing up until he bumped into the wall. Gratefully he leaned against it, his knees weak.

Nigel Davidson felt good. Damn good! The concert had been well received in spite of their sad lead singer. He suppressed his frustration with that situation and focused on the positive. The crowd had roared! It had made him so high! He loved performing to an appreciative audience. They could have had two or maybe even three encores if Taylor hadn’t had his knickers in a twist. What a prick!

But it was a damn good performance. Time for a drink!

There was a small queue at the second floor bar, but it melted before them as he and Sean approached.

“The usual?” Sean asked him. The bass guitarist’s deep baritone was complemented by a thick Irish accent.

“Yes, go on.” Nigel’s gaze roamed the room as Sean stepped up and spoke with the bartender. He spotted the young blond right away. He was leaning against the wall, staring back at him with intense, dark blue eyes. Nigel caught his breath.

The young man’s exquisite eyes were boldly outlined with eyeliner. Unusual. His blond bangs fell across his face in a haphazard fashion. Striking. The whole package was ideal. He was small, but not tiny—perfectly proportioned and nicely muscled. Nigel’s gaze lingered on his biceps before shifting to his abs. The T-shirt was tight enough to show them off, but he immediately wanted to see the young man naked so he could fully appreciate his bounty. Nigel had forgotten to breath but hadn’t realized it yet.

His gaze shifted lower and his cock twitched in excitement. The blond was sporting a hard-on that could not be hidden by his too-tight jeans. He looked uncomfortably hard.

Nigel finally drew in a huge breath, still not registering that he hadn’t taken one in several long moments. When his gaze returned to the young man’s face, their eyes met. As the blond’s eyes widened, electricity seemed to arc between them. Nigel felt a jolt as surely as if he’d just been shocked.

Fuck! I have to have him!

The blond lowered his gaze shyly and color crept into his cheeks.

Christ! He’s adorable!

He turned to the bartender. “Hey Jason! Do you know anything about that young skate-boarder boy over by the wall?”

“Hey Nigel! Great concert!” The bartender peered at the boy in question. “He came with Tommy. He must be one of Sally’s boys.”

A rent boy? Bloody hell! “He looks too young,” Nigel protested, looking again at the young man. He caught him staring at him again, but the youth shifted his gaze to the floor as soon as Nigel met his eye. “Looks shy too.”

“I’m just sayin’. He came with Tommy,” the bartender said.

This information disturbed Nigel on a subconscious level, but his cock immediately swelled to full hardness. I want him in my bed tonight!

“Hang onto my drink for a minute—be a darling?” he asked Sean.

Sean observed his friend and band-mate. His eyelids were lowered, his pupils dilated. His breathing seemed uneven. His entire attention was focused intently on the young man across the room. Sean gave the youth a cursory inspection. He was hot. Sexy. Vulnerable, but masculine. Definitely Nigel’s type.

“Yeah, no problem, mate,” Sean answered. It would give him more time at the bar. He slammed back his Jameson and signaled the bartender for another. Oh, that’s going down a treat!

Dani could not take his eyes off the sexy drummer until Nigel started watching him back. Then he had to look at the floor. He could not believe the handsome Englishman was looking at him, but every time he surreptitiously checked he found himself under intense scrutiny.

Oh my God! Why is he looking at me? Dani’s breath came in quick gasps. He was almost hyperventilating. His cock was rock hard.

He risked another quick glance up and found the drummer coming toward him with a sensual, loping stride. His movements were almost cat-like—predatory. The shoulder-length, rich, brown waves that framed his face and his tawny-colored irises gave him a distinctly leonine demeanor.

His eyes locked onto Dani’s and this time the youth could not look away. He felt like a deer caught in the headlights. He was paralyzed—a willing prey.

“Hello, love,” Nigel said. His voice was low and sultry. His accent sent goose bumps rippling over Dani’s flesh.

“Fuck me!”

By now Nigel was directly in front of him. He slid a hand around Dani’s waist, caressing his lower back underneath his shirt. Dani’s heart pounded in his chest, and his skin where Nigel touched him felt like it was burning.

Nigel leaned over and whispered in his ear. His hot breath caressing Dani’s neck smelled faintly of juniper. “Well, normally I prefer someplace more private, but if you must have me now…”

Oh shit! Did I say that out loud?

While he was talking one of the drummer’s hands found Dani’s fly and expertly unfastened it. Dani’s erection, once unfettered, sprang out over the top of his tiny briefs.

Fuck! What the hell? A small squeal came out of Dani’s mouth as he twisted around to face the wall, trying to get his privates out of view.

“Oh, darlin’, you are sooo sexy!” Nigel purred into the blond’s ear as one of his hands roamed across impossibly tight abs. His other hand sought the hard cock he’d briefly glimpsed and his hips came forward to grind against the boy’s beautiful ass.

The youth let out a moan as if he were in the throes of ecstasy. Nigel rubbed his own straining cock wantonly against the young man’s ass.

“What’s your name, love?”

“D … Dani.” His voice was husky and breathless.

“Mmmm. Dani.” Nigel nuzzled the young man’s neck as he continued to hump against him. Dani had managed to zip his pants back up and Nigel struggled with him, trying to get his pants unzipped again. The boy’s hands were in the way, but Nigel was insistent.

“Oh, stop, please!” the youth begged between gasps. He caught Nigel’s hands in his and held them tightly in his own, keeping them away from his crotch.

“I want to fuck you, Dani,” Nigel growled in his ear.

Dani was melting down. His whole body was on fire and his cock felt about to explode. He was sure if the drummer managed to touch his cock with those long, gorgeous fingers, he’d spurt just like that. He couldn’t talk. He couldn’t think. He could barely breathe.

When he felt Nigel’s warm tongue caressing his ear a great shudder shook his body and a strangled noise came out of his throat. He needed to get Nigel to stop, or he was going to orgasm right there in front of all those people. Already he heard a few catcalls. People were egging Nigel on.

Nigel’s hands reached for his cock again and he managed to squeak out, “No! Stop!”

“Really? You want me to stop?” Nigel’s breath on his neck almost pushed him over the edge. The drummer’s long fingers were still running lightly over his chest and abs.

Dani suppressed a moan and nodded.

“Why don’t we go somewhere private? We can get a room at the hotel next door. Let’s go.”

Oh fuck! I could have sex with him right now! He wants me. Dani’s head reeled, but a little voice in the back of his mind told him that leaving with the drummer at that moment would not be his best move.

“No!” Dani gasped out. “I … I can’t leave my friend.”

“Your boyfriend is here with you?” Nigel was keenly disappointed and a bit confused. The boy certainly acted available.

“No. Just a friend.”

“Well, I’m sure your friend is capable of looking after himself.”

“No. He’s not.” Dani had promised Ty he would stay near him. It was the only way he could get Ty to agree to come to the party.

The blond was trembling under Nigel’s hands. He could tell the youth was having trouble talking; he was gasping for breath. Dani seemed to be even more turned on than he himself was, but he was refusing to go with him. Nigel didn’t for a minute believe his story about having to watch after his friend. He didn’t understand why the young prostitute was resisting him. He wasn’t used to being turned down and he didn’t like it. He wanted this hot boy moaning beneath him—and soon.

“Are you sure?” Nigel licked his ear slowly and was delighted to elicit a moan and another shiver. This boy is hot!

“Oh, stop please!” Dani begged again in a low tone.

“Because you insist, I’ll stop for now. But before the night is out, you’ll be begging for more instead of asking me to stop.” Nigel gave the young man’s impossibly pert butt a squeeze as he stepped away and went back to the bar.

“Have you finished molesting that poor thing?” Sean teased him, handing him his gin and tonic.

“I’m going to let him simmer for a while.” Nigel stole another long look at the hot blond as he and Sean made their way to the stairs leading up to the third level. The boy had his forehead against the wall and his hands braced against it as well. Nigel could see his chest heaving. He was clearly trying to recover and probably fighting a huge erection. Nigel grinned. His own erection was not going away any time soon either.

A few minutes later Dani collapsed in a chair next to Ty and across from Kaeden.

“Jesus Christ! You won’t believe what just happened!”

Kaeden took in his flushed face, uneven breath, and mussed hair. “If I didn’t know better, I’d say you just came out of a heavy petting session.”

Dani nodded. “That’s kinda what it was! Oh my God! Nigel just tried to pick me up.”

“Nigel Davidson?” Kaeden squealed. “And you turned him down?”

Dani nodded, eyes shining. “Just shoot me! I couldn’t think—I just wanted to get away before I creamed my pants.”

“Holy fuck, Dani!” 

Chapter Ten

“So, where’s Taylor?” Sean asked as he pulled his shirt off and wiped down his huge, damp chest with it.

“No idea. He’s probably still got the hump over what I said before the show.” Nigel was pulling on a clean black T-shirt. They were in the balcony room above the party. It was for their exclusive use. Their entourage would join them there. It was a relatively small room with several comfortable couches as well as a number of sets of tables with booths and chairs. The décor was predominantly burgundy.

“You mean when you told him he’d never get any better if he didn’t practice?”

“Well, that. Plus I said that his guitar playing was below average. He might have taken offense.”

Sean had donned a clean T-shirt as well, and now he sat down at one of the tables and pulled a small pouch out of his backpack. “That lad needs to pull his head out of his arse! He really is a bloody poor musician. I’m a total waster, and I still manage to practice at least three or four hours a day.” He polished the glass-topped table with a clean cloth, shook a small quantity of white powder onto it, and began chopping it with a razor blade.

Nigel sat down next to him, licking his lips in anticipation as he watched Sean lay out four long lines.

After snorting his lines, Nigel washed them down with the rest of his gin and tonic and then got up and went to the balcony.

“Go ahead—let the crew up,” he called down to Bolt, who had taken a position at the bottom of the stairs to prevent groupies from disturbing the band.

He surveyed the room below and immediately spotted the object of his desire. He was staring back at him with a wide-eyed, slightly frightened look.

Nigel chuckled low in his belly. I’m going to have him tonight.

“You watchin’ your lad?” Sean asked, appearing at his side.

“Yes. That auburn-haired beauty must be his friend. Maybe he wasn’t lying when he said he had to take care of him; he looks really young. He’s gorgeous, though. Maybe I should try for both of them together.”

“Yeah and twelve months in a cell soon after,” Sean commented dryly. “His friend looks like a bairn.”

As they watched, Dani and his friend were joined by a young Asian with spiky, multi-colored hair.

“My Lord! Who’s that?” Sean cried. “Feck! I’m in love! Look at him!”

Nigel laughed. “Yes, he’s just your type—an Asian femme.”

“Not just any femme,” Sean said, his voice full of awe. “Look at the way he moves! If not for the sweet little package there in his tight pants, I’d think he was a flat-chested female with no hips. Oh look! He’s wearing little high-heeled sandals—and he looks comfortable in them. He must be a rent-boy as well. I wonder how much he goes for. I’m sure he’s worth every penny.”

The three boys were carrying on a conversation with each other, but all of them kept glancing up at Sean and Nigel. Nigel caught Dani’s eye and crooked his finger at him in a “come here” motion.

“Fuck!” Dani said. Nigel couldn’t hear it, but he saw his lips form the word. He followed that with a few other statements to his friends. Nigel was beginning to think that he wasn’t going to come when he broke away and made his way to the base of the stairs.

He said something to Bolt who looked up to them for confirmation. Nigel nodded his assent. He could not stop a huge grin from spreading across his face. He was going to have that sweet little blond in his arms again momentarily. His heart thumped with excitement.

Dani approached them tentatively and stopped just out of reach of Nigel’s long arms.

He’s playing hard-to-get. That’s okay. I like a challenge. “Dani, this is Sean.” Nigel introduced them. Sean stuck out his hand and Dani shook it firmly.

“Awesome concert!” Dani gushed. He seemed to be able to control himself better if he focused on something other than the drummer. He smiled at Sean who grinned back.

“Who are your friends, Dani? Do you think they want to join us too?”

Dani was almost too excited to talk. “Uh, yeah. Ty and Kaeden. Kaeden’s the peacock.”

Sean laughed at this.

“How about you go fetch us a few more drinks and bring them with you on your way back up?” Nigel suggested.

“Uh, okay. What do you want?”

*****

Dani could not remember his cock ever being so hard for so long. He had been sitting next to Nigel for the past hour trying very hard not to notice him. He was terrified of making a fool of himself. It was impossible to ignore him, though. Dani could smell his masculine scent—piney and musky, but clean. He breathed in deeply and his breath stuttered slightly on the way out.

Dani was silent. Nigel and Sean were carrying on a conversation, but Dani was too overwhelmed to focus on their words. Ty was quiet as well, but Kaeden would occasionally interject a comment.

Nigel’s long lean leg rested against his, spreading warmth along his thigh. Dani wanted to look down at his cock, to make sure he wasn’t embarrassing himself, but he was pretty sure he was. When he risked a brief look down, he was horrified to see that the head of his penis was poking out of the top of the waistband of his low slung jeans.

Shit!

He looked up at Nigel and caught the musician staring at his crotch. Nigel raised his eyes to Dani, and the heat that Dani saw in them triggered an explosion of his own desire that flashed through him like a wildfire.

Nigel leaned in to him. Dani instinctively brought his hands up to Nigel’s chest as the drummer whispered in his ear. “You are the sexiest thing I’ve ever seen.”

His low sultry voice shivered down Dani’s limbs. Nigel pulled his mouth away and rested his forehead against Dani’s. His eyes were focused on the bright red head of Dani’s penis which was proudly displaying itself above the top of his jeans. As they watched, a few drops of pre-cum wept out and Dani let out a low moan.

“Fuck! Look at that!” Nigel whispered. He reached down with his hand and ran the pad of his long thumb over Dani’s slit. Dani fought the small, high-pitched wail that came out of his mouth as a gush of pre-cum soaked Nigel’s thumb.

Dani struggled away from him, his face red, his breathing ragged.

Nigel laughed, handed him a napkin, and licked off his thumb. He was pretty sure a few drops of pre-cum had leaked out of his own cock as well. He was glad dampness didn’t easily leech through leather.

Dani quickly wiped the preseminal fluid off the head of his cock and then folded his hands protectively over his crotch, hiding his raging hard-on. When he looked up he saw Kaeden watching him with a knowing smile.

Fuck! There was something about the sexy drummer that kept him on a hair trigger—ready to explode. He was probably lucky that he hadn’t shot a big glob of cum across the table already.

Ty had gone to the bathroom and Kaeden was playing cat and mouse with Sean. The big Irishman seemed to be pursuing him relentlessly and Kaeden had his hands full trying to keep him at bay.

“What do I need to do to have you tonight?” Sean asked, his voice low and near Kaeden’s ear. The beautiful femme was driving him to distraction. His movements were so light and quick, he reminded Sean of a bird—a gorgeous, rare, exotic bird.

Kaeden smiled and shifted away from him. “Sorry. I’m not available.”

“Not available?” The Irishman raised an eyebrow. “You’re teasing me now,” he growled. “How much? Tell me how much!”

Kaeden stiffened. Dani heard the question as well and shot Sean a dark look.

“I said I’m not available,” Kaeden repeated, irritated.

“Come on, pet. Don’t toy with me!” Sean reached for Kaeden, but the femme moved swiftly out of reach, causing Sean to lose his balance and grab for the table to keep from sliding off the edge of the booth. He had been slamming down glasses of whiskey at a rapid pace and was feeling the effects.

“I know what’s going to loosen you up,” Sean said, slurring his words slightly. He pulled a small pouch out of his pocket and unzipped it on his lap. A moment later he dumped a little mound of white powder onto the glass table top.”

“Holy shit!” Dani breathed softly.

Just then Ty returned from the bathroom and took his seat across the table. Ty appeared loose, perhaps a bit unsteady. The young redhead stared at the little pile of white powder, his eyebrows disappearing under his bangs in surprise.

“We’re all going to be buzzing with this,” Sean said. He pulled a razor out of his little bag and began chopping.

Kaeden had already gotten to his feet. “That stuff is really bad for you,” he said. “You guys aren’t all going to do that are you?” He looked back and forth from Dani to Ty.

Dani swallowed guiltily and looked at the white powder. His heart was pounding, but he wasn’t sure if it was because of the cocaine or from sitting next to Nigel. “Uh, maybe,” he said. He definitely wanted some if they were offering it.

“Ty, come on,” Kaeden said.

“No. I’ll stay,” Ty said quietly. He was watching the chopping process intently.

“I can’t begin to tell you how bad that shit is for you,” Kaeden tried again.

“Is he for real?” Sean was annoyed. “Fuck that!”

“Fine. Ruin yourselves. I want no part of it.” Kaeden swept away, his heels making angry clicks on the polished wood floor.

“Whew! Why is he being such an uptight bitch? Is he always that way?” Sean grumbled.

“No,” Dani answered. “I’ve never seen him mad before, but yeah. He doesn’t do drugs. He barely even drinks.”

“That’s a shame,” Sean commented. He used the edge of the razor to divide the pile of powder up into long graceful lines. “You’ll both join me, won’t you?” he asked, looking up at them.

“Yes, please,” Dani replied.

“I’ve never done it before,” Ty said shyly.

“Never tried it, huh? Well, I’ll just make you a small one. You can go last so you don’t blow the rest of it all to hell.”

Ty looked slightly startled.

“What he means to say,” Nigel said, “is that when you snort, you’ve got to be careful only to breathe in. If you breathe out, you’ll disturb what’s left.”

Ty nodded.

Dani’s eyes shone in anticipation.

Sean offered the rolled-up dollar to Dani first. “You’ve done it before, haven’t you?”

“A couple of times, yes,” Dani said accepting the makeshift straw and leaning forward. He held one nostril shut while he snorted up half his line into his other nostril. It burned the inside of his nose, causing his eyes to water slightly. He sniffed a few times, changed sides, and snorted the rest of his line. He handed the dollar to Sean and leaned back, sniffing again. A bitter medicinal taste hit the back of throat and the burning in his nose faded into numbness.

Immediately a wave of euphoria hit him. He felt like his haze was lifting and the world suddenly came into sharp focus. Nigel had taken his line like a pro, and Sean was explaining in detail to Ty what to do and demonstrating as he took his own long line.

Ty met Dani’s eyes. He looked apprehensive but excited.

“It burns a bit going down,” Dani warned. He could not keep the giant, shit-eating grin off his face. All the discomfort he had felt a few moments earlier melted away. He felt confident. Funny. Sexy.

Ty’s hand shook slightly as he accepted the rolled-up dollar from Sean. His brain felt sluggish, and he concentrated to follow the instructions he had just received. He held one nostril shut and sniffed hard as he moved the makeshift straw along the remaining line of blow. Before he knew it, the entire line was gone.

“Wow! Nice job!” Sean complimented him. “You’re a natural. Do you want another?”

“Give me a minute,” Ty said. His eyes were watering, the inside of his nose burned like hell, and a horrible taste dripped down the back of his throat. Ugh! Why the hell do people do this?

Oh! I see! Ty instantly felt good. More than good. He felt happier than he had in years. A huge smile split his face. He looked at Dani and was met with a smile as bright as his own.

“What do you think?” Sean asked.

“Wow! I’m not drunk anymore,” Ty said with a small giggle.

Sean chuckled. “Well, you probably still are, but the coke balances you out.”

“How did you get started playing drums?” Dani turned to Nigel and the question rolled smoothly off his tongue. He was still rock hard and kept his hands folded over his crotch, but he was no longer tongue-tied and terrified.

The drummer smiled warmly, his eyes crinkling slightly at the edges. “I was eleven when I decided I wanted to play drums. I just thought drummers were the coolest. I nagged my parents and they got me a kit for Christmas.”

The conversation flowed smoothly after that, as did the drinks and more cocaine.

Kaeden came by now and again to sit and chat—until more cocaine came out. When it did, he would slip away. Sean was friendly with Ty but made no moves on him; it was clear he was enamored with Kaeden. Whenever the effeminate peacock appeared, Sean could not take his eyes off him. He flirted outrageously, with almost every statement directed at Kaeden having a double meaning—a sexual connotation.

Kaeden had mixed feelings. On a physical level he was attracted to Sean. He loved his size and the reddish gold curls that covered his forearms. His smile was infectious, he was gregarious, and his rich voice, complete with Irish brogue, set Kaeden’s heart aflutter. But his level of intoxication and the fact that he seemed to be quite into the drug scene was a huge turnoff. And Kaeden was ever aware of his promise to Yoshi.

He could not help but flirt with the big Irishman, but he was careful. He was reserved and made sure to stay out of reach of Sean’s long arms.

As the evening wore on into the early hours of the morning, Sean became increasingly frustrated. He finally asked Kaeden straight out the questions that had been on his mind.

“You work for Sally, right?”

Kaeden hesitated. He wasn’t sure how much he wanted to admit to Sean. He was too new to his profession to be comfortable talking about it. If I’m going to be doing this, I need to be able to answer questions about it. “Yes,” he said quietly.

“So, if it’s not too personal, can you tell me why you’re ‘unavailable’?” Sean had given Kaeden an out, because it had occurred to him that maybe he was recovering from VD or some other malady that precluded sex.

“I’m on an exclusive retainer.”

“Exclusive retainer? Does that mean you can’t have sex with anyone except the one guy who’s paying you?”

“Yes.”

“Hell, I want that! How much does it cost? I’ll buy him out.”

Kaeden laughed lightly. “I don’t think that’s possible. Even if you could afford it, which I have my doubts, I don’t think Sally would renege on a contract that she’s already set up. Not without careful negotiation.”

“You think I couldn’t afford it?” Sean was insulted. He was making more money than he’d ever made in his life. The past year they’d had steady gigs and were finally getting some decent money with each performance.

“Well, maybe you could if you gave up other expensive habits you seem to have,” Kaeden replied pointedly.

Sean considered this briefly. Would I be willing to give up drugs to have him? For a night or two yes. For longer than that—no way!

“In any case,” Kaeden continued, “if it came down to a bidding war, you wouldn’t stand a chance.”

“So, the bastard’s really rich, is he?”

“Pretty much the richest man I’ve ever met, yes” Kaeden said.

“Well, where is he then? Are you meeting up with him later on tonight—this morning?”

“No, he travels a lot. He’s not in town right now.”

“And he doesn’t take you with him?”

“Not yet.”

“I’d take you with me. I wouldn’t let you go out flirting with other guys.”

“He doesn’t own me.”

Sean raised an eyebrow at him.

Kaeden suddenly felt the blood running to his face. He almost never blushed. “Well, at least not all of me,” he murmured looking away.

Sean felt like his heart was being squeezed tightly in his chest. He sensed that his little bird had been hurt somehow—that, perhaps, he wasn’t happy or completely comfortable with his profession. Sean wanted to take him away from it, to take care of him, but he didn’t know how. He sensed that Kaeden had too much pride to accept help if he offered it directly. He would have to be subtle. It might take some time.

Their conversation shifted back to more normal topics, and Sean continued his flirtations. Kaeden seemed to warm up a little to Sean after that, now that his status was out in the open. At some point Sean realized that Kaeden left every time he brought out his cocaine, so he quit bringing it out.

Both Dani and Ty wanted more, but they weren’t desperate enough to ask for it.

Sean sent Ty to fetch drinks often; the lad was eager to help. Kaeden brought water for everyone.

Nigel had managed to slide his arm around Dani’s waist, and Dani let it stay. He felt like he was holding himself on a tight leash. If he let himself go, he would be all over the drummer, humping against him like a dog in heat, and he didn’t want to be that guy. He did not want to be another groupie-one-night-stand, and he didn’t want to lose his virginity to a one-night-stand, no matter how sexy the standee was.

He wasn’t sure how he was going to get out of it gracefully though. The drummer was quite possessive with him, shooing all other would-be prospects away and whispering in Dani’s ear, describing the things he wanted to do to him in a low sexy voice.

Dani shivered when Nigel sweet-talked him, and he felt his resolve crumbling. His cock was achingly hard, and if he didn’t get some relief soon, he was sure he would make a fool of himself. He was seriously contemplating jacking off in the bathroom to try to stave off the impending disaster.

When Nigel kissed him, Dani practically swooned in his arms. Nigel’s warm lips covered his, pressing insistently. Dani clutched the drummer’s lean, hard upper arms tightly, as if doing so would save him from drowning. When the musician’s tongue licked his lips, Dani yielded without hesitation. As Nigel swept his tongue into his mouth, Dani’s moan melted into a needy whimper. He pushed against Nigel’s tongue with his own, feeling the strength of the writhing muscle as their tongues clashed in a furious duel. Suddenly all the air was gone from his lungs. He felt darkness pressing in on the edges of his consciousness.

He pushed on Nigel’s chest with both hands and pulled his mouth away, gasping for air.

Nigel ran his hands over Dani’s chest and abs under his T-shirt. Putting his mouth next to Dani’s ear, he said, “I want to lick up all that sweetness that’s leaking out of your cock with my long tongue.” He licked Dani’s ear to demonstrate.

“Nnnngh!” Dani took a great gasping breath. “Oh stop, please.”

Nigel’s fingers strayed toward Dani’s nipple and Dani pulled away, panicked.

“You can’t … I can’t.” He panted for a few seconds then finally managed to gasp out, “I need to go to the bathroom.”

“I’ll go with you,” Kaeden said, nudging Ty to slide out of the booth and let Dani and him out, since Nigel did not seem to be letting Dani out the other side.

“I’ll come too,” Ty said.

“Can you bring us another round on your way back, Ty?” Sean asked.

“Sure thing.”

Dani grabbed Kaeden’s arm and whispered in his ear. “Can you walk close in front of me? I need to hide my … uh…”

Kaeden glanced down at Dani’s hard, leaking cock and gave a tinkling laugh. “Of course, sweetie.” He grabbed Dani’s hand and led him down the stairs, making sure he stayed close. Ty followed behind.

“Fuck!” Dani exclaimed once they had made it into the bathroom. “I have never in my life had so much trouble with my fucking cock wanting to spout off!” He eyed himself ruefully in the mirror. His cock, although still hard, was at least not poking out of the top of his pants, but his shirt was wet along the hem in the front from all the pre-cum he’d been leaking.

“What the hell am I going to do about this?” He pointed at the wet spot on his shirt.

“Rinse it out and then dry it with the hand drier,” Kaeden suggested.

Dani scolded his cock under his breath while he was rinsing out his shirt hem and trying to get it dry again. Kaeden and Ty waited for him.

“You got it bad, hon!” Kaeden was trying not to laugh.

“I know, right?” Dani lamented. “Fuck! I just smell him and I’m ready to cum! And his voice! I’ve never met anyone who’s done this to me before.” Even talking about him made Dani’s cock twitch.

“I’d suck you off to give you some relief, but I can’t anymore,” Kaeden said.

“Don’t look at me, dude,” Ty quickly chimed in. “You’re on your own.”

“Ugh! Yeah! I thought about jacking off here in the bathroom. That might be the best thing to do to save face later, but it seems kind of crass.

“So what is your plan for the evening?” Kaeden asked. “Are you going home with him?”

“Oh, God—I’d love to!” Dani closed his eyes and sighed. “But I don’t think it’s a good idea. He’s gonna be like ‘full speed ahead!’ and I … I don’t think it’s a good idea.”

“It’s late,” Kaeden said. “Do you want to go soon?”

“Yes, that would probably be best. Maybe if I give him my number, he’ll call me.” Dani was suddenly very sad. He didn’t think it was likely at all that Nigel Davidson would call him. “Should I just go for it? God, I want him so bad! But I don’t want just for a few hours with him.” His words came tumbling out. “Maybe a few hours is better than nothing? I don’t know! I’ve never been so insanely turned on in my life. He’s got me out of my head!”

“Well, it’s your decision,” Kaeden said.

“Yeah, thanks. That’s helpful!” Dani said sarcastically.

“Maybe we could go back up there for a little while and then we can say we’re leaving. Once he realizes you’re leaving, he’ll try to get your number I bet,” Ty suggested. “And if he doesn’t, you could stay a while longer and maybe, do whatever.”

“You know, if he doesn’t want my phone number, fuck him!” Dani said, realizing he’d had quite a bit to drink in spite of his promise to himself to be careful this weekend. “If he doesn’t want my phone number I have no business going home with him anyway. Good plan, Ty. We’ll go hang out a while. I’ll tell him we need to leave and see what happens. Even if he gets my number, it’s a long shot that he’ll call me, but I guess that’s what makes the most sense to me … while I’m here … away from him. As soon as I smell him again, I’m going to want to just strip off all my clothes and let him fuck me! Shit!”

Kaeden laughed and Ty blushed. 

Chapter Eleven

“You’ve got that little boy all hot and bothered,” Sean said. He had just finished laying out some more lines for himself and Nigel and a few of their crew.

“I know! Isn’t he delicious? I have to admit he’s got me all riled up too. The noises he makes! Fuck!”

“So, are you going to pay for him?”

“I will if I have to, but I think I can convince him to do it for pleasure.”

“Well, we have given them quite a bit of coke.”

“So, what about you? You can’t have the peacock—he’s apparently already owned by some rich bloke.”

“Aye. Some geezer who’s out of town a lot. Maybe not tonight, but I’m not giving up. I’ve never met anyone so … captivating. I don’t give up easily.”

“So you don’t like the gorgeous redhead?”

“He’s really beautiful, but I don’t like red hair. He also just seems a bit too innocent.”

“He’s a rent boy, for God’s sake! How innocent can he be?”

“We don’t know that for sure. He doesn’t come across like one—and he looks so young. Just because he came in with those guys … maybe he’s someone’s younger brother just along for the night?”

Nigel laughed. “Somehow I doubt it.”

“So Dani’s quite vocal isn’t he? I don’t mean talkative, I mean moans and groans.”

“Yeah.” Nigel’s lids lowered as he thought of his sexy conquest. “I love it. He’s been rock hard the entire time he’s sat beside me. It’s pretty amazing, really.”

“How about a small wager?”

“Oh, shit! What are you setting me up for now?”

It was a game they played. Ever since they’d become friends several years earlier, they would dare each other to do lewd and obscene acts in public—usually after they’d had quite a bit to drink. Some of their escapades were fairly well known amongst their small fan-base, like the time Sean had gone skinny dipping in the mayor’s pool and been discovered by his wife. Sean had publically apologized, and the mayor had decided not to press charges after the band agreed to play at his son’s sixteenth birthday party for free.

“How quick do you think you could make him cum—without touching his dick?”

“Oh, that’s hot! I bet I can get him off in less than five minutes.”

“Okay, so you have five minutes from the time you get his pants unzipped. No touching his dick before you unzip either.”

“Okay. You’re on.”

“Hey, listen up!” Sean addressed the crowd of twenty or so crew and groupies who were still hanging about on the third level. “Nigel’s just agreed to another dare!”

This statement was met by hoots and catcalls from those who were familiar with the tradition. Sean explained the bet and asked for a volunteer to do the timing.

“I’ll also need someone to hand me stuff,” said Nigel, getting out a tube of lube and laying it on the closest table. A grinning crewman showed up at his side to help.

“Here he is now,” Sean said, looking out over the balcony. Kaeden and Ty had headed to the bar together and Dani was coming up the stairs by himself.

“Hello, love. Did you miss me?” Nigel’s smile was wolfish.

Dani was surprised to find Nigel and Sean both standing, and looking a bit like cats who had swallowed canaries.

Nigel pulled him into his arms. Dani loved his height. He was almost half-a-head taller, six-foot-two or so. He was lean but not skinny, having a tight swimmer’s body. His hands found themselves caressing Nigel’s hard chest and his erection swelled. He melted into Nigel’s tawny eyes as the drummer stroked his hair. Reaching up, he ran his fingers lightly over the stubble on the taller man’s cheek. His eyes were drawn to that perfect, wide mouth.

Nigel saw his focus and could not resist diving in for a kiss.

Dani felt himself being swept away. He had no defense against the tide of lust that crashed over him, drowning him in heat and passion. Nigel’s tongue forced its way in, and Dani sucked on it, trying to stop the needy whine that threatened to come out of his throat, trying to keep his hips from humping against Nigel’s groin.

Nigel’s hands slid from Dani’s waist down to caress his butt. Dani was distantly aware that he was totally making out with the tall drummer in front of a small crowd, but he seemed powerless to do anything except pull himself closer into the embrace and moan.

I’m such a goner! I’m so going home with him. I don’t care if it’s only for a few hours—I can’t possibly tell him no.

Dani was so devastated by what Nigel was doing with his tongue that he didn’t realize the Brit had managed to unzip his pants until he felt warm hands on his bare butt. What he felt then was a very strange mix of strong emotions. On one level he panicked. Nigel had his hand down his pants in public! He needed to stop this—it was already past embarrassing. Another part of him was totally overwhelmed by the sensation of those long talented fingers kneading his ass cheeks, spreading them, stroking his tight star. He warred briefly with himself, still caught up in the kiss and the smell and feel of the sexy man who was affecting him as no other before.

What the fuck? He’s pulling my pants down! Dani struggled then. He managed to pull out of the kiss, and he squirmed in Nigel’s arms, reaching for his jeans to pull them back up.

Nigel caught his arms and turned him around so his butt met Nigel’s groin, holding him firmly while he tried to twist away. Dani’s jeans and briefs were now halfway down his thighs and his hard cock jutted out smartly.

“No, stop!” Dani pleaded. “Let me go.” He bent forward in a vain attempt to hide his cock from the assembled crowd. He was vaguely aware of them laughing and hooting.

He looked at the floor, letting his hair fall in front of his face, which he was sure was beet red. Nigel had a tight hold around his waist with one arm and leaned forward with him, crushing him close and whispering in his ear, “Shhh, shhhh. Just relax. You’re fine. Shhh!” All the while his fingers continued to stroke Dani’s anus.

Dani felt like he was swimming in mud. His protestations weakened. The sound of the drummer’s voice in his ear was soothing.

“You are so unbelievably sexy,” Nigel crooned.

“Stop. Please, stop!” Dani begged weakly. The struggle was out of him and he felt helpless in the drummer’s strong arms. The feel of those fingers massaging his tight hole was causing little stutters of sensation to ripple through his groin. He could see his swollen cock starting to drip onto the floor.

Fuck!

When Kaeden got to the top of the stairs, water bottles in hand, he was shocked by the sight that met his eyes. Nigel was holding Dani firmly and whispering in his ear while he stroked the blond’s bare butt. Dani’s pants were down and his cock was leaking heavily. He couldn’t see Dani’s face for the hair in the way, but Dani didn’t appear to be fighting. Then he heard Dani gasp out, “Stop. Please, stop.”

“Hey!” Kaeden protested. He was about to throw himself at Nigel to try to save Dani when he was grabbed firmly from behind and a hand was clamped over his mouth. The water bottles crashed to the floor to bounce and roll. He tried to wrench himself away, but the man who held him was much bigger and stronger than he was.

“Bolt, no-one else comes up here for a while, okay?” Kaeden realized it was Sean who held him when he heard the big man giving instructions to the bouncer at the base of the stairs. He fought against him fruitlessly, his anger rising, all the while watching Dani who appeared to be as helpless as he was.

Ty was about to start up the stairs when the bouncer stepped in front of him, blocking the way.

“Can’t go up right now,” he growled.

“But I’ve got their drinks!” Ty protested.

“Just set them on that table.” The bouncer nodded toward a nearby side table. “You can go up in a few minutes.”

Ty was irritated and hurt at being left out. He could hear the crowd on the third floor hooting and hollering about something, and he wanted to see. The bouncer’s expression was resolute, however, so he left he drinks on the table and went through the double doors into the buffet room. He didn’t want the bouncer to see how miffed he was.

Dani was being dismantled. Nigel suckled the hollow of his neck causing tremors to quake down his limbs. He felt like a female cat whose neck was being bitten by the male who was mounting her—gentling her into cooperation.

“Lube!” he heard Nigel murmur. His voice sounded distant, and the meaning of what he said was lost to Dani. Dani’s world was pure sensation now. Nigel kissed up the side of his neck to his ear and began sucking on his lobe. His fingers had briefly left his ass, but now they were back, cool and slippery.

Suddenly there was pain and Dani heard himself yelp. Nigel had bitten down hard on his ear lobe at the same time he’d forced a finger up Dani ass. Dani’s head reeled from the intense sensations, oscillating focus between his ear and his anus. Nigel eased up on his lobe and began sucking it, while the sharp pain he’d felt in his ass subsided into a pleasant burn.

“Oh, so tight! So good!” Nigel moaned into his ear. When Nigel curled his long finger, a shard of pleasure, sharp as glass, sliced through him. His hips bucked involuntarily back into Nigel’s hand as a small wail was ripped from this throat.

Dani had never felt anything quite like what Nigel had just done to him. Then Nigel did it again, and he felt himself spiral into a void of bright euphoria. The drummer was touching something deep inside of him that twisted him up with elation. Each time Nigel stroked it, he shuddered with intense pleasure. He became aware of a high-pitched keening sound and realized that it was coming from himself. He could not stop it though. His whole body started to shake.

Darkness swirled around him and he exploded. He was vaguely aware of the crowd shrieking and jumping back as rope after rope of white hot cum shot out of his cock to splatter on the floor. It was perhaps the most intense orgasm he’d ever had and he succumbed to it completely. If Nigel hadn’t had a firm hold around his waist he would have fallen to the floor. Everything went dark for a few moments and then, mercilessly, his awareness returned.

He became conscious of the crowd laughing and clapping. “Thirty-seven seconds!” he heard someone call out. This announcement was met with more clapping and cheering.

Nigel was wiping the head of his penis with a napkin. He was completely limp in the drummer’s arms. Horror over what had just happened hit him like a sledgehammer.

Nigel tucked his softening cock carefully back into his underwear, pulled his pants back up and zipped them for him. He was still whispering in Dani’s ear, “So, so sexy!”

Dani’s legs felt too weak to hold him. He took a deep breath to steady himself and pushed away from the drummer. Nigel let him go. His only thought was to get away from the jeering crowd as quickly as possible. Keeping his head down so his long bangs hid his red face, he ran. Pounding down the set of stairs to the second floor, he turned and took the next set down to the back entrance.

As soon as Nigel let Dani go, Sean loosened his grip on Kaeden as well. The young femme jerked away and whirled on Sean. “You pervert!” he yelled as he aimed a hard kick at Sean’s shin.

“Ow!” Sean cried as Kaeden’s heel slammed into his leg. “That fuckin’ hurts!”

“You’re just lucky I didn’t aim higher,” Kaeden called over his shoulder as he chased Dani down the stairs.

Dani wanted nothing more than to burst out of the building into the cool dark of the alley, but he pulled himself to a stop just before he raced through the doors. He couldn’t leave without Ty. He had promised.

He sagged against the wall, his chest heaving. Emotions churned through him like a storm-swollen river. He heard someone bounding down the stairs after him and was relieved to see that it was Kaeden. His friend pulled him into a fierce hug.

“Fuck!” Dani cried, fighting unsuccessfully to stop the flood of tears that suddenly started pouring out of his eyes. “Am I wearing a sign that says ‘rape me’? Why did this happen to me again?”

“Oh, sweetie!” Kaeden hugged him even tighter.

“Why did he do that, Kae?” Dani took a shuddering breath. “I really liked him, and now—now I never want to see him again!”

“I don’t know, sweetie. I don’t know.”

“I just want to leave—right now! Can you go find Ty, please?”

Kaeden pulled away slightly and looked Dani in the eye. Dani wiped the tears and traces of kohl off his face with this sleeve and tried to smile bravely at Kaeden.

“Okay, I’ll go find Ty and be right back. You’ll be all right here for a few minutes?”

Dani nodded and sniffled. He’d managed to stop crying.

Kaeden took off and Dani looked at the floor, fighting the deluge of misery that threatened to overwhelm him. Things were going so well and now it’s all ruined.

When Kaeden got to the second level he almost ran into Nigel.

“Hey!” the drummer said, “Where is he?”

“You just leave him alone,” Kaeden cried. “You’ve done enough harm already!”

“Oh, come on. It was all fun.”

“Fun for who? Certainly not fun for Dani.”

“He must have enjoyed it. Just check out the floor up there.”

Kaeden was so furious he couldn’t think of a smart comeback. Instead he said, “You fuckhead!” as he swept past him.

“Well, fuck!” Nigel was getting irritated now as well. “He is a rent boy, after all!”

Kaeden whirled on him. “Oh, you know that do you? Did you talk to him about it?”

“He’s not?”

“Even if he was, that was still a really mean thing to do.”

“It was a joke! I mean, it’s not like he’s a bloody virgin!”

“Oh, you know that too, do you?” Kaeden asked through clenched teeth. He turned and fled through the double-doors in search of Ty before he said anything else he might regret.

Nigel blinked. Virgin? No, he couldn’t be.

Fuck! I’ve made a mess of things now, haven’t I?

He walked to the top of the back steps and looked down. He could see Dani leaning against the wall at the bottom of the stairs. His head was down. He swiped at his cheek with shaky fingers.

Oh God! Is he crying?

Hot shame washed over Nigel along with a crush of regret as he made his way down the stairs. He wanted to pull Dani into his arms, to whisper apologies in is ear and make it better, but something in the other man’s stance stopped him. He settled for just the apology.

“Dani, I’m sorry.”

The young man did not respond.

“I’m really sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt you.”

There was still no response. Dani’s fists were tightly clenched.

“You can hit me if you want to.”

Dani stayed silent, looking at the floor.

Nigel could stand it no longer. He reached for Dani’s chin and lifted it so he could see his face.

Dani jerked away from his touch, but looked at him. “Don’t you fuckin’ touch me!”

Nigel was shocked at the hurt he saw in Dani’s eyes. “Oh, God Dani! I’m so sorry! I really did not mean to hurt you.”

“I asked you to stop. Didn’t you hear me?”

Nigel was shaken. “Yes. Yes, I…” He trailed off, not knowing what to say.

“How many times do I have to ask you before you believe I mean it?”

“I’m sorry. I should have stopped.”

“That was the most humiliating thing that’s ever happened to me!” Dani said. Tears sprang into his eyes again and he quickly returned his gaze to the floor, blinking rapidly.

The remorse that clawed its way through Nigel’s belly was vicious. He had hurt his sweet blond boy and he needed to figure out how to make it better. “No, Dani! You shouldn’t feel that way. You were spectacular—so incredibly erotic! It was unbelievable.”

“Fuck you.”

Those words stung, and Nigel was starting to understand just how upset Dani was. “Will you ever forgive me, Dani?” he asked.

Forgive you? Dani’s head whipped up. He stared at Nigel, shaking with anger. Forgiveness would imply that I’m going to see you again. Fuck that!

“If you mean, ‘will I get over this?’—yes. If you mean, ‘will I ever think of you as anything other than an asshole?’—probably not.”

The pain that sprang into Nigel’s eyes at his words almost brought an apology from Dani. He was not used to hurting people, but he bit his tongue. He was angry and hurt, and what he’d just said was the truth.

Kaeden and Ty had come down the stairs in time to hear Dani’s last statement. Ty’s eyes widened. Kaeden shot Nigel a venomous look. Ty grabbed his backpack, and the three of them disappeared out the door without a backward glance.

Nigel stared at the closed door for several long seconds. Fuckin’ young arseholes! he thought as he stomped up the stairs.

He found Sean on the third floor laying out more lines.

“Hey, you want one?”

“No. I just want to go.”

“He’s gone?”

“Yes, he just left.” Nigel sank down into the booth again. “He was really upset. I could see he’d been crying. I feel like a total shit.”

“Crying? Wow! Who’d a thought he’d be so broken up over it?”

“He’s not a rent boy. Kaeden even hinted that he’s still a virgin.”

“Really? Well, shit!”

“I feel horrible now. I shouldn’t have done that to him.”

“Sorry I talked you into it, mate. I guess my little bird has flown too?”

“Yes, all three of them left together.”

Sean rubbed his shin absentmindedly. “I’m gonna have a serious fucking bruise.”

*****

“Hang on a minute. Can I get my shoes from you?” Kaeden leaned against the brick wall and began unbuckling his sandals. “These are cute, but my feet are killing me. If we’re walking, I need to change shoes.”

“Good thing you brought a spare pair,” Ty said, opening his backpack to retrieve Kaeden’s tennis shoes. “I would have never thought to do that. Of course, I’d never be caught dead in high heels.”

Kaeden swiftly switched out his shoes, and they started walking at a smart pace back to Dani’s place. The apartment was about a mile away, but it was too late for the buses to run. Kaeden would spend the night with Dani. Ty wanted to get his blanket. Dani had invited him to spend the night too. He thought he would if it didn’t feel too weird when they got there.

“I’m sorry about what happened to you, Dani,” Ty said. “Are you going to be okay?”

“Yeah.” Dani was still a bit shaky but was starting to feel better now that they were walking in the cool night air. He was smoking a cigarette, ignoring Kaeden’s reproachful look.

“In a couple years I’ll probably think this was hysterically funny. Right now, it’s just totally embarrassing.”

“You were pretty amazing,” Kaeden said with a smile. “Thirty-seven seconds!”

“What?”

“They were timing you.”

“Those fuckers!”

“Apparently it was some kind of bet. I’ve heard they’re always daring each other to do outrageous things.”

“Hmmph! Well, I wish they hadn’t chosen me as their victim,” Dani said grumpily. The main thing he was feeling was extreme disappointment that he wasn’t going home with Nigel—that he didn’t even want to go home with Nigel. Thirty-seven seconds had changed everything.

“I have never met anyone who’s affected me like that. I can’t believe it ended so suddenly and so horribly.”

“Be happy you found out what a disaster Nigel is before you really fell for him,” Kaeden said.

“What did you think of Sean?” Ty asked. “He seems to really like you.”

Kaeden sniffed. “Not my type. For one thing, I like hair. I really like hair. Being bald is not a complete deal-breaker, but the cigarettes, alcohol, and drugs definitely are. Him being an asshole is just the final nail in his coffin. He’s already dead as far as I’m concerned.”

By the time they reached his apartment, Dani was starting to beat himself up. Maybe it was my fault. I must be giving out “victim” vibes. Maybe he did that to get rid of me. Maybe they think I’m a joke.

He realized on some level that his sudden morose feelings were a result of the drugs he had taken, but that didn’t make him feel any better. I shouldn’t have done drugs. Kaeden’s right. They’re really bad for you. Why am I so weak?

“Do you have any juice or anything?” Kaeden asked, opening Dani’s fridge. “No, you don’t got shit! What is all this crap in here?” He eyed the small assortment of takeout containers with distaste and then swung the fridge door shut.

Ty felt like crying and wasn’t quite sure why. He was with his friends, and he’d had a great time at the party. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d had so much fun. He missed Abe though. The big black man was never far from his thoughts. I don’t deserve him. I need to stay away from him—let him get on with his life and find someone who’s good for him. I don’t deserve anyone. Even my parents don’t want me.

“You okay, Ty?” Kaeden asked, handing him a glass of water.

“Yeah. I just feel weird.”

“It’s the drugs,” Dani said. “You know how happy you were when you took your first line?”

Ty nodded.

“Well, here’s the other side of it. Nature doesn’t let you have that much happiness for free. Now you have to pay for it with depression.”

“Really?”

“The best thing to do is another line, then you’ll feel better again.”

Kaeden snorted. “The best thing to do is not do that shit in the first place.”

“If you don’t have any more lines, you need to try to sleep it off. The only trouble is, it’s sometimes hard to fall asleep after all that coke. That’s when it helps to drink.”

“Oh, please, Dani,” Kaeden said, exasperated. “You don’t want to follow lots of drugs with more drugs. That’s bad news.”

“I think I’ve had plenty to drink already,” Ty said.

“It’s late—or early, as the case may be.” Kaeden yawned. “I’m not going to have any trouble falling asleep. He disappeared into the bathroom, purse in hand, to wash his face and brush his teeth.

Ty laid his blanket out on the floor. He decided he was comfortable there as long and Kaeden and Dani didn’t get kinky. They weren’t flirting, in fact they were grouching at each other, so he thought he was safe.

After they’d all brushed their teeth Kaeden and Dani settled on the futon and Ty stretched out on his blanket on the floor.

“You can sleep on the bed if you want, sweetie. We can make room,” Kaeden offered.

“No, I’m good. The floor’s carpeted. It’s way more comfortable than where I’ve been sleeping.”

“Well, take my pillow then,” Kaeden said, tossing Ty his pillow. “I’ll just use Dani as a pillow.”

“Thanks, but I’m fine really. I’m used to sleeping without a pillow.”

“You get one tonight then.” Kaeden wasn’t about to take the pillow back. Ty seemed like such a sweet kid. He didn’t talk about why he’d run away, but Kaeden sensed it had been bad. Ty deserved some kindness. At that moment he looked miserable.

*****

Ty stretched and groaned. The inside of his nose was sore, his mouth was dry and tasted terrible, and his head was pounding. He wanted to pull the pillow back over his head and go back to sleep, but he had to pee too badly. He lay there for several long moments dreading the thought of getting up. He even briefly considered crawling to the bathroom on his hands and knees.

Finally he staggered to his feet with a groan of pain. Dani was motionless on the futon with a pillow over his head. Kaeden was not there.

Ty walked slowly trying not to move his head. When he finished in the bathroom he went right back to his blanket and lay down. He was hungry but wasn’t sure his stomach would be able to handle any food. He tried to go back to sleep but it wouldn’t come.

A few minutes later Kaeden let himself in the front door. He set a grocery bag on the counter and smiled at Ty.

“You look awful.”

“I feel awful.”

“Urgh!” Dani climbed to his feet and staggered into the bathroom.

“He looks awful too,” Ty observed.

“Well, I bought some food. That will help,” Kaeden said, stepping behind the counter and taking things out of the bag. “How about some orange juice and pain reliever?”

“Wonderful!” Ty said, but he didn’t move from his prone position.

Dani came out of the bathroom and collapsed onto the futon with a groan.

“Aren’t you going to do your workout?” Kaeden asked sweetly.

Dani groaned. “Ugh! I wish you didn’t know about that.”

“You told me you never missed a day, no matter what.”

Dani made another sound of misery. “You are the devil incarnate! Unfortunately you’re right. I don’t want to miss even one day because that will lead to missing more days.” He crawled off the futon and began to do pushups on the carpeted floor.

“My God! I can’t even imagine doing that right now,” Ty said. “Truly, I’m impressed.”

After about five minutes Dani collapsed with a groan and rolled over onto his back panting. “Christ, that was painful. Why do I do this to myself?”

“Do you mean the pushups or the drugs?” Kaeden asked in amusement.

“Both.” Dani began to do sit-ups, occasionally letting out a grunt.

Ty watched and counted this time. When Dani got to a hundred, he climbed slowly to his feet, panting. “I’m going home in a couple days. Mom’s going to give me a ride back into the city so I can bring more of my stuff. I’ll be glad to get my free weights. I think I’ve been losing muscle tone without them.”

“You don’t look like you’ve been losing muscle tone,” Ty said. “You’re really fit.”

“Well, I try,” Dani said modestly. He began to do squat thrusts.

“Oh, my God! That’s painful even to watch.” Ty rolled over on his side and propped himself up on an elbow.

Kaeden had been busy in the kitchen this whole time, and now he came out from behind the counter with cups of coffee for Dani and Ty. “I’m making veggie omelets and a big fresh fruit salad. And I splurged on croissants—they even let me have the jelly for free.”

“Oh wonderful, Kae!” Dani had stopped doing squat-thrusts to take the coffee from Kaeden. Now he took a sip and let out a big sigh. “How did you get to be such an angel?”

Kaeden laughed. “A few minutes ago, you were calling me a devil. Which is it?” He made a circle with his thumb and middle finger and held it above his head. “Angel?” He put both hands on either side of the top of this head with the forefingers sticking up. “Or devil?”

“I don’t know,” Dani responded laughing, “but you’re definitely a goof!” 

Chapter Twelve

The blond trembled beneath him, his muscles taut, his fists clenched tightly into the sheets. Nigel trailed his fingers slowly down the beautiful spine, eliciting a low moan from the young man. He adored the smooth tan skin and the way his boy’s sculpted shoulders tapered to a narrow waist. There was not an ounce of flab anywhere on his body. He was ripped. He was perfect.

Nigel’s hand drifted further, finding and kneading a pale, firm ass cheek. His cock, achingly hard, started to drip onto Dani’s bare butt. The young man moaned again and a shudder wracked his gorgeous body.

The Englishman leaned forward, his bare chest rubbing against Dani’s warm back. “You are dazzling, love. So … incredibly … sexy…” His voice was growly as he whispered into the delicate shell of an ear. He began to suck on the lobe.

Dani humped back, his butt rubbing against Nigel’s straining cock, drawing a sharp breath from him.

“Nigel!” Dani cried, his voice full of need. “Nigel, please…!”

Nigel chuckled low in his throat. “Mmmm? You want something?” He pulled the youth tighter against himself, savoring the full body contact of their bare skin. His cock ached to plunge into the tight, hot depths of Dani’s channel, so tantalizingly close. He slid a hand around to the blond’s almost hairless chest to pinch a pert nipple. He was rewarded with a pitiful whine and another thrust of the young man’s hot ass into his hardness.

Quite an impressive pool of precum had accumulated at the top of Dani’s butt crack. Nigel dragged the head of his cock through it and slid his now slick member between Dani’s firm cheeks.

“Nigel!” This time the cry was high-pitched and desperate.

“What do you want? Tell me, love.”

Another whimper came from the youth, and he gasped out, “You! I want you!” He rubbed frantically back against Nigel, causing the Brit’s cock to slide up and down the warm wonderful place between his impossibly toned butt cheeks.

“Oh fuck!” Nigel cried out. He panted for air, suddenly overwhelmed with sensation. This boy is going to tip me over the edge! The delicious friction sent ripples of mind-blowing ecstasy quivering down his limbs. Losing all pretense of control, Nigel began to hump with short quick strokes. He drew away from sucking Dani’s neck to watch his rosy cockhead emerge from between the well-rounded mounds, spewing precum, and disappear again into the heat between his cheeks. The young man was making all sorts of delicious sounds, matching his rhythm.

Nigel’s hand, which had been playing with Dani’s nipple, slid down and grabbed an iron-hard cock. A slick of precum dribbled over his fingers. The boy had been dripping copiously onto the sheets. Nigel began to stroke his lover’s cock with a firm but gentle hand.

The effect was immediate. Dani wailed, a shrill animal sound, and bucked into him. He felt hot stickiness spurt all over his fingers, and that was all it took. As Dani’s butt clenched around his cock, he thrust madly and, with his own sharp cry, ejaculated all over the sheets.

Sheets? Fuck!Dani was gone, and he was alone in his bed humping into cum-dampened sheets as the remnants of his orgasm dribbled out of his cock. He groaned. Bloody hell! I haven’t had a wet dream in years!

He lay still for a few minutes, reliving the dream in his mind. I wonder if it will be like that the first time we make love—both of us so excited that we cum before we even get to penetration?

What the hell am I thinking? I don’t even have his phone number. He groaned and climbed out of bed. I need to find him! I won’t survive much longer like this. I’m going out of my mother-loving mind!

It had been three days since his debacle with Dani. Three days of feeling guilty. Three days of walking around with a semi hard-on. Three days of trying unsuccessfully to get the smell, taste, sight, and sound of the sexy blond out of his mind. He had never been so infatuated. I need him!

After relieving himself and sponging the sticky cum off his cock and stomach, he pulled on a pair of workout pants and headed for the kitchen to make tea. As he passed through the living room, a shocking sight met his eyes. Sean was lying on the couch, naked, his hand working a huge boner with rapid expertise. His eyes were squeezed shut, his face was screwed into a grimace, and his breath came in quick pants.

Nigel paused, considering chiding his horny roommate, but Sean looked close to cumming and seemed oblivious to Nigel’s presence. He would probably be disgruntled, to say the least, if he were interrupted now. As Nigel continued his silent passage to the kitchen, he heard Sean grunt out, “Oh, suck Kae! Oh laddie…”

He smiled to himself. Sean is almost as obsessed with Kaeden as I am with Dani.

After he put on the kettle he returned to the living room to find Sean lying boneless on the couch, eyes closed, his genitals covered with a hand towel.

“Don’t you think you should do that shit in your own bedroom and not get spunk all over our couch?”

Sean opened his eyes but otherwise didn’t move a muscle. “Hey, I used a towel.”

“Well, you put on quite a show too.”

Sean smirked. “I’m sure you enjoyed it. Perhaps I should charge?” He sat up and stretched his long arms over his head, then grabbed quickly at the towel as it started to slip. “My room is just too damn hot when the sun starts coming in the window. I should buy curtains, but I can’t be bothered to go shopping for them.” Sean’s bedroom overlooked their fenced backyard, so he hadn’t felt the need to purchase curtains for privacy. But now that the days were getting longer and sunnier, the sun woke him up much too early, and the heat gathered in his room like an oppressive lover.

“You’ve got Tommy’s phone number don’t you?” Nigel asked.

“Yes, but I don’t want to talk to him. He’s bound to have plenty to say to us about molesting Dani.”

“I’ll talk to him. I have to see Dani again. I’m going out of my mind!”

“Like he’ll give you Dani’s phone number.” Sean let out a deep chuckle.

“You underestimate my powers of persuasion.”

Sean smiled at his band mate as he snagged his sweats from the end of the couch. “All right mate. I’m tempted to start a small wager over this, but if I lost I’d have to owe you. Let me get my phone.” He disappeared into his bedroom.

A few minutes later, fortified with a few sips of strong tea, Sean punched his password into his phone, clicked Tommy’s contact number, and handed the phone to Nigel.

Nigel put the phone to his ear, wondering what he should say.

“You’ve got some nerve calling me, Sean Falvey!” Tommy’s voice was loud and shrill. Nigel yanked the phone away from his ear. Sean smirked at him. Tommy was clearly audible from several feet away. “What the devil were you thinking? Hurting that poor boy like that? And Nigel! If I ever get my hands on him he’s going to have such black and blue balls he won’t be able to fuck for a month!”

Nigel winced, appalled at the image Tommy’s words created.

“Yikes!” Sean mouthed at him.

“I don’t know what possessed you to call here, but no one here wants anything to do with you—ever again!”

“Tommy!” Nigel quickly put the phone to his mouth. He was afraid Tommy would hang up and not answer again. “Tommy, it’s Nigel.” As soon as the words were out of his mouth, he pulled the phone away from his ear. He knew that would set Tommy off again.

“Nigel Davidson! You’re an uncouth, ill-mannered, psychotic imbecile!”

“I know, I’m an idiot! I really, really like Dani, and I totally screwed up. I know he probably doesn’t want to see me again.”

“Probably?” Tommy’s voice went up several octaves. “Probably? Try never! Not in a million years!”

“But Tommy!”

“Never! Did you hear what I said? That means it’s not happening. Not in your lifetime. Not in the next.”

“Tommy, I’d like to apologize, and if I can’t do that in person, maybe I could send him something?”

“I’m damn sure not giving you his address. You just stay away from him!”

“I don’t need his address. Maybe I could drop it off with you and you could see that he gets it? I really do feel bad. I want to let him know how sorry I am.”

Tommy was silent for a few seconds and Nigel wondered if he was still there.

“I don’t think you can buy your way back into his good graces,” Tommy finally said. “What did you get him?”

“Nothing yet, but I’d like to get him something nice. Do you have any suggestions?”

“Jewelry’s always good. Expensive jewelry.”

“Jewelry? Does he wear jewelry?” Other than a single stud in his ear, Nigel didn’t remember seeing any jewelry on Dani.

“Well, you better get him something nice—and don’t expect that he’ll want to see you. Don’t be gettin’ your hopes up.”

“So, can I bring it by this afternoon?”

“I’m going to be out. You can leave it with Kaeden.”

“Kaeden? Do you think he’ll talk to us?”

Tommy laughed. “Oh, I’m sure he has a few things to say to you.”

Nigel grimaced. Sean was grinning like a Cheshire cat. “Okay. Can you let him know we’ll come by this afternoon?”

“Oh, no! I’m not telling anyone I talked to you. You’re off-limits. Don’t you mention you talked to me, you hear? I’ll deny it!”

“Okay.” That’s a bit disconcerting. I guess we really are on their shit-list. “What’s your address?”

The pause was so long, Nigel worried that Tommy had changed his mind. Finally the black femme rattled off an address. Nigel scrambled for paper and pen and repeated it back to him as he was writing.

As he hung up, Sean let out a whoop and started dancing around the kitchen. “I’m going to see Kaeden! I’m going to see Kaeden!”

Nigel laughed and shook his head. “Get it together, you big goofball!” I would be the same way if I thought I was about to see Dani.

*****

It was the first really hot day of the summer. Sweat beaded on Sean’s brow; his back and chest felt sticky.

“Damn, I wish you had air-conditioning!” They were riding in Nigel’s van.

“We could have taken your car,” Nigel responded.

“I don’t want Kaeden to know what a beater I drive.”

“So you’ll ride in my beater instead?”

“You got it.” Sean grinned. “Do you think he’ll actually be at home?”

“I hope so.” Nigel looked at Sean out of the corner of his eye. The Irishman’s face was uncharacteristically tense. He drummed his fingers on the armrest.

“You nervous?”

“Why? Should I be?” Sean shrugged his big shoulders.

Nigel knew him well enough to know it cost him some effort to look so relaxed.

Kaeden had occupied a large slice of Sean’s thoughts since he’d met him. He was petrified that his little bird was still furious with them. But he couldn’t help the excitement that coursed through him at the thought of seeing the lovely femme.

“Here’s Primrose. Nice neighborhood,” Nigel said. “What’s the house number?”

“We’re looking for 4715,” Sean replied, looking for the numbers on the houses they passed. “Aye, some of these homes are amazing.”

A few minutes later Nigel pulled up in front of a huge, well-kept Victorian.

Sean tried to settle the butterflies in his stomach as they climbed the stairs to the front porch. Why am I so nervous? This is ridiculous! I haven’t had it this bad since I started secondary school. I should have had a couple of whiskeys before we got here. Usually Sean tried to refrain from partying before the sun went down. Sometimes he even succeeded.

Nigel didn’t get a chance to knock on the door before it swung open. A big, burly man stood there scowling at them. He looked Nigel up and down and then focused his attention on Sean. They were almost the same size; the man was perhaps a bit beefier all around, but Sean’s muscles were tighter. They glared at each other.

“Is Kaeden here?” Nigel asked. “We’d like to see him please.”

“Kaeden, huh?” the man growled. His accent pegged him as Russian.

Nigel smiled politely. Sean looked down, trying not to posture.

“Who can I tell him is here?” The man’s demeanor did not get any more friendly.

“Tell him Nigel and Sean,” Nigel replied, hoping that word of their nefarious deed had not reached this intimidating man.

The Russian grunted and closed the door on them.

“Do you think he’s going to get Kaeden, or do you think we’re done here?” Nigel asked. He was holding Dani’s gift bag and hoped that he wouldn’t have to leave it on the porch with a note.

“Hard to say. He’s certainly an unfriendly sort, isn’t he?”

Nigel nodded. They both shuffled uncomfortably around the front porch for several minutes. There was a long bench-swing at one end of the porch. Neither of them made a move to sit on it. Nigel was just about to ring the doorbell when the door opened again. He stepped back in surprise.

Kaeden came out onto the porch followed closely by the Russian. Nigel heard Sean gasp behind him.

“Oh … my … God!” Sean murmured. “He’s got no hair! Not even on his legs!”

Kaeden was wearing very short shorts and a tiny turquoise crop top that showed a vast expanse of his smooth, golden torso.

A low rumble came out of Sean. “I want to touch,” he whispered in awe.

“No!” Nigel spoke sharply to him. He was afraid that Kaeden’s state of undress would prove to be an overwhelming temptation for his impulsive Irish friend. He turned quickly towards Sean, hoping to prevent any impending groping of his would-be ally in his quest to woo Dani.

He found that Sean had been stopped in his tracks by a hard look from the big Russian. They glared at each other eye-to-eye.

Meanwhile Kaeden had made his way to the porch swing. He sat down and crossed his bare feet in front of him at the ankles.

Nigel followed him with Sean closely behind. The Russian stayed near the front door, his arms crossed and a scowl fixed on his face.

“You’re wasting your time here,” Kaeden began. “Dani doesn’t want anything to do with you, and even if I weren’t in an exclusive, I am of the same mind.” He looked pointedly at Sean.

Kaeden noted that the big Irishman seemed sober today. He was wearing knee-length cargo shorts and leather sandals. His attention was drawn to the Irishman’s well-muscled calves; they were covered with a forest of curly red hair. Kaeden stifled the noise of appreciation that bubbled up in the back of his throat. It was with some satisfaction that he noticed a rather dark bruise on Sean’s left shin.

His gaze traveled up, noting the bulge at the crotch of his loose shorts before taking in the well-muscled torso revealed by his tank top. When he met Sean’s gaze he drew in a sharp breath. The heat he saw in the Irishman’s eyes was scorching.

With some effort he turned his attention back to Nigel who had already made several statements that he’d missed during his appraisal of the big Irishman.

“So, I know I fucked up!” Nigel was saying. “I know that nothing I do now will fix that, but…” He paused and took a deep breath, his eyes imploring Kaeden for understanding. “I got something for him.”

Kaeden was ready with a retort that Dani would not be swayed by gifts, but Nigel kept going, not letting him get a word in.

“I know nothing I give him can undo the pain I’ve already caused.” Nigel’s voice hitched on this statement, a sound that was not lost on the femme.

He certainly seems sincere, Kaeden observed.

“I just want to let him know I’m really, really sorry. I didn’t realize…” Nigel trailed off, lost for words to explain his serious lack of judgment.

“You didn’t realize what?” Kaeden prodded, not willing to let Nigel off easy. “That he might not want to be molested in front of a crowd of people? That maybe he had never had anyone do that to him before at all?”

“I … No,” Nigel whispered in shame.

“Did you even talk to him? Did you ask him any questions about himself at all?”

Nigel was silent this time and his expression said it all.

“I thought not,” Kaeden’s tone was condescending. “You both are so full of yourselves, without a thought for anyone else, aren’t you? Dani deserves someone better than you. He’s a really sweet, sensitive guy. He needs someone who actually cares about him, for himself, not just as the conquest du jour.”

Nigel sank down on the other end of the bench swing and put his head between his hands. “I’m not purposely mean,” he said softly.

He sounded so devastated Kaeden actually felt sorry for him.

“We’re both very sorry,” Sean said. This is not going well.

Kaeden looked up at the Irishman with a glint of fire in his eye. “And I don’t appreciate being manhandled.”

“I figured that out,” Sean said ruefully, glancing down at his bruised shin.

Kaeden jumped to his feet. “If you have something for Dani, I’ll give it to him, but don’t expect him to come running.” It was clear their audience was over.

Nigel stood up. “Can I give you my phone number? I know he won’t want to call me, but … just … just in case?”

Kaeden was a bit overwhelmed with Nigel’s seeming sincerity. It was unexpected, but he didn’t trust him one little bit.

“I’m not sure what the point is, but I’ll take it.” Kaeden pulled out his phone, punched a few buttons and looked at Nigel expectantly.

“Here…” Nigel reached for Kaeden’s phone. “I’ll enter my info for you.”

Kaeden pulled his phone out of Nigel’s reach. “No way! You’ll look up Dani’s number.”

“I promise I won’t.” Nigel held out his hand expectantly and gave Kaeden his most winning smile.

“You promise? You won’t look anything up and you’ll give my phone right back?”

“Yes.”

Well, this is one way to find out how trustworthy he is, Kaeden thought. He handed Nigel his phone.

The Brit punched in his data but then hit the call button just before he handed the phone back to Kaeden.

“What the hell’d you do?” Kaeden cried. He was sure the Englishman had done something. He’d been watching closely, but he’d missed Nigel’s last action. He glanced at his phone and saw that it was connecting with Nigel Davidson. Just then Nigel’s phone started ringing.

“You fucker!”

“I hope you don’t mind.” Nigel looked appropriately sheepish. He knew he was pushing it, considering how angry Kaeden was with him already, but he was determined to see Dani again and Kaeden was his closest connection.

“I don’t know what you think you accomplished with that move,” Kaeden scolded. “I can always just ignore any calls that come in from you.”

“I know. I just … I’m hoping you’ll help me.”

Kaeden made a sound of disgust. “Not likely! I’ve already told Dani he’s better off without you.” He started toward the front door.

“Here, please give this to him. Please tell him I’m really sorry.” Nigel handed the gift bag to Kaeden who took it reluctantly.

“Well, I can’t say it’s been a pleasure seeing you again. You’re as arrogant as ever.” Kaeden turned away from them and went to the door.

“It was great to see you,” Sean said. His voice was low and husky, and it sent a shiver up Kaeden’s spine. “I’m sorry for all the trouble we caused.”

Kaeden gave one quick glance at the Irishman before he disappeared into the house. Yuri shot them a scornful look and followed the peacock over the threshold, closing the door tightly behind him.

“Well, that could have gone better,” Nigel said. He wasn’t at all sure Dani would call him.

*****

“I really don’t want to tell you this, but I promised I would,” Kaeden spoke into his new pay-as-you-go phone.

“Tell me what?” Dani asked, apprehensive over the tone in Kaeden’s voice.

“Nigel and Sean came by just now.”

“They did?” Dani’s stomach tightened. Today was the first day that he hadn’t thought about Nigel every other minute. It would take time, but he’d forget the sexy drummer who turned out to be an asshole. He was still dwelling on the incident way too much. “What did they want?” he asked.

“I think Sean mainly came to ogle me, but Nigel wanted me to tell you he’s sorry—and he left a package for you.”

“A package?”

“Yep.” Kaeden’s voice showed his disapproval.

“What’s in it?”

“I don’t know. It’s wrapped.”

“Wrapped? Like how? How big is it?” Dani couldn’t help his excited curiosity.

Kaeden laughed. “Why don’t I come by and you can see for yourself.”

“I’d love to see you, of course—come by any time. But why would Nigel give me a present?”

“I think he wants to see you again. I told him you couldn’t be bought,” Kaeden said dismissively.

“Why would he want to see me again after he was so mean to me?” Dani’s voice echoed his hurt.

“He said he was really sorry. He actually sounded sincere,” Kaeden said reluctantly, and then added, “He seems smitten.”

“Smitten?” Dani went from confused to mystified.

“Well, yeah.”

“Why?”

“Dani, you don’t realize how attractive you are. He was definitely hot for you the other night. Sparks were flying!”

“I was definitely hot for him, but I thought I was just the available boy-toy.”

“Dani, you know I don’t have a very high opinion of those guys, especially after what they did to you. I can’t say I know Nigel’s mind, but he did leave you an apology present.”

“What if I don’t want it?”

“You can always just throw it away. I’ve got some errands to run downtown. Why don’t I swing by in a couple of hours and you can see what it is?”

“Okay. See you soon.”

*****

Dani looked apprehensively at the package Kaeden had deposited in his hands. It was a bit larger than a shoebox, it was fairly light, and it was wrapped in silver paper with a blue bow.

“Why would he give me a present?” he asked. He had already asked himself that question a hundred times and asked Kaeden at least three times.

“Just open it! I’m dying to know what those scumbags consider an appropriate apology gift for what they did to you.”

With nervous fingers Dani tore open the wrapping. Inside was an unlabeled box. He pulled the lid off.

Inside the box a small envelope and a CD were nestled on top of something in blue-gray leather.

“Wow!” Dani didn’t know what he’d been expecting, but this wasn’t it. He opened the envelope with nervous fingers, pulling out a small card. On the front was a pen and ink drawing of a leopard. Inside was a note, written in slanting but neat small caps. It read:

Dear Dani,



I know there’s nothing I can give you that will make up for what I did the other night. I just wanted to let you know I’m really sorry. I didn’t expect it to go like it did. I never wanted to hurt you. I’m very sorry.

Please accept the enclosed as a small token of my heartfelt dismay over the pain I’ve caused you.

I would love to apologize in person if you could stand to ever talk to me again. My phone number is 123-555-5555.

Sincerely,

Nigel

Dani blinked and read it again.

“What’s it say?” Kaeden demanded, trying to read over Dani’s shoulder.

Dani passed the card to him without comment and picked up the CD. The picture on the cover was an abstract work of art, angular and striking, in red, yellow and black. It was Leather’s demo CD.

Kaeden set the card down on the counter with a frown. “He’s good, I’ll grant you that. I still don’t trust him further than I can throw him.”

“Neither do I,” murmured Dani as he pulled out the blue leather item. He shook it out. It was a pair of brand new leather jeans.

Dani’s gut twisted. “They look like they might fit. I can’t accept this.”

“Of course you can!” Kaeden exclaimed. “They don’t begin to make up for what you went through. Try them on!”

In a flash Dani was out of his jeans and pulling on the soft, buttery leather. “God, I wonder how much they cost,” he said in awe. “They feel fantastic.”

“Minimum three hundred,” Kaeden said, reaching out to feel the leather on Dani’s thigh. “They look good on you! A little loose and a little long, perhaps, but definitely sexy.”

Dani went into the bathroom to look in the mirror. Kaeden followed him.

“They’re probably a size larger than I would have bought if I had tried them on, but they look okay, huh?”

“They look really good,” Kaeden assured him. “Still tight enough to show off your butt, but loose enough to ride low on your hips.”

“Mmmm, yeah.” Dani turned, looking over his shoulder to see what the jeans looked like from the back.

“And they’re loose enough you won’t get too uncomfortable if you totally get a hard-on.”

“Well, there’s that!” Dani laughed. “If I see him again that would probably be a bonus.”

“Are you thinking of calling him?” Kaeden sounded alarmed.

“Fuck, I don’t know!” Dani said in anguish. He had been resolute in his desire never to see the arrogant drummer again. The note had dislodged him from his place of indignance. Nigel seemed sincerely sorry.

“I need heels with these jeans. They’re a bit long,” Dani said by way of distraction. He left the bathroom and crossed to his closet to find his black cowboy boots. They were the only shoes he had with a real heel. He sat down on the floor and tugged them on.

Kaeden watched without comment, a slight frown on his face.

“What? You think cowboy boots are wrong with these jeans?”

“No, I think they’re fine. I’m just worried about you.”

Dani stood up and went into the bathroom to look at himself again. He wished he had a full-length mirror.

“You don’t think I should call him?”

“No, I don’t.”

“Damn! I was just starting to feel better about myself. I was just starting to forget him.”

“And you should!” Kaeden said with conviction. “Men like that don’t change. He’ll be nice to you for a little while, but the next thing you know he’ll do something else that will be just as horrible and humiliating. You’re better off forgetting about him.”

“You’re right. I know you are. My head is totally telling me you’re right. My heart is saying, ‘No, no, no! I want him!’”

“Your heart or your dick?”

“Well … both! I tell you, my head is having a hard time winning this argument.” Dani laughed ruefully.

“Dani, what he’s given you are words and a pair of jeans. You’re talking about your pride and your dignity and … and your love. What’s that worth to you?”

“You’re right. I won’t call him.”

“And I’ll help with that decision.” Kaeden picked up the card and slipped it into his pocket.

“Hey! That’s mine! I want it! I mean … I want to read it again. I won’t necessarily call him.”

“I’ll keep it for you. If two weeks from now you’re still begging me for his number, I’ll give it back to you.”

Dani stared at Kaeden in disbelief. He wasn’t sure whether to be furious or grateful.

Kaeden pulled him in for a tight hug. “I care about you Dani. I don’t want to see you cry—ever again.”

Dani took a deep breath. He could trust Kaeden better than he could trust himself right now. “Okay. Thank you. But I can keep the leather jeans, right?”

“You bet! You keep those sexy jeans!” 

Chapter Thirteen

Abe pulled his phone out of his pocket and looked at the display. With a small sigh he pressed the talk button.

“Hey, Kate. How are you?”

“Great, Abe. I was calling to see how you were.”

“I’m good.” Abe tried to sound cheery. He knew his sister worried way too much about him.

“What are you doing?”

“Just walking around … uh, shopping.”

“You’re not still looking for Ty are you?”

“I said I was shopping.”

Kate let out an exasperated sound and Abe knew she wasn’t buying his story. He steeled himself for a lecture.

“Abe, why can’t you forget about him and find someone your own age—someone professional who likes the same things you like? I don’t understand why you’re chasing after some homeless high-school kid. I mean, I know he’s gorgeous, but you usually have more common sense that that.”

“Katy, would you just lay off? I’m not going to give up!”

“Abe, you’ve been looking for him for weeks. He’s probably not even in the city anymore.”

Abe had been worrying more and more about that as the days went by with no sign of Ty. If he had moved to a different city, he’d never find him.

“He’s probably gone home to his parents,” Kate said.

“No. He wouldn’t!” The fact that Ty’s dad might also be looking for him was a huge concern for Abe. He didn’t want to think about what might happen if his dad found him first, and he couldn’t help but worry about how Ty was getting by on the streets. His vivid imagination readily supplied him with many different, horrible scenarios.

In fact, he was obsessed with Ty. From the moment he woke up in the morning until he fell asleep at night, Abe thought about the gorgeous youth. He spent most of his free time searching for him. He had taken up jogging. Every day as soon as it was cool enough to run, he’d cover a different section of the city, always on the lookout for a thin, graceful young man with auburn hair.

Abe had not been eating regularly and had been sleeping poorly. He knew he looked haggard, that he should be taking better care of himself, but he couldn’t seem to slow himself down. He needed to find Ty, and he needed to find him soon.

It was worse even than when he’d lost Evan. When Evan had died, he knew it was over. There was nothing for him to do but go on with his life as normally as possible. With Ty, though, there was the horror of not knowing where he was or what might be happening to him. He was going insane with worry.

“Please?” Kate was saying.

“Huh? What?” Abe realized he had missed her last couple of sentences.

“Lunch?”

“Not today. I really am shopping.” Now I’ll have to buy something so that that won’t be a lie.“How about Friday? It’s my next day off.”

“Friday for sure then?”

“Yes, of course.”

“Okay. I’ll call you Friday morning … and Abe?”

What now? “Yeah?”

“Take care of yourself, will you? Go have some fun with your friends.”

Abe groaned inwardly. I can’t possibly have fun until I find him.The memory of how much they had laughed when he had chased Ty around the house trying to get his candy back surfaced, bringing with it a painful lump to the back of his throat.

“I’ll try, Katy.”

*****

Ty walked swiftly down the street, thumbs tucked behind his backpack straps, head down, watching the sidewalk roll past. This was his usual bearing these days. Living on the streets was slowly draining his self-respect. All day, every day, he begged for money. He endured verbal abuse, contemptuous glares, cold, and hunger.

He spent most of his time alone. The only friend he’d made in the city, besides Abe, whom he was desperately trying not to think about, was Dani. He enjoyed Dani’s company but didn’t want to impose on him too much.

Without a support system, his self-esteem was starting to whither. At that moment he was berating himself for having virtually given up on his job search.

“Hey, Ty! What’s up?” A female voice interrupted his thoughts.

He glanced up apprehensively. Trish, the homeless woman he had met the week before, was sitting on a blanket on the slightly sloping concrete under the overpass.

She smiled at him broadly, if a bit blearily.

“Hey, I got some good shit!” She waved a bottle at him, its brown liquid contents making a sloshing sound. “I’ll share with you. Come talk to me!” The huge smile never left her face.

At least someone is happy to see me, he thought. He shambled over to her. “Whatcha drinkin’?”

“I’s whiskey!” she declared, slurring her words. “I’s good shit! Sit down! Have some.” She scooted over to make room for him on the blanket and offered him the bottle with a shaky hand.

Ty sat in the proffered spot with some foreboding, but he accepted the bottle and took a big whiff. His eyes watered.

“Whew! You drink this stuff?”

“Sure! After the first couple of swigs you won’t even notice the smell—or the taste.”

Ty held his breath and took a long pull, trying to swallow it all down before he breathed again. As he handed the bottle back to her he began to cough and choke.

She patted him on the back. “Not used to whiskey, are you?”

“No,” he managed to gasp out.

She laughed and took a long pull herself. She might have been drinking water for all the reaction she had to it. She passed the bottle back to Ty.

He took another long pull, focusing very hard to keep from grimacing as the vile flavor coated his tongue. He managed to finish without coughing this time.

By the time she passed the bottle back to him a third time, he was starting to feel slightly woozy but much happier than he had been before.

“Wow! That works fast!”

“Especially if you’re not used to it, I think.” She smirked at him and he grinned.

They shared the whiskey back and forth, talking about the challenges of living on the streets.

She seems pretty nice, Ty thought. He was surprised to find out she was only twenty-three. She looked much older. I wonder if that’s how I’ll look in a few years? No, I won’t be on the streets that long—I hope.

“Tha’s it!” she said with a frown. She turned the empty bottle upside down, opening her mouth to let the last few drops fall onto her tongue. Tossing the bottle aside, she turned to Ty, “You got any money? We could get some more.”

Ty did have money. He’d made twenty-two dollars that day. He hadn’t had dinner yet, but he didn’t think too hard about his decision. “Yeah, I think I have enough to cover another small bottle. How much are they?”

She eyed him with a calculating look. “We could get a fifth for eleven—plus tax.”

He dug the money out of his pocket, one dollar at a time, not wanting her to know how much he had.

She took his money with a huge grin. “Le’s go. You can walk me there, but you can’t come in. Don’t want ‘em to know I’m buyin’ for minors.”

A half hour later they were back on her blanket sharing a fifth of whiskey. Ty had bought a taco from a street vendor while she was in the liquor store, more because he thought he should eat than because he actually felt hungry. The alcohol seemed to have taken away his appetite.

As the evening wore on, Ty lost track of time, but at some point he realized that several of the buttons at the top of Trish’s blouse had come undone. Her ample breasts were spilling out. She leaned toward him, leering, giving him a good view.

I hope she’s not coming on to me, he thought. Trish was not unattractive. She was a little worse for the wear, but she had a pretty face, good teeth, and what could be considered a voluptuous figure. For some reason, Ty was not interested.

She was interested in him, however, which became apparent a few minutes later. She leaned over, placed her hand behind his head, and drew him in for a deep kiss.

Ty accepted the kiss stiffly. On some level, he felt he should be enjoying it, that he should want to kiss her. He tried to relax into it, but the only thought going through his head was that it felt a little like French kissing his mother. It didn’t feel right at all.

She’s just a few years older than I am. I should want this,he told himself. That didn’t change the discomfort he felt, and when she reached for the fly of his jeans he pulled away with a low groan. Shit! How do I get out of this?His whisky-logged brain gave him an answer surprisingly quickly. It took very little effort for him to mumble, “Oh God, I’m drunk!” and collapse back onto the blanket, eyes closed.

As soon as he was lying down, his head started spinning. He tried to ignore it and breathe the slow even breaths of someone who had passed out.

“Come on, Ty! Wake up!” she whined. She shook his shoulder gently. When he didn’t respond she became a bit rougher. “Ty!” she cooed. He felt her lips on his, pressing insistent kisses on him. He remained completely unresponsive, hoping she would not pursue him further.

Luckily she didn’t have much patience. “You’re no fun!” she admonished him. “Lightweight!” She spat the last word at him as if it were a serious insult.

As soon as she was no longer touching him or talking to him, he fell into a dead sleep.

He awoke just as the sky was starting to lighten. His head was pounding, but it was his stomach that drew his attention. He scrambled to his feet and staggered a few steps, trying to keep his balance. The world felt off-kilter. Once he was vertical, the pain in his head intensified. He stumbled away from the small group of sleeping people and leaned against the far side of one of the great pillars supporting the overpass, putting his hands on his knees, his head down. His stomach heaved and he spewed all over the ground in several forceful bouts of vomiting. When it was over he was shaking and coughing. He glanced around. None of the bundles of blankets that were scattered across the concrete under the overpass had stirred.

Everyone else is probably just as wasted as I am,he thought. Well maybe not quite, he amended as his world tilted again. He wanted to go back to his own blanket in the bushes but could not conceive of walking that far in his current condition. Instead he made his way slowly back to Trish’s blanket and laid down. Trish was nowhere to be seen. He gratefully passed out again.

When next he awoke it was full daylight. His head still hurt, and his mouth tasted like it had become host to a colony of stinkbugs. He found his water bottle and swallowed the last of what was in it.

“Hey, you’re awake.” Trish appeared from somewhere behind him, looking about the same as usual.

“God, I feel awful!” he groaned.

“Poor kid, you can’t handle your alcohol at all. You passed out before things got good.”

“Sorry about that.”

“Are you sure you’re not gay?”

“No.” Ty’s stomach was still uneasy, and Trish’s questions were not helping any.

“No, what? You’re not gay or you’re not sure?”

“I don’t want to talk about it right now.”

She cocked here head and looked at him thoughtfully. Ty looked away. “Okay…” she said.

“I just want to find someplace quiet to lie down again. I’m gonna go.” He stood up and picked up his backpack. “Hey, thanks a lot for sharing. I’m sorry I wasn’t better company.”

“Hey, no worries. Anytime, Ty.” She smiled at him.

He tried to make his mouth curl into a smile. It hurt to move his face. With a final nod to her, he shambled off, not really knowing or caring where he was going.

*****

“Oh my God, Kae, is that what I think it is?” Dani eyed the large gold ring that hung from a chain around Kaeden’s neck.

“Yep!” Kaeden said with a big grin. “It’s a solid gold cock ring! Yoshi gave it to me last night.”

“Wow! That’s … uh … pretty cool.”

“I know! When he wanted to measure me, I just thought he was being kinky. But then he surprised me with this.” Kaeden picked up the ring and ran his thumb around the smooth surface. “It makes an awesome necklace, don’t you think? Kind of sexy?”

“It’s awesome,” Dani assured him. He could not imagine wearing a cock ring as jewelry, but it fit for Kaeden. “You like being with him?”

“He’s great. He’s funny, and he likes to spend money on me. He’s very attentive and awfully sweet.” Kaeden looked wistful.

“That’s good.” Dani wasn’t sure what else to say. Kaeden seemed like he might be getting emotionally involved. Dani considered warning him against that again, but he had never met Yoshi. Maybe it could work out between them? He changed the subject.

“Hey, do you want a beer? Ty brought some.”

“Sure, I’ll take one. How’d Ty get beer?”

“He said a friend of his bought it for him. She charged him three beers out of the twelve-pack—kinda steep I thought.” He handed Kaeden a beer from the fridge. He was already drinking one.

“Where is Ty?”

“He’s doing his laundry.”

Just then the front door swung open and Ty came in, placing a set of keys on the counter.

“Hey, Ty! It’s great to see you,” Kaeden said, giving him a quick hug.

Ty smiled at Kaeden and plopped down on a bar stool at the counter.

“Hey, you got more stuff!” Kaeden cried, just now noticing that, in addition to three barstools, there was a dresser in the corner. None of the furniture looked new, but it was in good shape. There was also a poster on the wall of a long-haired, long-nosed guitarist.

“Who’s the musician?” Ty asked.

“It’s Pete Townshend. Definitely old-school, but some of his stuff is pretty cool. And … the reason I allowed myself to spend some money is…” Dani paused dramatically. “I got a job!”

“Wow! That’s great!” Ty said at the same time Kaeden burst out with, “Honey, when did this happen? You didn’t tell me!” Kaeden gave Dani a big hug. “I’m so proud of you.”

“Well, it’s not in entertainment, which is what I want of course, but it has potential. I’m a barista at Café Donovan. It’s that new coffee shop on Dravus Avenue. The best part is they also host performances several times a week. They have a small stage with a keyboard. My boss wants me to play and sing to get things started and to be available if things get slow.”

“Oh, Dani, that’s wonderful! Maybe someone will hear you, and you’ll get your big break.” Kaeden was all smiles. “I’ve never even heard you sing. When are you playing next?”

“Tomorrow night will be my first time. I’m not sure I want anyone I know to be there on my first night.”

“Nonsense! You need your friends there to cheer you on in case you suck!” Kaeden gave Dani another tight hug. “Just kidding, I’m sure you’ll do fine. I can’t wait to hear you. What time?”

“Seven pm.”

“Congratulations!” Ty finally managed to get a word in. He was happy for Dani, but he couldn’t help feeling a twinge of jealousy. How much of a relief that must be to know that you can count on a certain amount of money coming in.

“I’ll give you guys free lattes.” Dani had only worked two short shifts so far, but his boss seemed pretty cool. If nothing else, he’d cover the lattes with his own money.

“Free food? I’m there!” Ty said, laughing.

“Another beer?” Dani asked, pulling a couple out of the fridge. He handed one to Ty, but Kaeden declined. He had barely touched his first one.

“Thanks for the beer, Ty,” Kaeden said. He was often impulsive, words popping out of his mouth as soon as he thought them. Now he asked, “Where’d you get the money?” He hoped Ty wouldn’t think he was being too nosy, but he knew options were limited for young men with no skills. He was curious to find out what those options were.

Ty looked down and his face colored.

“Oh honey, I’m sorry. You don’t need to answer that,” Kaeden said, immediately feeling bad for having asked the question. He laid a gentle hand on Ty’s arm.

Ty pulled away, but he met Kaeden’s eyes. “It’s okay. I’m getting used to it. I’m just standing on the street corner with a sign that says, “Will work for food.” No one’s offered me a job yet, but people do give me money and food.” He sighed. “I’d rather get a regular job, but I don’t have any identification. No one will hire me without it. And I’m a bit worried if I give my real name my dad will track me down.”

Wow! That’s tough! If I wasn’t doing what I’m doing I might be living on the streets asking for money as well, Kaeden thought. At least I don’t have to hide from my parents.

“You make enough to live on?” he asked.

“Enough to feed myself, mostly. Not much more than that. It’s not what I want to do, but I have to eat.”

“Speaking of which, let me get started on dinner.” Dani began rummaging in the refrigerator. Kaeden moved behind the counter as well.

“I don’t know how to cook much,” Dani apologized, “and Kaeden’s mostly vegetarian so I kept that in mind. What I have are ingredients for burritos. It will be make-your-own.”

“Looks great!” Ty said, going into the kitchen area to help.

Dani had bought a steak. He got out knives and a set of plastic cutting sheets and prepared to start slicing the steak into strips. Kaeden began to cut up onions. Ty didn’t see any other knives, so he decided to grate cheese.

Just then Kaeden’s phone rang. Kaeden wiped his hands on a dishtowel and pulled it out of his pocket. Looking at the caller ID, he was suddenly hot. “Jesus Christ! Will that man never give up? Here!” He held the phone out to Dani. “Please tell Nigel you don’t want to talk to him. He doesn’t believe me. He’s driving me bananas!”

“Nigel?” Dani’s voice was a squeak. He looked at the phone as if it were a tarantula.

“Oh fine!” Kaeden pressed the talk button on the phone but didn’t put it up to his ear. “I’ll tell him again you’re not interested.”

“N … No!” Dani cried. He made a quick grab and got the phone away from Kaeden. Holding it at arm’s length, he stared at it, his eyes wide and his expression an impossible mix of hope and anguish. He turned his back on Ty and Kaeden and left the kitchen area.

“Hello?” he whispered into the phone.

“Dani?” Nigel’s English accent was apparent even in that one word.

Dani’s heart flip-flopped. Fuck!“Yes?” he managed to gasp out.

“Oh, Dani! I can’t believe I’m really talking to you! I was worried that you would never speak to me again. I don’t blame you. I was horrible. I’m really, really sorry for what I did to you. I was drunk. I didn’t know. Oh, God! I don’t have an excuse other than I’m an arse—but I want to change! I’m never going to do something so stupid again.”

Dani listened silently, not sure if he believed Nigel’s words or not, but very aware of the affect the sound of his voice was having on him.

Nigel continued without even seeming to take a breath, “Dani I think about you all the time. I can’t get you out of my head! I’ve been dreaming about you too. It nearly killed me that you didn’t want to talk to me.”

It had been two weeks since the party. Dani had dreamt about Nigel also—several times. Mostly, he had been trying not to think about him. Sometimes he would even manage it for a short time, but only if he were really busy. On his first day of work he only thought of Nigel ten or fifteen times in his four-hour shift. Now, hearing Nigel’s aristocratic English accent and listening to his gush of affection, he felt like he was melting.

Kaeden hadn’t told him that Nigel had been calling him. He was having a hard time wrapping his mind around the idea that the sexy drummer had been thinking about him too. In spite of himself a smile played across his lips, and he began to float off the ground. He became aware that his cock was swelling—rather rapidly.

“Dani? Dani say something,” Nigel said, and then when Dani didn’t answer right away he sounded panicked. “Please don’t hang up!”

“I’m here,” Dani said, trying to get control of his runaway libido. “What do you want?”

“I just want to talk to you … to convince you that I’m not a total schmuck. All right, I am a schmuck sometimes, and I had no right to do what I did to you without your permission. It was very wrong of me. I’m sorry. I … I hope someday you’ll forgive me.”

Dani was way past forgiveness; as soon as he heard Nigel’s voice he had forgotten how hurt he had been. Something about the English drummer put him underwater. He had no control over his reaction, and react he did. His cock strained against his jeans, and his heart pounded so loudly in his chest that he was afraid Nigel would hear it. He’d never had such a strong response to anyone, and it was scary.

“Dani, please!” Nigel’s voice was edged with desperation. “I can’t live without you. I’m totally infatuated.”

Whoa! Infatuated? Dani’s natural skepticism kicked in. “Why?”

“Why?” Nigel’s voice held disbelief. “Dani, you’re the sexiest thing I’ve ever seen! Oh God, I’ve been having wet dreams about you. I haven’t had a wet dream in years. You’ve driven me totally insane.”

Dani’s cock twitched and started weeping. Oh shit! Wish I’d been there for those wet dreams.

“Dani.” Nigel’s voice was now low and husky. “I want … oh, I can’t tell you what I want to do with you. You drive me wild.”

Dani’s knees went weak. He sank onto his futon. He had completely tuned out his surroundings. His entire world was the sexy voice on the phone. He could talk to Nigel forever. A moan came out of Dani’s mouth completely unbidden. He blushed deeply as Nigel responded to him.

“Oh my God, Dani! Are you as horny as I am? I haven’t even been able to look at another boy. I want only you.”

Suddenly Dani felt the cold slap of reality. That can’t be true! Nigel is a notorious Casanova.Dani did not believe for one minute that he was willing to put aside his wild ways to start a relationship with him. “Oh really?” he said coolly. “I find that hard to believe.”

“It’s true!” Nigel cried. “I haven’t even looked—all I can think about is you.”

Dani was silent. What does he want from me? Surely he’s not looking for a relationship.He heard his mother’s voice in his head: “A zebra doesn’t change his stripes.”

“I can’t make promises yet, because I know myself,” Nigel went on. “I don’t know how I’ll feel next week or next month or next year. I only know that right now you’re the only boy I want, and I’m asking you to give me a chance.”

At least he sounds honest. “A chance for what?”

A low purr rumbled deep in Nigel’s throat, and Dani could not stop the gasp of desire that flew out of his own mouth.

Both of them had the same thought at the same time: Listen to the noises he makes! He is the sexiest man alive.

“Dani…” Nigel’s voice was husky. “Can I call you?”

Dani was in a half-swoon. He roused himself with effort. “Y … yes,” he whispered. Then he smiled ruefully. “I think I’d better give you my number. Kaeden is fit to be tied with how much you’ve been bugging him.”

“Really? You’ll give me your number?” Nigel sounded ecstatic.

Dani’s grin could not have been wider. “Yes. But I think we’d better hang up now. I don’t want to use up all of Kaeden’s minutes.”

Nigel made a small, disappointed noise. “If we must … I could talk to you all night.”

Dani was still in a lust-filled haze. “Yeah,” he mumbled, “I’ll text you my number as soon as I hang up.”

The Englishman sounded excited when he said, “I’ll call you. I can’t wait to talk to you again.”

“Me too. Thanks for calling,” Dani managed to say.

There was a long pause. Neither one of them wanted to hang up.

“Can I call you later tonight?” Nigel asked.

Dani’s heart thumped. “Yes, after eleven.” He thought Kaeden and Ty might be gone by then. If not, he’d still take Nigel’s call. He might have to go into the bathroom so he could jack off while he did it.

“Okay, love. I’ll talk to you soon.”

“Bye!” Dani said and pressed the “End” button before he made a fool of himself. As soon as he hung up he let out a wistful sigh and started texting Nigel his phone number.

“So … you’re giving him your phone number?” Kaeden’s voice was accusing. He came out from behind the counter to stand in front of Dani. “Jesus Christ! What did you talk about?” Kaeden’s eyes widened as they fixed on the very apparent bulge at Dani’s crotch.

“N … nothing!”

“He must have said something to get you all horned out like that.”

“Fuck, Kae! Just the sound of his voice does it to me. What am I going to do?”

“You could turn off your phone.”

Dani gave him an exasperated look.

“I actually like him,” Ty said. “Of course I missed the incident.”

Dani stood up. He wanted to avoid the guilt trip that he was afraid Kaeden would lay on him. “That smells great,” he said, joining Ty in the kitchen. “You finished cooking without me!” He looked around in surprise at the food, neatly arrayed and ready to go into the tortillas. “I didn’t realize I was on the phone that long.”

“Ty is very efficient!” Kaeden said. “Let’s eat!” It’s a hopeless cause to try to talk Dani out of seeing Nigel. He’s going to do what he’s going to do. I’ll just be around to pick up the pieces after it’s over and try to refrain from saying, “I told you so.

Chapter Fourteen

Ty stood holding his sign in his new favorite spot to panhandle—it was near the shopping district. It had been a good day and he was thinking of quitting early, although he really didn’t have anything else to do. He was trying to ignore the little voice in the back of his head that kept telling him to seek out Trish and share some more alcohol. He had woken up hung-over again today; he was just now starting to feel better. And he was hungry.

“Hey, are you serious about working?”

Ty was brought out of his thoughts by a burly man who was standing in front of him looking him up and down. The man was in his forties and perhaps an inch shorter than Ty, but very stocky. He had short-cropped dark hair and a day’s growth of stubble. He was wearing black slacks and a white shirt that had some stains on it. His brown eyes observed Ty intently.

“Y … yes!” Ty’s heart thumped with excitement. “Do you have work?”

“I own that small grocery store over there.” The man pointed across the street at a tiny grocery store which had produce arrayed in front of it in neat bins. “My regular guy quit on me suddenly and I got deliveries coming in. I need someone to help unload the truck and stock shelves. Do you think you could do that?”

“Sure.” Ty grinned. “Yes, sir!”

“You’re not on anything are you?” the man asked, glancing suspiciously at Ty’s exposed arms and then peering into his eyes.

“No!” Ty was shocked by the question.

“Can’t be too careful with street people,” he grumbled. “I’ve actually never hired one before, but I’ve seen you over here and you don’t look too bad.”

“I would really love to have a regular job,” Ty said. “When can I start?”

“Good enough,” the man said brusquely. “You can start now. I’m expecting a delivery shortly. We stock the shelves after the store closes, so it’s mostly evening work.”

“Great!” Ty said. That will keep me out of trouble.

He picked up his backpack and followed the man across the street.

As fate would have it, Abe jogged down that same street five minutes later, but Ty had already disappeared inside the grocery store.

On the way in, Ty noted that the produce looked in good shape. The store itself was surprisingly clean. There was only one checkout stand. Behind it was a young black woman.

“Tika, this is … I don’t know your name,” the man said.

“Ty.” He smiled at the woman who looked him up and down but didn’t smile back. Her gaze was decidedly unfriendly.

“Ty is going to be helping us at night, stocking shelves and such.”

“He looks homeless,” she said bluntly.

“That is none of your business,” the man said. “We’ll be in the back.”

Ty followed the man to the back of the store and through a doorway into a small backroom that was overflowing with boxes and crates. There was barely any room to move.

“I’ve gotten behind on stocking.” The man looked around with an exasperated expression. “I wish Karl hadn’t quit so suddenly.” He squinted at Ty. “The main rule is that you must be honest. If I catch you stealing, you’ll be out of here so fast your head will spin. Or I might even hold you for the police.”

“Yes, sir.” At the mention of police, Ty gulped. I’m not going to steal anything, so I don’t need to worry.

“I’ve got some paperwork for you to fill out.” The man made his way between some boxes to a small desk. He grabbed a clipboard and a pen and turned back to Ty.

“Um, do I have to?” Ty asked. He didn’t want to lie on a bunch of forms, and he still needed to fly under the radar.

The man looked at him sharply. “What’s your story, kid? Are you in trouble with the law? “

“No, sir,” Ty answered quickly. He looked at the man weighing how much to tell him. The man looked at him expectantly. There was no warmth in his eyes.

“I’m a runaway,” Ty finally whispered. He swallowed and then continued, still speaking softly. “I won’t be eighteen for another couple months. After I turn eighteen I won’t mind doing everything legally, but I … right now I need to make sure he doesn’t find me. I…” He stopped talking, not sure how much he wanted to tell this man. He was afraid he’d already said too much. He felt his face growing hot with shame, as it always did when talked about his father.

The man frowned at him. “Are you talking about your father? How likely do you think it would be for him to find you just from an employment application?”

Ty’s angst increased. “He’s got resources. Police department resources,” he said shortly.

The man glared at him intently, tapping the pen against the clipboard with a sharp thwack.

Fuck! Just when I thought I might actually have found a job. It looks like he’s not going to hire me now. Ty’s disappointment was keen. I’d better get out of here before he decides to turn me in. “I’ll just go now,” Ty said softly. “Sorry it didn’t work out.” He turned to make his way back out of the store.

“Wait, kid!” the man cried sharply. “We’ll do this on a cash basis for a couple of days and see how it goes.”

Ty looked up at him. “Really?” The man’s face was unreadable, but he nodded.

“Thanks!” Ty’s relief was palpable. A huge smile broke across his face. He thought the man gave a ghost of a smile in return.

“You can start with stacking these boxes higher and tighter so that we have room for the delivery that’s coming. I think I’ve already put away all the perishables, but if you see any, set the box aside and let me know.”

“Yes sir.” Ty looked at the mound of boxes, eager to get started. His mind quickly calculated the best way to stack them to take the least space. He picked up the first box.

“Aren’t you going to ask me how much I’m paying you?” The man’s voice was gruff.

“Uh … I … okay.”

“Okay? I haven’t even named a salary and you’re saying okay?”

“I meant, ‘okay, please tell me how much you’re going to pay me,’” Ty said quietly. This man was intimidating.

The man grunted. “I’ll pay you $5 an hour today. If you do good work, I might pay you more tomorrow.”

“Thanks!” That’s way more than I’m making by begging—and he’s thinking of having me come back tomorrow!

When the man started to leave, Ty cried, “Wait!”

The man turned and glared at him.

Ty swallowed. “Uh … what can I call you, sir?”

“Sir works just fine,” the man said, “but my name’s Bill.”

Two hours later Ty was covered with a sheen of sweat even though the night was cool. He had almost gotten the back room in order when the delivery arrived. After a half-hour spent unloading the truck, the back room looked worse than ever.

The delivery driver handed him a clipboard and a pen. “Sign, please.”

Ty looked over the form, scanning each line and comparing the quantities with what they had unloaded. “There was only one box of beans, not two,” he said.

The deliveryman looked at him blankly.

Just then Bill came into the back room. “You done?”

“Almost,” Ty responded. Turning back to the deliveryman he pointed at a box. “Those are the only beans that came in.”

“Shit,” the man grumbled. He climbed into the back of his truck. It was still half-full of boxes that were destined for a different store. Ty could hear him muttering.

“What’s going on?” Bill asked gruffly.

“The form says he delivered two boxes of beans, but we only unloaded one.”

Bill reached for the clipboard and Ty handed it to him with shaking hands. His new boss stepped closer to Ty and stared him in the eye. “Why are you shaking?” he demanded. “Are you on something?”

“N … No sir. I … I’m just hungry.” Ty was indeed starving. All the physical labor and the smell of some of the items that had been delivered were making him weak from hunger.

Just then the deliveryman returned, carrying a box of beans. “Here’s those lost beans,” he said with a grin.

“We got everything else?” Bill asked Ty.

“Yes sir.”

Bill signed the form and returned it to the deliveryman who smiled again and left.

“Sit down,” Bill commanded, pointing to the chair at the desk, which was now almost hidden by a mountain of boxes.

“But…” Ty was going to protest that he was all right.

“Sit!” the man barked.

Ty sat.

Bill left but returned a few minutes later with his hands full of food. He laid the items out on the desk in front of Ty. There was a small carton of milk, a bottle of juice, a banana, a peach and a carton that held crackers, cheese, ham and turkey.

“Eat!” Bill commanded.

“I … how much for…?” Ty stammered. Bill did not seem the type to give away free food.

“That’s your bonus for noticing the missing beans. I never would have caught that myself.” Bill’s voice still had an edge to it, but Ty thought his expression was softer.

“Thank you.” He opened the carton of milk and drained it in one long pull. Almost immediately he started feeling better. Bill watched him for a few seconds and then disappeared again.

After Ty finished eating, he and Bill worked together to empty some of the boxes onto shelves in the store. Ty had an almost photographic memory and could easily find whatever item Bill wanted to stock next. By midnight Ty was exhausted, but the stacks of boxes in the back had dwindled considerably. Ty was shifting a few boxes around, organizing things a bit more, when Bill returned to the back room with a box that was mostly mixed produce and a few other items—cheese, bread, and deli meats.

“Here,” Bill said. “All this stuff is on the verge of going bad. You might as well take it. Don’t come to work hungry again tomorrow.”

“Yes sir. Thank you, sir!”

Bill pulled out his wallet and handed Ty two twenty-dollar bills. “Can you be here at four pm tomorrow?” he asked.

“Yes sir. Thank you!” Ty said again.

A huge grin split his face as he walked down the street carrying his box of groceries. Wait ‘til Trish sees this! he thought. Not only do I have food, but I also have money for booze.

*****

Dani’s world had changed. He felt as if he were moving through a perpetual haze of lust and longing. He couldn’t keep the silly grin off his face, and his cock was always half-hard. In fact, depending on which particular aspect of Nigel he was thinking about, sometimes it was excruciatingly hard. He had taken to jacking off several times a day. He hadn’t been brave enough to try it while he was on the phone with Nigel, but usually within two minutes of hanging up he was spurting.

Nigel called him three or four times a day and they often talked for a half-hour or more. They talked about many things: experiences they’d had while growing up, likes and dislikes, a lot about music, a little about Dani’s new job, and more. Nigel had told him that there were now two different music companies who were interested in signing them, which was very exciting.

Dani hadn’t told Nigel exactly where he was working yet. He was afraid having the drummer pop in to see him would be way too embarrassing—he’d probably shoot-off at the first sight of the sexy Englishman.

Dani had bought more minutes for his phone, but he was already running out again. This time his phone rang just as he was getting out of the shower. He quickly found it in the pocket of his jeans, and when he saw that it was Nigel calling a huge smile spread across his face. Shit! Get a hold of yourself! He took a deep breath. “Hey Nigel, how are you?” He sounded much calmer than he felt.

“I’m doing fantastic, Dani. Is this a good time to talk?”

Nigel always asked that question right off, and at the end of the conversation he always asked if it was okay for him to call again. As if Dani might say, “No!”

“Of course. It’s always a good time to talk to you.”

“What are you doing?”

“I just got out of the shower.

“Ooo! Are you naked?”

That simple question hit Dani with a wave of heat that washed over him from head to toe. Suddenly he felt dizzy, as all his blood rushed from his brain to his cock. He turned his back to the counter and leaned weakly against it. “Yes,” he said softly.

“Oh, Dani!” Nigel’s voice was a low purr. “I wish I was there.”

Dani’s hand was already around his cock, pulling on it in long, slow strokes.

“Can I tell you what I’d do to you if I were there?”

“Mmmm … yes,” Dani murmured.

Nigel’s low voice rumbled pleasantly, sending shivers up Dani’s spine. “I’m kissing your sensual mouth, long and deep and slow. I’m sucking on your tongue, tasting your sweetness. I’m chewing gently on your beautiful bottom lip. My hands are straying down to knead your beautiful ass. You gasp and rub against me. I’m biting and licking your ear lobe and then kissing down your neck to suck on the hollow just above your collarbone.”

Dani moaned.

“Oh, sweetheart, you sound so sexy. Are you touching yourself?”

“Yes.”

“Oh, Lord, Dani! You’ve got me so turned on! Are you watching yourself in the mirror?”

Dani had to quit stroking and take a deep breath before he could reply. “No. My back’s to the mirror right now.”

“Can you turn so you can see yourself? I want you to tell me what you see.”

“Okay. I’m going to switch to my ear bud,” he said, pulling it out of his jeans pocket. Something told him he would need both hands for what Nigel had in mind.

He placed his phone on the counter and positioned the piece in his ear. Standing in front of the mirror, he leaned against the wall of the shower enclosure. His hard cock was tight up against his stomach. He curled his fist around it but didn’t stroke. He was pretty sure he couldn’t stroke and talk at the same time.

“What do you look like?” Nigel purred.

“I’m still wet.”

“Lovely.”

“My hair is wet and it’s dripping onto my shoulders. Drops of water are running down my chest.”

Nigel let out a low groan. “What do your nipples look like?” he whispered.

“I’ve got just a little bit of goose flesh. My nipples are hard.”

“Oh, Dani, can you touch them? Pinch them—both of them at the same time. Pinch them hard.”

Dani followed Nigel’s instructions and moaned again loudly as a jolt of pleasure ran from his nipples to his cock. A bead of precum wept out of his slit.

“Fuck, Dani. If I was there I’d be sucking on those hard nipples.” He made another low, sexy sound. “What kind of belly button do you have?”

“It’s an innie.”

“I already know your abs are rock hard. I felt them at the party. I’d love to run my hands up and down your ripped torso. You are so fine!”

Dani sighed happily and started stroking his cock again in long, slow strokes.

“What’s your pubic hair look like?”

“Hmmm.” Dani roused himself to answer. “It’s light brown. It never sees the sun, so it doesn’t get bleached out like the hair on my head.”

“Do you shave at all?”

“No. I never used to do anything, but Kaeden talked me into trimming it. So it’s cropped now.”

“Kaeden?”

Dani thought he caught a tinge of jealousy in Nigel’s voice. The thought occurred to him that perhaps Kaeden was jealous of Nigel too. Maybe that was why he was so against Dani getting together with him. He set that thought aside to examine later.

“Yeah. Kaeden is becoming a good friend.”

“So cropped, light-brown hair. What’s your cock look like?”

“Well, I’m cut. It’s got a nice mushroom head. Right now it’s fully hard—maybe just shy of seven inches.”

“That sounds perfect! Is it thin or thick?”

“It’s not super-fat, but it is on the thick side.”

“Oh God, Dani, if I was there, I’d be on my knees in front of you. I’d knead your tight little arse while I licked the tip of your penis. Are you leaking precum yet?”

“God, yes!” Dani managed to gasp out. His cock was producing a nice amount of precum that he used to lubricate it. His hand slid up and down his shaft at a faster pace as his other hand still tortured his nipple. His breath was coming in quick pants.

“Mmmm … I want to lap up all that precum. I want dive down and suck your balls.”

“Nnngh!” The hand that had been playing with his nipple now moved down to massage his balls. His other hand flew faster up and down his cock. He tried to slow himself down. He didn’t want to cum too soon, but the sexy drummer was bringing him to the edge.

“I give each of your balls a good tongue bath, and then suck on them, nice and slow. And when I have you begging, I take your cock in my mouth, all the way down my throat. I suck on it hard on the way back up and run my tongue up and down the sides and around the head, tonguing your slit. Then I deep throat it again.”

Dani threw his head back and bit his lower lip, trying to slow his impending orgasm.

“I pause, just for a second to lubricate my long fingers with your precum, which of course by now is flowing out of you. Then, as I’m deep-throating you, I reach between your legs and find your perfect, tight rosebud. I’ll stroke around the outside, just for a minute, and while I’m plunging my mouth down on your cock, I’ll push my long finger into you, forcing my way into that tight heat. It might hurt just a little, but my tongue laps at your balls while the head of your penis thrusts down my tight, wet throat.”

“N … Nigel!” Dani’s cry was desperately needy. He followed it with a low wail.

“Fuck, Dani, you’re so sexy.” Nigel’s voice was ragged, and he panted around his words. “I curl my finger around until I find your hot little bundle of nerves, and I stroke that, sending pulsating flashes of ecstasy through your hot body. You moan and buck into me, no longer able to control yourself.”

Dani lost it at that point, and with a sharp cry and a bang of his head back into the shower wall, his body tightened and long ropes of cum shot out of his cock to splash onto his chest and stomach and splatter on the floor.

Dani’s wail turned into a whimper, and he sank to the floor as little aftershocks continued to spasm through his body.

“Did you just cum, Dani?” Nigel’s low voice hitched.

“Y … yeah,” Dani answered softly, still lost in the afterglow of an overwhelming orgasm.

“Fuck! You know I’m jacking off as well, don’t you? Tell me where your cum went.”

Dani chuckled low in his throat. “Well, it’s all over my chest and my stomach. It’s running down my leg. There’s quite a bit on the floor. I may have even gotten some in my hair.”

Nigel moaned and then suddenly cried out, “Dani!” followed by a strangled cry and then more soft moans.

“Did you cum too?” Dani asked, somewhat in awe.

“Oh, yeah.” Nigel was silent for a few moments, and Dani thought he heard him panting. “Fuck Dani, that was awesome.”

“Mmmm … yeah.” Dani answered, wallowing in post-orgasmic bliss.

“Dani, I hope that this was okay.” Nigel sounded a bit worried now. “I don’t want to push you into anything you don’t want to do. I hope we didn’t go too far.”

“It was wonderful, Nigel, except I need another shower now.” He giggled softly. “And my phone is running out of minutes again.”

“I guess I’d better get to why I called you then—well, other than to have awesome phone sex, of course. I told you that MJD Records is wooing us, right? They’re going to throw us a party. It’s all going to be very top-notch. They’re renting out the penthouse suite at The Ritz. It will be next Saturday night. Can you come?”

“You’re inviting me to a party?” Dani’s brain was still befuddled.

“Yes. I’d love to have you there. We could do something else instead if you want, but I’m dying to see you, and I thought you might like the party. Can you bring your friends?”

“The party sounds great. And, yes, I’m sure Ty will want to come—there’ll be free food there, right?”

Nigel laughed. “Of course. If they want us to sign with them, they’d better put out quite a spread. Nothing but the best for us.”

“I’m not sure about Kaeden. Yoshi’s in town, so he might be busy.”

“He could bring Yoshi too,” Nigel said, and as soon as the words left his mouth, he regretted them. He wasn’t sure he’d be able to control Sean if he went into a drunk, jealous rage. The Irishman was impulsive, but he usually didn’t have a temper. Maybe it would be okay. In any case he wasn’t going to rescind the invitation. He’d just have to hope for the best.

“I’ll let him know. What about Tommy?”

Nigel laughed. “Tommy will be there whether he’s invited or not. He always shows up at the best parties. The only reason he would not be there would be if there’s a better party going on someplace else, and I know that’s not going to happen.”

Chapter Fifteen

“I can’t believe I’m finally going to see him!” Nigel’s voice reflected his excitement. He couldn’t remember the last time he had looked forward to something so much. He felt like a kid on Christmas morning.

Sean smiled, seeing his own feelings reflected in Nigel. “And I get to see my sweet bird soon too—I hope. This is going to be one hell of a party!”

The limo pulled to the curb and both men jumped out. Nigel checked the address on the old brick building, dashed up the stone steps, and pressed the number for Dani’s apartment. After a brief conversation in which Dani let him know they’d be right down, he began to pace back and forth on the sidewalk.

Glancing at Sean, he saw the Irishman watching him with a knowing smirk. He stopped pacing and leaned against the limo, crossing his arms over his chest, trying very hard to look casual. He felt like a colony of beetles was crawling around in his belly.

Presently the door opened and Dani stepped out, followed closely by Ty. Nigel’s heart skipped a beat. He stood up straight and uncrossed his arms, never taking his eyes off Dani. The blond paused on the top step and stared back at him.

Dani was wearing the new blue leather jeans Nigel had given him. They hung low on his hips, showing off a sliver of skin between the jeans and his tight black shirt. The shirt, cut like a muscle T, was made out of a slightly shiny, silky fabric. Nigel couldn’t help but imagine what it would feel like to run his hands over Dani’s chest. He could see the hardness of his nipples outlined underneath the shirt. His cock throbbed. God, he’s perfect! “I had forgotten how gorgeous he is,” he whispered to Sean out of the corner of his mouth.

Dani’s storm-gray eyes stared back at him with a strange intensity, as if the youth were trying to look into his soul. Fear seemed to flicker around his eyes, reminding Nigel that he needed to be careful with his precious boy; he needed to make sure that he didn’t hurt him again.

They had talked a lot on the phone and gotten to know each other. One of the recent discussions they’d had put Nigel on his best behavior. The conversation had gone like this:

“Can I ask you a personal question, Dani?”

“I may not answer, but you can ask.”

“How many people have you had sexual encounters with?”

“Sexual encounters?” Dani laughed nervously. “You mean more than kissing? I figured out I was gay when I was fourteen, so I’ve never had a sexual encounter with a woman. I’ve been with four guys willingly, and two—not so much.”

Nigel was silent for a long moment digesting this information. Four was a shockingly low number, but it was the two unwilling encounters that disturbed him. “Two different people forced themselves on you?” His tone held disbelief mixed with revulsion.

“I don’t really want to talk about this,” Dani said. “The first time it was my own damn fault.” Nigel was silent and after a brief pause, Dani told the story anyway, briefly and without embellishment.

By the time he was done, a deep fury burned within Nigel. “That bastard! If I ever get my hands on him, I’ll make him sorry he ever set eyes on you,” he said between clenched teeth.

“You’re one to talk! You made the second unwanted advance. You stuck your fucking finger up my ass in front of a crowd of people!” Dani burst out.

Hot shame flushed Nigel’s body. “Oh, God Dani! I can’t believe what an arsehole I was.” Every time Nigel thought about the incident he cringed at his own behavior. How could I have been such an arrogant arse … to assume he wouldn’t mind? “Dani, I am so so sorry. I never meant to hurt you.”

“Well, at least you didn’t call me a whore when you were done.”

Nigel gulped. He had almost done that. He had told Kaeden that he thought Dani was a rent boy. That conversation must not have gotten back to Dani. As he thought about what Kaeden had said, he ventured to ask, “Of those four men you’ve been with, have you ever had full-on sex?”

He heard Dani’s sharp intake of breath, but his voice was steady when he answered, “No!”

Damn! Nigel’s insides felt like jelly. I molested a virgin! “Not even any anal play?”

“A little, not much. No one’s ever found my prostate before.”

Oh! “But you liked it?”

“Under other circumstances, I would think most definitely.” Dani paused. “Now it’s your turn.”

“Huh?”

“How many sexual encounters have you had? Ballpark, of course.”

Aw shit! “Um … a lot.”

“No kidding!” Dani said sarcastically. “So how many … thirty? One hundred? Two hundred?”

Nigel was silent, calculating. Let’s see, I was fourteen when I lost my virginity. Things were pretty lean at first but picked up after I started playing in a band and really picked up after we got popular…

“More than 500?” Dani asked, clearly aghast.

“Maybe. Probably.”

“More than a thousand?” Dani’s voice was high-pitched.

Sexual encounters … probably. Actual sex, maybe not. “No, I don’t think so.”

He was brought back to the present by a low cough from Sean. He wasn’t sure how long he’d stood there staring lustfully at the object of his desire. As he took in Dani’s vulnerable face, he made a vow to himself to go slow. He wanted to show the innocent young man just how wonderful sex could be.

Dani was still frozen on the top step, staring at him. Ty put a hand on Dani’s arm and said something in his ear. That seemed to break Dani out of his spell and he continued down the steps toward them.

“Hey, Dani!” Nigel smiled at him warmly.

Dani grinned back. He looked nervous. “Hi!”

Nigel motioned Dani into the back of the limo and followed him in.

“Sit up front with me, Ty,” Sean said. “Let’s give them some privacy.”

Ty slid into the front seat, nodding politely to the uniformed driver. The limo was vast. Ty felt as if he were sitting on a large couch. There was plenty of room for the three of them even though the driver was not a small man and Sean was huge.

Sean slid in next to him and introduced him to the driver, Kennedy. Ty observed that there was a dark partition between the front seat and the rest of the limo. He was relieved that he couldn’t see what was happening in back.

Just then he heard Nigel’s English accent, low and husky, “Dani … I’ve really looked forward to seeing you.”

“Can you turn that off, please?” The tone of Sean’s request left no doubt that it was a command.

“Yes, sir,” Kennedy said with a knowing grin, flipping one of the switches on the dashboard.

Ty shifted uncomfortably.

As the limo pulled away from the curb, Sean asked, “So, what would you like to do, smoke pot or snort coke?

“Er … both!” Ty said, his excitement climbing.

Sean laughed. “A man after my own heart. I can tell you’ve already had a few beers.”

“You can?” Ty was surprised and a little embarrassed.

“I can smell them on you.”

“Oh.”

“We’re not supposed to drink up front, so you’ll have to wait a while before you have another. Why don’t we do some coke?” Without waiting for a reply, Sean pulled a CD out of his pocket and handed it Ty with instructions, “Here, keep this level.”

After Ty settled the CD case on his knee and made sure he had a firm grip on it, Sean deposited a small pile of coke onto the smooth plastic and began chopping. The white powder contrasted sharply with the yellow, red, and black of Leather’s demo CD case.

Ty’s mouth watered.

*****

“Dani, I’ve really looked forward to seeing you.” Nigel’s voice was low and husky. He could not keep the huge grin off his face.

“Me too.” Dani responded in kind, with an ear-to-ear smile. His heart was pounding in his chest. He sat near the driver’s side window and Nigel moved close. Dani was acutely aware of Nigel’s warm thigh pressing against his. He smelled the drummer’s unique scent … less piney today, maybe because he hadn’t started drinking gin yet, but just as devastating. He fought back the low moan of desire that threatened to rumble out of his throat as he focused on the drummer’s tawny eyes rather than his wide, sensual lips. He could not stop the swell of his cock—there was no force on earth that could keep it contained once he caught a whiff of Nigel.

He felt as if he had been struck dumb. He could not think of a thing to say to the gloriously sexy man who was now so close. All he could do was drink him in and grin like a fool. He would have felt considerably more self-conscious about his response, except Nigel seemed to be in almost the same state. The tall Englishman stared at Dani as if he were a long-lost lover, his smile lighting up his whole face.

They looked at each other giddily for several long minutes before Nigel said, “I know you’re tired of hearing it, but I must apologize one more time in person. Dani, I never meant to hurt you. I’m such an idiot. I am so very sorry. Can you ever forgive me?”

“I already have,” Dani said, reaching up a hand to stroke the stubble on Nigel’s cheek.

Nigel turned his head slightly and kissed Dani’s hand.

Dani sucked in his breath. His focus shifted to the luscious lips that had just graced his hand.

“May I kiss you, Dani?” Nigel asked.

“Yes.”

The moment Nigel’s lips touched his, Dani was lost. The outside world faded and his only awareness became sensation. The feel of the warm lips against his. The taste of that probing tongue. The strong hands that ran down his chest and swept around his back to pull him closer, and then moved forward again to tweak his nipples.

His moans, which he was barely aware of making, became whimpers of desire. His hips moved on their own accord, pushing his now throbbing cock forward, wanting to grind against the drummer. He hadn’t quite lost his senses to the point of humping the sexy Brit, but he was close.

They broke apart briefly to gasp for air. Nigel put his sensuous lips next to Dani’s ear and whispered huskily, “Dani … you are unbelievably sexy … so responsive.” Nigel’s fingers found Dani’s crotch and expertly unfastened his fly.

It occurred to Dani to protest. Things were moving along very quickly. But his straining cock was uncomfortable—crowded and hot. We’re alone. Why not? Lust had already melted his brain; any coherent protests were subsumed by the heat of his loins.

As his stiff shaft sprang out of its confines, Dani let out a small wail. Nigel leaned in for another kiss, and Dani attacked his mouth as if it were air and he was suffocating. He sucked hard on Nigel’s tongue, moaning with desire. Once Nigel managed to extricate his tongue, he nipped and sucked on Dani’s bottom lip. Dani thrust his hips forward, pushing his cock into the drummer’s waiting hand.

As Nigel’s long fingers began stroking his cock, every wet dream, every waking fantasy he’d recently had, was suddenly real. Nigel’s hot breath tickled his ear. His hungry mouth sucked on his lobe. Those long, long fingers pulled on his cock, slowly, from base to tip.

Without warning a fierce jolt of pleasure shot through Dani. He screamed as if in agony, the pleasure so intense it blinded him. He had no control over his body as it convulsed and spasmed. Cum splashed out in a great pulsing stream from his desperate cock.

He became aware of Nigel chuckling softly.

Fuck! Did I really just do that? Feeling his face growing red, he buried it in Nigel’s hard shoulder and whimpered softly. He wasn’t capable of anything more.

Several minutes later, when his breath was back to normal, he ventured to say, “Fuck! I didn’t think I’d cum instantly. I’m sorry.”

“It was beautiful,” Nigel whispered, kissing the top of his head.

Dani found the strength to lift his head a little and look around. “Oh my God! My shirt!” His shirt was liberally covered with jism. Some was on his pants. Some was on Nigel’s pants. Some was on the seat, the door, even a little on the window.

“Shit! It’s everywhere!”

Nigel started to laugh, at first softly, then louder until he was shaking and roaring. Dani couldn’t help but join him.

“I’m sorry,” Nigel gasped, tears streaming out of his eyes. “I … I guess I shouldn’t have touched you.”

“What am I going to do about my shirt?” Dani moaned when he finally stopped laughing enough to speak.

“Just take it off.”

“I can’t go shirtless to a fancy party!” Dani was aghast.

“Of course you can. Your chest is far finer than any clothing you could buy to cover it.” He was already tugging on Dani’s shirt trying to get it up over his head. A low purr came out of his throat as Dani’s abs were exposed. He tore the shirt off and dove in for a suckle on one of Dani’s dark nipples. Dani moaned and his cock sprang back to life. Just then, they felt the limo pulling over.

“Shit, we’re already here!” Nigel’s disappointment was keen.

‘Fuck!” Dani began frantically mopping up cum with his discarded shirt, first from his pants then from Nigel’s, then from the seat and the door. As the limo door opened wide Dani suddenly realized his pants were still unzipped. He dropped his shirt on the floor and yanked the zipper closed a fraction of a second before a grinning Tommy climbed in.

“Hey Nigel, Dani!” Tommy bobbed his head at them and eyed Dani’s state of undress with a cocked eyebrow. “Ahem. Nice shirt.” He took a seat across from Nigel.

Kaeden climbed in, spikes bouncing. “Dani! Sweetie!” he cried and squeezed between Tommy and Nigel to give Dani a tight hug and a kiss on his cheek. He was wearing short white shorts and a turquoise sequined tank top. His fingernails were painted sparkly turquoise to match. He also wore dangly earrings and high-heeled gold sandals.

Nigel let out a low, threatening rumble. He couldn’t help it. Since Dani had admitted to only having had four lovers, he had wheedled details from him and discovered that Kaeden had been one of them. Even though Dani had assured him that they were strictly plutonic now, seeing Kaeden nuzzle his boy raised his hackles.

Kaeden shot him a look that said, Chill! He turned to Dani. “Where’s your shirt, honey?” Just then he spied something that looked suspiciously like a shirt wadded up on the floor.

“Could I maybe borrow one of yours?” Dani asked.

“Of course, sweetie.” Kaeden started to back out of the limo, but Nigel stopped him with a “Wait!”

“Dani I bought something for you. I’d be honored if you’d wear it tonight.”

“You bought me a shirt?” Dani squeaked.

“Yes, well … sort of. I like buying stuff for you, Dani.”

Dani picked up on the “sort of,” but before he had a chance to question him further, another boy climbed into the limo. He was a compact Latino with big puppy dog eyes and very white teeth. He was introduced as Juan.

He was followed closely by Sean and then Ty.

“Oh my God! It smells like spunk in here.” Sean’s bellow was followed by a hearty laugh. His gaze flicked to Kaeden, drinking him in.

Dani turned bright red. So did Ty.

Nigel looked like he was about to say something, but he glanced at Dani and refrained. Instead he patted Dani’s thigh comfortingly and smiled at Sean.

“We can cover up the smell with this,” Sean produced a perfectly-rolled joint and waved it back and forth.

“Oh, please! You’re not going to smoke that in here are you?” Kaeden was clearly irritated.

“How many of you would like to smoke this now?” Sean asked, grinning evilly.

“Hell, yeah!” Tommy’s enthusiastic yes drowned out Nigel’s more subdued, “I’m in.” Juan had also chimed in with an affirmative. Both Dani and Ty nodded their assent.

“Sorry, Little Bird.” Sean pulled a lighter out of his pocket. “You’re outnumbered. You can ride up front if it bothers you that much.”

Kaeden made a frustrated sound. “I’ll just crack the window.” He was sitting next to the window across from Dani, and now he rolled it down six inches or so and put his face near the opening.

“We have one more stop before we get to the hotel,” Sean informed them. “We need to pick up a few more supplies.”

Nigel slipped an arm around Dani’s shoulder and pulled him close. He fit perfectly. All that bare, perfectly sculpted flesh, not to mention his sweet, musky scent, was driving him to distraction. His cock was achingly hard. He needed some relief soon; he couldn’t wait until they got to the hotel. He nuzzled Dani’s head and squeezed his bulging biceps.

Dani leaned into Nigel and sighed. He loved how comfortable he felt under the Englishman’s arm. He rested his hand lightly on Nigel’s solid thigh and breathed in his unique scent. In spite of the fact that he’d just had a rather impressive orgasm, he was hard again.

When they arrived at their next stop, Nigel disentangled from Dani and climbed out after Sean.

“Ty, do you want to come too?” Sean asked.

Ty looked up surprised. “Sure.” He slid out as well.

Nigel looked at Sean curiously.

“I thought he might be interested in meeting these guys. I don’t think they’ll mind. I’ll just say he’s my little brother.” Sean winked at Ty. He does kind of seem like a little brother.

He leaned into Nigel. “Did you see what Kaeden’s wearing around his neck?”

“A cock ring.”

“Good God, that’s so hot! I can just picture him with that gold ring around his sweet, hard dick. It’s too bad he’s such a prude about drugs. He’s obviously not a prude about sex.”

Nigel nodded in agreement. “He looks awesome tonight.” He could understand Sean’s attraction to and frustration with the beautiful femme.

Next time I get a chance on the Internet, I’ll have to research cock rings, Ty thought. Sean had clearly meant his comment only for Nigel, but Ty had sharp ears. He had noticed Kaeden’s necklace as well and was glad he hadn’t asked him about it.

Inside the limo, Kaeden looked at Dani. “So, like, the ride between your place and ours is probably less than ten minutes. Obviously you took advantage of that time.”

Dani blushed furiously. “I know. I can’t help it. I mean, we even spent the first five minutes just staring at each other. He barely touched me and it was all over! I’m so over my head! All I have to do is smell him or hear his voice and I’m fucking spurting like a fire hydrant.”

Kaeden laughed. “My advice is, enjoy yourself but don’t fall in love. Look at this as a short-term thing.”

“Yeah, I don’t figure it’s going to last too long. I’m trying not to get emotionally involved. He’s hard to resist though. He calls me three or four times a day.”

“Really?” Tommy raised a tweezed eyebrow. “Nigel is a notorious sleep-around. And he’s like chill. I’m amazed he’s calling you so much. You must be quite the lay.”

“I haven’t slept with him yet.”

“Oh, I see!” Tommy said softly.

Dani looked at him questioningly. “What do you see?” he asked with trepidation.

“Maybe that’s why,” Tommy explained. “You know how some guys are—they’re into you like crazy until you sleep with them, and then they never call you again.” Tommy looked sympathetic.

“So you think I should put off sleeping with him for as long as possible so I can keep getting invited to these awesome parties?” Dani laughed. Inside he felt a little queasy. Tommy’s probably right. He is likely still a total asshole. He’s on his best behavior and coming on to me because he wants to take my virginity. I’d better not expect anything more.

Dani had already decided he wanted to lose his virginity to the sexy drummer, even if a real relationship never resulted. It was high time that he discovered what it was like to go all the way. If he waited too much longer, being a virgin would put him into true loser status. Someone with as much experience as Nigel could make his first time, if not pleasant, at least not too uncomfortable. Dani had heard a number of horror tales about first times. He was looking forward to it with apprehension.

The absent threesome returned shortly. Sean and Nigel climbed into the limo on the side near Dani, Nigel taking a seat next to him and Sean sliding in next to Kaeden with a lecherous grin.

Dani noticed that Ty looked a little wild around his eyes, but Nigel’s arm slid around his shoulder and his full attention shifted to the sexy drummer.

*****

“The shirt?” Dani asked.

They had just finished checking out the main room of the penthouse. It was huge and beautifully decorated in sixties retro turquoise and brown, with a kidney-shaped, fully-stocked bar. Sean was busy mixing drinks to order. No one else had arrived yet. Ty, Tommy, and Juan stepped through the large sliding glass doors to check out the wraparound deck with a sweeping view of the city.

“Oh, yeah. Your … uh … shirt,” Nigel said.

Once again Dani caught the nuance of Nigel’s tone and wondered what kind of shirt the drummer had bought him.

“It’s in my bedroom.”

Dani followed Nigel into one of the three bedrooms in the penthouse. When Nigel closed and locked the door a chill of excitement swept up Dani’s spine. He eyed the king-sized bed. Things could get very interesting very quickly.

Nigel rummaged briefly in a small suitcase and brought forth a white plastic bag. “I’m sorry it’s not wrapped,” he apologized, handing Dani the bag.

“That’s okay. You didn’t have to get me anything.”

“I saw it and couldn’t resist getting it for you. I hope you like it.”

Dani opened the bag and peered in. What he saw was a jumble of leather belts. “What the hell?” He grabbed one of them and hauled it out. The entire mass came out and shook loose. “This isn’t a shirt! It’s a harness!”

“I know,” Nigel purred. “It’s going to look awesome on you. Even better with your hands cuffed to it in the back…” Nigel stopped when he saw the look on Dani’s face.

Dani sucked in a huge breath of air and shuddered slightly. The visual of himself chained up and at Nigel’s mercy sent a shock of intense desire through him. His face paled as all his blood ran to his cock. He took another gasping breath.

Nigel interpreted his reaction as fear and quickly backtracked. “I’m sorry, Dani. I was joking. I wouldn’t ever do anything you didn’t want me to.” Then Nigel caught sight of the huge bulge in Dani’s jeans and stepped close. “Of course, if you wanted to try it…” One of his hands went to Dani’s erection, to feel its hardness through the buttery leather. His other hand slid behind Dani to grab his firm butt and pull him closer.

Dani moaned and leaned against the drummer, too overwhelmed with lust to speak.

“Try it on.” The drummer’s voice was husky.

Nigel helped Dani pull the harness on, and he adjusted several of the straps so it fit him perfectly. Dani stepped in front of the mirror to look at himself, and Nigel sat on the bed to admire him.

“My God! I can’t wear this out in public!” Dani’s voice was hushed.

“Maybe not in public, but you can certainly wear it to our party. I think it’s the perfect thing for my boyfriend to be wearing.”

Your boyfriend? Dani’s heart skipped a beat and he looked at Nigel in surprise. “I didn’t think you had boyfriends,” he said. “I thought you only had lovers. Like, short-term lovers.”

“I might make an exception for you.” Nigel winked at him and his eyes devoured Dani hungrily. “Turn around so I can see the back.” His voice was low and commanding.

Dani suppressed a shiver as he turned around. He stood perfectly still for a very long moment until he heard the next command.

“Turn back around and unzip your pants.”

Dani turned to face Nigel. The minute their eyes met, the heat that flared between them was intense—their fire had reached flashpoint. Dani bit his bottom lip and slowly undid his jeans. As soon as his fly was open, his cock sprang out, jutting straight up and starting to drip.

Nigel moaned. “Come here,” he said, his voice barely above a whisper.

Dani could not have resisted if he’d tried. The drummer’s eyes were glued to his cock, and as soon as Dani was close Nigel grabbed his jeans and lowered them, exposing Dani’s balls and uncovering his ass.

Dani felt light-headed.

Both of Nigel’s hands reached for his bare ass, kneading. His long tongue slid out and swept around the head of Dani’s cock, licking up the clear, salty drops that had gathered.

“N … Nigel!” Dani’s voice was desperate and Nigel chuckled low in this throat as he dove in to savor his boy’s love juices.

“N … N … God! Stop!” Dani cried.

Nigel immediately pulled his mouth off Dani’s cock and looked up at him. “What’s wrong?” he asked, worried that he had hurt his boy again.

“Nothing!” Dani gasped. “I just don’t want to cum.”

“You don’t?”

“Well, not immediately. Two more seconds and I’d be there.”

Nigel grinned. “You are so unbelievably horny! Come here.” He grabbed Dani around his waist and wrestled him onto the bed.

Dani giggled as the tall drummer pulled him down and rolled on top of him, pinning him down. His giggles disappeared under a wave of lust as he felt the drummer’s hard member throbbing against his thigh. He barely had a chance to gasp for air before Nigel swooped in for a deep, passionate kiss.

Dani succumbed to the kiss and the feel of the drummer’s toned body against his. He could not help but hump against him. It felt so awesome having him on top, where he clearly belonged. He distantly heard the sound of a zipper being lowered, and the next thing he felt was an iron shaft sliding between his legs.

Terror streaked through him. He yelped and pulled away, panicked.

Nigel froze at the noise Dani made. It was clearly not one of lust. He did not try to stop him when he shifted quickly away. He looked down at his boy and saw his eyes round with fear, his breathing ragged.

A chill flooded him. “Oh, Dani! I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to frighten you.” He is so fragile. So inexperienced. So precious. “I’m sorry. I need to be more careful.”

Dani’s fear dissipated immediately when he saw the expression of concern and remorse on Nigel’s face. “It’s okay. I’m fine. I just thought…” Dani trailed off, not wanting to admit that he’d thought Nigel had been about to mount him.

The Englishman guessed anyway. “Oh, Dani! I would never do that to you.” Nigel’s chest was still tight. “I wouldn’t take you unless you were well prepared. He slipped an arm around Dani’s waist and pulled him close again. Looking deep into his storm-grey eyes he whispered, “When I take you Dani, you will be begging me for it.”

“Really?” Dani’s eyes widened in amazement.

“Besides, I’m not going to take you tonight.”

“You’re not?” Dani felt a rush of relief followed immediately by a wave of disappointment.

“Oh, no! We’re going to do this right. We need to get to know each other better. I want you to trust me. When you’re ready we’ll go out for a romantic evening, just the two of us, and then we’ll go someplace comfortable and private and take our sweet time. And yes, by the time I finally take you, you will be begging me.” As Nigel stared into Dani’s eyes, they darkened with lust.

“Kiss me?” Dani asked breathlessly.

Nigel leaned in to press his lips gently against his boy’s soft, shapely ones.

Dani moaned and sucked hungrily on Nigel’s bottom lip, letting his hands rove over his chest. They slipped down to grab Nigel’s ass and urge him on top once more. The Englishman obliged but slowly, carefully.

Now that his fear was assuaged, Dani was once again drowning in the smell and feel of the tall musician. His hands crept up under the drummer’s shirt. “Take your shirt off,” he urged, pulling up on the hem.

Nigel smiled down at the perfect boy underneath him and pulled his shirt off. His cock drooled slowly onto Dani’s hard abs. The blond’s eyelids were heavy with lust; his mouth parted, panting softly. Nigel watched him admire his chest and shoulders. The youth slid his fingers into the dark curls between his nipples and pulled, gently playing.

Nigel shifted slightly, bringing their hard dicks into contact.

Dani gasped as he felt the velvet steel against his own shaft. Both of them watched as the two cocks began to battle as if sword fighting. Nigel moved his hips expertly causing his long, slender cock to shimmy and dance against Dani’s shorter, thicker one. Their precum intermingled, coating both of them liberally.

Dani was going out of his mind at the slow, tantalizing sensations. He needed more. With a groan of desire, he captured Nigel’s mouth in his own and thrust his tongue in. At the same time he began frantically undulating his hips. Nigel answered with a moan, taking over dominance of their kiss and bringing Dani’s rhythm down a notch with his own slightly slower pace. Their cocks rubbed together between their cum-slick bellies sending amazing sensations rippling through them.

Dani felt like he was about to explode. It was too much! Too good! He began making short little desperate whimpers. His hips moved on their own accord, thrusting fast and hard against the unyielding warmth of Nigel’s flat stomach. Their dueling cocks spewed clear, sticky liquid, enhancing the pleasure of the delicious friction.

Dani wanted faster, harder. He needed to cum. Nigel kept the pace controlled, drawing out the experience, but Dani could tell Nigel was getting close too. His breath hitched and his tense body was hard as a rock. When Nigel made a sound that was half moan, half wail, Dani lost it. With his own frantic cry, his hips rocked hard and fast into Nigel’s, his balls clenched, and shudders of pleasure took over. He was barely aware of streams of his hot cum spurting from his cock as he drowned in the ecstasy of his orgasm.

Nigel came too then, with a great groan and a few desperate thrusts. His jism painted their stomachs, mixing together with the evidence of Dani’s orgasm. He collapsed on top of the beautiful blond and they both lay still, gasping for air for several minutes.

Finally Nigel raised himself up on an elbow and smiled down at Dani. His answering grin could have put the sun to shame.

“That was amazing,” Dani whispered.

“It will only get better, love,” Nigel promised.

Dani sighed happily and then started to giggle as he saw how liberally covered in spunk they both were.

“It’s a good thing you took off your shirt.”

“Yeah, we’d better get cleaned up before it soaks into the leather, and we have to walk around the party wearing the evidence of our lust.” Nigel climbed out of bed and helped Dani up. They went into the private bathroom and cleaned each other carefully, liberally sprinkling kisses and smiles between swipes of the washcloths.

They had just finished drying each other when someone pounded on the door. “Hey!”

Dani didn’t recognize the voice. “If you’re done fucking your whore, the guys from MJD records want a word.”

“Fucking Taylor!” Nigel muttered. His face darkened dangerously. He quickly fastened his jeans, grabbed his shirt, and strode to the door.

Outside in the hallway Kaeden had heard Taylor’s comment and taken umbrage with it. “There is no cause to be insulting.”

“Look who’s talking. You’re the sluttiest twink I’ve ever seen.”

Kaeden sucked in his breath sharply. He could not believe the venom in Taylor Rayne. His shocked brain searched for an appropriate comeback. He considered a slap would work fine, but just then he heard a low growl.

Sean lunged past him and pinned Taylor to the wall, his forearm against Taylor’s throat.

Taylor gasped and struggled weakly.

The door flew open and Nigel stormed out, followed closely by Dani.

“You apologize!” Sean growled. “To both of them. Right now!”

Taylor’s pale eyes went wide. His focus shifted from the furious Irishman to the equally raging Englishman behind him.

“I’m sorry,” he gasped out. “I didn’t mean nothin’.”

“Say, “I’m sorry, Dani. I’m sorry, Kaeden. I didn’t mean what I said. I’m an idiot.”

Taylor glared at him and Sean leaned in a little. Taylor made a rasping sound.

“Hey, hey! Let’s not damage your singer’s vocal cords.” This voice belonged to a heavy-set man who scurried down the hallway. He had graying hair, a thick, black mustache, and was wearing an expensive-looking suit.

“You promise to keep a civil tongue in your head?” Sean coaxed, not wanting to let Taylor off too easily.

“Yes, yes,” Taylor gasped.

Sean reluctantly eased up and stepped away from the blond singer. “You fucking need to learn some manners,” he grumbled.

Taylor rubbed his throat and glared at Sean.

They all trooped into the main room where several more men in suits were waiting at the bar. There were caterers there now too, setting up in the small kitchen.

One of the men made introductions all around. Three of the suits were from MJD records, and the man making introductions was Jerry, Leather’s manager.

Jerry was a small, thin man with a short, conservative haircut. Dani judged him to be fifty or so. He was handsome or at least would have been if he didn’t look like he hadn’t slept in days. His eyes were bloodshot, the skin underneath them shadowed with purple. His hands trembled slightly as he lifted his drink.

As they began to talk details about a recording session, Dani’s mind wandered to the awesome sex he’d just enjoyed with Nigel. He was interested in the mechanics of how record deals came down, but that topic didn’t hold a candle to the crazy lust that had taken over his body and mind. His eyes shifted out of focus as he relived his recent experiences.

He was brought back to the present by a comment Kaeden had just made. He had missed it, but Jerry picked up on it and was going with it. “He’s right. That’s a better option. I think that’s what we want, boys.” He looked to Nigel, Sean and Taylor for agreement. Nigel and Sean nodded silently, Sean casting a somewhat awed look at Kaeden. Taylor’s expression was sour, as usual.

Dani noticed one of the music industry men was looking at Kaeden thoughtfully while another glared at him, openly hostile.

What does Kaeden know about producing music? Dani wondered.

Just then there was knock on the door. Nigel bounded over to open it. There were exclamations, hugs, and introductions all around as a small group of beautiful people entered the room. The party was starting.

Chapter Sixteen

Ty felt amazingly good. He was trying to keep his drinking under control—he didn’t want to make a fool of himself by throwing up or passing out or worse. But he had a pleasant buzz going from the champagne, and he had been shadowing Sean, happy to partake in the musician’s cocaine whenever he brought it out, which was often. They usually slipped into his bedroom for the drugs, although a few times he had indulged at the bar outside, which was stocked but unmanned and at the far end of the deck. It had a convenient glass top.

Ty judged there to be about a hundred and fifty people at the party, all of them perfectly manicured, perfectly coiffed, and dressed to the nines. He would have felt quite self-conscious if he hadn’t had so much cocaine.

As it was, he was relaxed enough to flirt, and plenty of people seemed to want to talk to him. He was evasive in his answers about his personal life, which appeared to make him more attractive somehow. People love a mystery.

Eventually he found himself cornered on the balcony by a beautiful brunette. She was young, Ty discovered, only a few months older than he was. She laughed a lot, and Ty thought perhaps she wasn’t used to drinking. He enjoyed her company. She was interesting and flirtatious, and she made him feel good.

Eventually he slid an arm around her lithe waist, as that’s what she seemed to want. She was warm against him and smelled like gardenias. He wasn’t sure he liked her scent, but he liked her warmth. He gazed into her big brown eyes and ran his fingers through her long, silky hair.

She snuggled against him and looked up at him endearingly. Teasing seductively, her gaze shifted back and forth between his eyes and his lips.

She wants a kiss, he realized. I should want a kiss too. She does feel good in my arms. He leaned down and gently pressed his lips against hers. She wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed back passionately.

“Wow! Check out Ty!” Kaeden said quietly to Dani.

“That’s surprising,” Dani responded. “I was pretty sure he was gay.”

“I thought so too.”

I should feel something, Ty thought. His mind focused dispassionately on the mechanics of the kiss. Aren’t I supposed to be getting hard or something? What’s wrong with me? Kissing the gorgeous girl didn’t feel right to him. It felt almost like kissing his sister and he was not comfortable with it. He forced himself to continue. I should want this. I should enjoy this. What is it about her that is not turning me on? Suddenly a vision of himself wrapped in Abe’s huge, strong arms with the black man’s generous warm lips on his own flashed into his head. He felt as if he’d just been zapped with a bolt of lightning. His cock immediately swelled.

He broke off the kiss with a gasp. “Excuse me,” he panted, pulling away from her, panicked. He made a beeline for the bathroom, almost hyperventilating.

She smiled after him, thinking she had caused the sudden bulge in his leather jeans. Things are going well with the cute redhead, she thought.

Once in the bathroom with the door locked, Ty sat down on the toilet and took deep, calming breaths. What the fuck? I want Abe! I really want Abe. How can that be? It must be the drinks and the drugs messing with my head. If I weren’t so wasted, I’d be into that girl—wouldn’t I?

The realization that he didn’t enjoy kissing women was disconcerting. He couldn’t deny that the last two women—the only two women—he’d ever kissed, he found unappealing. He had been quite uncomfortable with both kisses. He had put his lack of interest in Trish down to her age, although she really wasn’t that much older than he was. She was the same age as Abe, actually. But there was no reason he could think of that he shouldn’t be all over the beautiful brunette. She was friendly, funny, lovely and seemed to be into him. Why don’t I like her?

Once again Abe popped into his mind and he shivered violently. I’m not in love with Abe. That’s ridiculous. He rescued me. I’ve been thinking about him so much just because of that—somehow I became infatuated with him because he saved me. But I don’t want to kiss him. That’s sick! He firmly shut the image of being with Abe out of his mind.

He turned his thoughts instead to what to do about the brunette now. He got up off the toilet seat and relieved himself as he mulled over how to get away from her. He liked her, but he didn’t want to kiss her, and he wasn’t sure what to do to discourage her now that he had gone this far.

When he was done and had washed his hands, he still didn’t have a good plan. He felt shaky and confused. As he stepped out of the bathroom he saw Sean accompanied by the men he had met earlier when they made a stop to pick up cocaine. They were disappearing into one of the bedrooms. Ty slipped in behind them. One of the men locked the door.

Sean looked at Ty in surprise, and then in his usual blunt style he said, “Uh … Ty … I’m not sure you want to be in here for this. We’re not doing just cocaine. We’re shooting up—speedballs.”

Ty’s eyes widened. “Do you mind if I watch?”

“I guess not, as long as it’s understood that you don’t mention this to anyone—anyone at all!”

“Of course not.”

“Okay if Ty stays?” Sean asked, looking at the others for their agreement.

Both the men nodded. One of them, whose name Ty remembered was Tim, smiled at him broadly. The other one ignored him.

Tim seemed to be the main connection. Ty estimated that he was in his mid-twenties. Tall and thin, but not scary-skinny, he was an attractive man with high cheekbones and an aquiline nose. His sleek brown hair was pulled into a neat ponytail that hung halfway down his back.

The other man was shorter and heavier-set with olive skin and shoulder-length black hair. He looked like he might be Native American.

Ty watched fascinated as Tim pulled out his paraphernalia. He had a small black case from which he extracted several syringes encased in plastic, a strip of latex, a spoon, a tea candle and a small baggie of what looked like light-tan rocks. Sean tossed a baggie of cocaine on the desk as well. Ty noted that all three men looked anxious, perhaps excited.

“Sean, you’re going first?” Tim asked, as he prepped a syringe.

“Sure,” Sean said, reaching for the latex and tying it around his arm in a tourniquet. When it was ready, he took the needle from Tim. Ty held his breath as he watched. Sean’s face was a picture of concentration as he located a vein and slid the needle in. He released the tourniquet with his teeth as he pressed the plunger sending the illicit combination of cocaine and heroin into his veins.

He slid the needle out and set it carefully on the desk. “Oh shit!” he said softly, closing his eyes. A smile played on his lips. “That’s nice,” he murmured. The look on his face was pure bliss. After a few moments he opened his eyes and sat up, still with a smile on his face. He looked at Ty and his grin widened.

“John, your turn,” Tim said, handing the other man a ready syringe. John sat down on the bed and went through a routine similar to the one Sean had just gone through with like results. He relaxed on the bed with a sigh and smile.

“Ty?” Tim asked.

“No!” Sean said immediately, before Ty had a chance to accept or decline. He looked at Ty. “I don’t want the responsibility of getting you started. I think you shouldn’t. You can have some more cocaine.”

“Okay,” Ty agreed. He wasn’t sure he was ready to try heroin yet either, but it did look like it delivered an awesome trip.

John launched himself to his feet and scurried into the bathroom. They heard him retching into the toilet. A few minutes later he appeared in the doorway, grinning.

“Sometimes that happens,” Tim explained. “Usually by the time you get sick, you’re so high you don’t care.” Tim injected himself. Ty noted that he shot into his right arm rather than his left even though he was right-handed.

He must have destroyed his veins, Ty thought and shivered slightly.

Just then there was a knock on the door. Sean’s eyes met Tim’s, and Tim began to quickly pack up the paraphernalia that was strewn about the desk.

“Who is it?” Sean called out.

“Jerry. Let me in, man.”

Sean sighed and went to the door. He opened it just wide enough for Jerry to slip in and locked it again behind him.

Ty noted that Tim hadn’t had much reaction to his injection at all. He began to chop small rocks of coke with a razor on the glass-covered desk. Seeing Jerry, he dumped more cocaine onto the pile.

“You’re going to snort me out of house and home,” he grumbled good-naturedly.

“I wanted to talk to you about that,” Jerry said. “How much for a gram?”

Ty’s eyes widened when he heard Tim’s response. He had known cocaine was expensive but was still shocked at the reality of how much someone would be willing to pay for a miniscule amount of white powder.

A few minutes later, as the euphoria of the line he had just snorted hit his brain, he decided that it might be worth the price.

*****

“Mmmm, Dani!” Nigel nuzzled his ear and kissed down the side of his neck.

Dani moaned softly and leaned into Nigel’s hard body. They were standing behind the bar at the far end of the wraparound deck. There was no one close by, although Dani could see silhouettes of partygoers at the other end of the deck. He was supposed to be mixing drinks for himself and Nigel, but with Nigel distracting him, he hadn’t even gotten started.

Nigel’s attention returned to his ear, and as he started to suck on his tender lobe, Dani couldn’t help but gasp. For some reason his earlobe seemed hardwired to his cock.

“Dani, you are gloriously sexy,” Nigel whispered. “Beautiful, sensual, fuckable…”

Heat flared through Dani as Nigel pulled him close and ground his erection into his ass. Dani’s already firm cock swelled to full aching hardness. Nigel’s hand crept down and felt for it, stroking up and down its length through the soft leather of his jeans. Dani moaned. His knees felt weak as he leaned into the drummer for support.

Nigel’s nimble fingers unfastened his jeans and slipped inside, under his briefs. As Dani felt his dream man’s long fingers on his bare cock, he cried, “Oh shit!” His hips automatically bucked into the drummer’s hand even while his thinking brain was starting to panic.

“Nigel … uh, you’re going to have me spewing right here,” he panted.

“Tell me to stop if you don’t like it, love,” Nigel responded, continuing his assault.

“Uh…” Dani was at a loss for words. I can’t possibly say I don’t like it. The drummer was driving him wild and he didn’t want him to stop. His brain vacillated between embarrassment and sheer pleasure. The pleasure was winning.

“I need to taste you,” Nigel growled in his ear. He dropped to his knees and moved in front of Dani, sliding into the small space underneath the bar. His mouth enveloped Dani’s dripping cock in warm wetness, even as his fingers tugged Dani’s jeans lower on his hips.

Dani suppressed a wail as intense pleasure washed over him. He gripped the bar, panting.

“N … Nigel!” he hissed.

Nigel pulled off for a second. “Tell me to stop if you need to, love,” he said, immediately plunging back down onto Dani’s iron shaft.

“Oh dear God!” Dani whispered. I’m gonna cum right here in about three seconds! Dani observed the partygoers at the other end of the deck through slit eyes. He was lost in a haze of lust but ready to cry stop if anyone came their way. It’s dark over here. No one can tell, he consoled himself. He was too far gone to stop now. He could feel his skin flushing as his orgasm built. He focused on the sensation of Nigel’s tongue swabbing the head of his cock, slithering over the sensitive tip, and then sliding up and down, tracing the veins.

The drummer took him all the way into his throat and swallowed. He gripped the bar with both hands and held on for dear life as a powerful orgasm took him. He fought to keep the scream from escaping his throat, but he couldn’t stop the quiet groan. As Nigel lapped up the last of his release, he leaned heavily on the bar for support and started to giggle.

He heard Nigel chuckle softly.

“Hey!” said a silky female voice.

Dani’s head whipped up. He had collapsed over the bar, recovering. Now he saw that the lovely brunette that Ty had been kissing was standing on the other side of it.

“Hi. Can I mix you a drink?” Dani’s voice was slightly strained. He was acutely aware that his jeans were hanging off of him, and Nigel was still kneeling in front of him, giving gentle licks to his rapidly shrinking cock. He surreptitiously kicked toward the drummer to get him to stop. His cock was too sensitive for more stimulation even if he hadn’t been totally embarrassed by the thought that this girl might figure out what was going on.

“Sure. Can I have a rum and coke?”

“Coming up.” Dani tried to smile casually. He reached under the counter for a glass, being careful to keep his hips flush with the bar so she couldn’t see his state of undress. He filled the glass with ice from a bucket.

“Have you seen Ty?” she asked. “He went to the bathroom and never came back.”

“Er … no,” Dani managed to reply. He was preoccupied with what Nigel was doing under the bar. The drummer had pulled his jeans back up over his ass and was now slowly sliding the zipper shut.

“I’m sure he’s still here somewhere,” Dani assured her. He turned to grab the rum from the shelf behind him, grateful that his butt was now covered.

She pouted. “I’ve been through the whole party. He doesn’t seem to be here anymore. Why would he suddenly leave?”

Dani had a good idea where Ty might be, but he wasn’t about to tell this young woman. He handed her her drink.

“Maybe he got called away. I’m sure he didn’t mean to leave you without an explanation. He’ll probably be back soon.” Dani was winging it, trying to cover for Ty. He’s blowing it with this girl.

Dani was painfully aware of Nigel, still kneeling at his feet. He sensed Nigel’s efforts to control his mirth. He suffocated the urge to bend over and glare at him.

“Well, thanks for the drink.” She picked up her rum and coke and sauntered away as if she didn’t care. Dani could tell she was miffed.

“I want to go find Ty—see what’s going on with him,” Dani said. He was concerned about Ty and felt he should have been keeping a closer eye on him.

“Okay, love.” Nigel stood up and smiled down at him. “I’ll take a rain check for reciprocation.” He pulled him close for one more hot kiss.

Dani found Ty coming out of one of the bedrooms with Sean, Jerry, and a couple of men he didn’t know. Ty was obviously very high on cocaine. He sniffed and wiped his nose with a cocktail napkin from the buffet.

“Indulging, I see,” Dani said. He wasn’t judging. Neither he nor Nigel had done much cocaine at the party. They were too focused on each other to even think about it. When the opportunity had arisen, they had both partaken, but it had been more because of a social expectation than a desire for the drug on Dani’s part.

“Yeah.” Ty grinned at him, his eyes aglow with a little bit of craziness.

“That girl you were kissing is looking for you,” Dani said.

Ty colored. I guess I did kiss her in front of everyone. “Shit! I like her, but … I don’t want to kiss her and now I think she’ll expect it.”

Dani eyed him thoughtfully. “Well, maybe you should have thought of that before you started.”

“I didn’t know!” Ty protested. “I thought I’d like kissing her … but I didn’t.”

Gay after all, Dani thought. “Here she comes. Good luck!”

Ty grimaced and briefly considered bolting to the bathroom again. He took a deep breath and stood his ground.

“Hi Ty. I wondered where you went.” She smiled up at him hopefully.

“Sorry about that. I … uh … had some stuff to do.” Ty looked to Dani for help, only to discover that he’d disappeared. Shit! Some friend.

Dani had moved across the room to talk to Kaeden and Sean. “Looks like Ty has gotten himself in trouble with that little girl,” he announced quietly. “I think our original assumption was correct, and he’s just now figuring it out. Unfortunately I think she has designs on him. He doesn’t know how to get himself disentangled without hurting her.”

“What assumption?” Sean asked.

“We assumed he was gay, but I don’t think he’s figured it out yet,” Kaeden said quietly.

“So he’s having trouble getting rid of the lass now,” Sean said, quickly grasping the situation. “I can help.”

Before Dani or Kaeden could stop him, he strode across the room to Ty. The others hurried after him. Meanwhile the girl had snuggled into Ty again, and he had his arm loosely around her waist.

“Hey, Ty!” Sean boomed. “What are you doing flirting with other people? You’re with me.” He slid an arm around Ty’s waist and physically pulled him away from the girl. Then he planted a firm kiss on his lips.

Ty stiffened in shock. What the hell is he talking about? Panic started to set in, but the kiss didn’t last long, and as Sean pulled away he winked at Ty.

Ty knew he was bright red. He looked at the girl apologetically. She was staring at him in shock.

“Oh,” she said, trying to recover her composure. Her face darkened slightly. “If you’re with him, why did you kiss me?”

“I … uh,” Ty faltered.

Sean let out a low growl and hugged Ty tighter. “What did I tell you about kissing other people, Ty?”

“Uh…”

The girl had been looking at Ty reproachfully, but now her expression seemed to soften. She punched Ty playfully in the upper arm, “You should have told me you were dating one of the band members.” She turned to Sean, “Hey, can you get me some free concert tickets for the Summer Jam?”

“You mean I have to bribe you to keep you away from my boy?” Sean teased. He still had his arm around Ty’s waist, and Ty squirmed uncomfortably.

The girl looked at him with wide eyes and he laughed good-naturedly. “You’re cute. Maybe we should have a threesome.” He waggled his eyebrows at both of them.

Ty, who was still red from the kiss, blushed even more. The girl, who was obviously out of her depth, opened her mouth as if to say something and then closed it.

Sean laughed again. “Hey Jerry!” he called to their manager who was across the room. “Can you make sure this little lass gets complimentary tickets to the Summer Jam? However many she needs, within reason of course.” He winked at the girl.

She smiled broadly. “Wow! Thanks. See you around Ty.” She waltzed across the room to Jerry to find out about her tickets.

“See, no problem,” Sean said to Dani and Kaeden, pulling his arm away from Ty’s waist. “She’s not going to kiss Ty anymore and she’s not hurt or mad.”

Ty had been taking deep breaths, trying to calm his racing heart. “Uh … you mean you did that to help me out?” he finally managed to say.

“Sure. I’m not really interested in dating you.”

“You’re not?” Ty asked, relieved.

“Nah. You’re not my type.”

“Oh.”

Dani excused himself to go find Nigel and Kaeden went with him.

Ty mulled over what Sean had said. “It seemed like you were half-serious about the threesome,” he said.

“Well, that could have been a lot of fun,” Sean admitted. He glanced around to see if Kaeden was still within hearing distance and then added, “Truthfully I’m more interested in her than you. She’s lovely.”

“Really? I thought you were gay.”

“Not gay, bi. That might be why I like effeminate guys. You’re not feminine enough for me, Ty.”

“Thank God for that!” Ty said, smiling.

“I mean, with your looks, you could be, but you don’t act effeminate. I can’t see you wearing make-up or nail polish or high heels.”

“Yeah … no.”

“Sorry about the kiss. I hope I didn’t offend you.”

“No, it’s fine. Just don’t let it happen again.”

Sean grinned at him.

*****

Dani was relieving himself in Nigel’s private bathroom. He had closed the bedroom and bathroom doors but hadn’t locked either one. Now, suddenly, the door swung open and Nigel stepped in.

“Ah, Dani,” he said with a lecherous grin. “I was hoping I’d find you here in a state of semi-dress.” He ran hungry eyes down Dani’s beautifully sculpted back to his lovely, bare ass.

“Oh, my God, Dani!” he said huskily, “Your arse is a fucking work of art.” He dropped to his knees behind him just as Dani was finishing up.

“What…?” Dani started, but was interrupted by a low command from Nigel.

“Lean forward.”

Dani didn’t even question the order. Something in the Nigel’s tone demanded obedience. He leaned forward and braced his hands on the wall.

“That’s it!” Nigel encouraged. He pulled Dani’s pants down and off, and forced his legs into a wider stance. Dani sucked in a sharp breath, trembling in anticipation.

“Fucking perfect,” Nigel muttered as he squeezed Dani’s well-rounded globes with both his hands. He pulled them apart and ran his tongue down Dani’s crack.

Dani shuddered.

When Nigel’s tongue found Dani’s hole and started lapping at it, Dani let out a small shriek. “Fuck! What are you doing?” he gasped.

“Mmmmm. It’s called rimming,” Nigel murmured. “Just relax and enjoy.”

Dani had never felt such an exquisite sensation. As Nigel started his ministrations with his long, talented tongue, Dani was immediately transported to Nirvana. His dick swelled to marble-hardness and began to dribble into the toilet.

“Hold still!” Nigel ordered.

Dani fought to keep his hips from grinding back into Nigel’s face. He let out a constant stream of whimpers, and when Nigel pushed his tongue inside his passage, his whimpers became low wails.

He reached for his cock to jack himself, but was stopped by a firm command. “No! Hands back on the wall. You don’t touch yourself unless I give you permission.”

Dani whimpered again but complied. He became oblivious to everything except the amazing tongue lapping at his ass. Somehow the attention was translated into quivers of pleasure sent to his cock. Later, he could not have said whether Nigel worked him over for two minutes or an hour, he was that far gone.

Eventually he found his voice enough to start begging, “Nigel … I want … I need…”

Nigel chuckled. “What do you need, love?”

“Nigel!” Dani’s voice was desperate. “M … More!”

“You want more?”

“Nnngh!” Dani tried to make an affirmative sound but it just came out as a groan of desire.

“You want my big hard cock filling you where my tongue is, love?”

“Yes! Oh, yes!” Dani gasped.

“No. Not tonight.”

Dani’s groan was half from disappointment, half from ecstasy, as Nigel’s tongue returned to its delicious torture. He was doing things to Dani that he’d never dreamt possible. His cock was a spigot of precum. Heat undulated in waves up and down his body. His breathing was erratic, and he emitted a torrent of high-pitched cries.

“Please … oh please!” he managed to gasp out.

Nigel reached for his cock and started jacking him very slowly.

Dani screamed and spasmed, and his hot seed erupted in a gush to splash across the toilet and floor. His brain shut down entirely for a few seconds as the orgasm took him. When he came back he was leaning heavily against the wall with Nigel’s strong arms around his waist to steady him.

“Fuck!”

Nigel began kissing down his neck. “You’re amazing,” he whispered.

Dani trembled slightly. He felt like his limbs were made of jello. A deep peace settled over him. He sighed and let himself fully relax into Nigel’s arms.

“I could get used to this,” he mumbled.

Nigel’s response was a low, almost growly, purr. “Sweet Dani. Sweet, sweet Dani,” he said softly, rubbing his back in slow circles. When his boy was happy, he was happy.

*****

“You’re not really his little brother are you?” Tim asked Ty, looking at him intently. They were on the back deck. The party was still going strong, although it was not quite as crowded as it had been earlier.

“No, we’re just friends.”

“Friends or lovers?”

“Friends,” Ty answered firmly.

“I saw him put his arm around you and kiss you,” Tim accused.

Ty blushed. “That was … he was helping me get out of a situation I’d gotten into. We’re just friends.” Ty stopped himself just short of saying he was straight. He wasn’t so sure anymore.

“Do you want another line?” Tim offered. He smiled down at Ty, his hazel eyes picking up the light from the living room and seeming to glow.

“Sure,” Ty responded. “If you don’t mind. I can’t pay.”

“No problem. This one’s on me.”

Tim led the way to the bar at the end of the porch, and Ty trailed behind him, observing his confident saunter.

It had been a scorching day, but now the air was pleasantly cool with a hint of breeze. Ty took a deep breath and tried to clear his head. He felt fuzzy and not quite as happy as he’d been earlier. He definitely wanted more cocaine.

“So, how do you know the band?”

“We met at a party a couple of weeks ago. My friend Dani is dating Nigel … I think.”

“You think?” Tim sounded amused. He began chopping the small white rocks with a razor, making sure his body was between the people who mingled on the other side of the deck and the cocaine that was laid out in front of him.

“They got off to a rocky start. They seem to have gotten past that though.”

“Yeah, no kidding. They can’t keep their hands off of each other. I’ve never seen Nigel so attentive to one person. Usually he’s a shameless flirt.”

Tim looked up at Ty, catching his eye. “Do you want to try horse?”

“Pardon?”

“I could add just a little to the cocaine. You could snort it and see what you think.”

“I didn’t know you could snort it.”

Tim was already rummaging through his little black bag. “Sure. You can get a good buzz that way. It’s not as much of a rush as shooting it, of course. It’s a bit of a waste, actually, but since you’ve never done it, it won’t take much to get you high. You are eighteen, right?”

“What?” Ty recovered quickly. “Oh, yes, I’m eighteen.”

“Good. I don’t want to corrupt minors.”

Ty watched with a pounding heart as Tim dumped a small pile of the tan rocks onto the counter and began to chop them along with the cocaine.

“Let me know if someone comes. I’ll hide our shit real quick with that magazine.” Tim nodded toward a copy of Rolling Stone that someone had left sitting on the end of the bar.

Ty warred with himself. Am I really doing this?

It’s dangerous.

It’s just this one time.

I shouldn’t.

I really want to see what it’s like.

He still hadn’t come to a definitive decision when Tim handed him a small straw. He had expertly combined the piles and laid out four lines. Two were smaller, so Ty assumed those were for him.

Without another thought as to whether he should or shouldn’t, he breathed out and quickly snorted both lines. He handed the straw back to Tim. It took several seconds for the drugs to hit him, and then he grabbed the bar for support as a wave of dizziness washed over him. He felt fantastic. He was happy. Happy, happy, happy! He flashed Tim a huge smile as Tim finished with his own lines.

Tim smiled back benevolently.

Suddenly Ty’s stomach churned. He glanced around wildly and noticed a trash can next to the bar. Taking a few steps toward it, he leaned over and emptied the contents of his stomach into it. He still felt good, even while he was throwing up. A minute later he was done.

“Here.” Tim was next to him, handing him a clean bar towel. “Sorry about that. It happens sometimes, especially if you’re not used to it.”

“Thanks,” Ty said, wiping his face. The towel felt strange. It seemed as if all his senses were heightened and he could feel every individual fiber on the towel.

He stepped back to the bar to lean against it, and Tim handed him a bottle of beer. Droplets of water glistened on the outside of the bottle, making it sparkle. The bottle felt very cold in his hand. He swallowed some beer and felt the coldness sliding down his throat. It seemed like he could still feel it in his stomach. He shivered slightly.

“Are you cold?” Tim asked, sliding an arm around Ty’s shoulders.

“No, I’m good.” Ty pulled away. “Are you gay?” he asked bluntly.

“No. You?”

“No.”

Ty was relieved. It seemed lately so many people hit on him, he was increasingly afraid to be friendly to anyone. Sean seemed okay. After that first night, Trish had backed off and they had become friends. Tim, he hadn’t been sure about, but hearing that he wasn’t gay settled him. He smiled at him. “I really like it. It’s a pretty amazing high. Thank you.”

“Yeah, it’s my favorite. Heroin alone is great, but heroin and cocaine together…” He put his fingertips to his lips and kissed them, letting them fly open afterwards in the classic gesture of “delicious.”

*****

“Yoshi called. He’s done with his business for the evening and wants me to meet him,” Kaeden told Dani.

“You’re leaving then?” Dani asked, watching Kaeden’s lovely eyes as they scanned the room.

“Yes.”

Dani wondered what Kaeden was thinking. Did it bother him to be pulled out of a party to meet Yoshi, or was he looking forward to it? The expression on Kaeden’s face was pensive. Maybe he had mixed emotions.

“He’s sending a car around for me. Do you want a ride home?”

“Maybe,” Dani replied. He was really tired. Since his fourth orgasm of the evening, he’d been a limp noodle. He knew Nigel would be up for hours still, probably doing more cocaine and not going to bed until the last partiers left. He had to work early in the morning—one of the unfortunate consequences of being the new kid at a coffee shop. “Let me talk to Nigel.”

Kaeden smiled. Dani was hopelessly infatuated with the handsome drummer. The Englishman was certainly on his best behavior this evening. Kaeden worried that it wouldn’t last and hoped his friend was being careful with his heart.

He saw Sean come in from the deck. The big Irishman was an impressive sight. His blue silk shirt showed off a forest of thick, red curls on his chest. His leather jeans fit him snugly, showing off well-muscled thighs and a nicely rounded ass. It’s too bad about the drugs, Kaeden thought. If it weren’t for that I might have a go with him. He had decided Sean was not quite as rude as he had at first assumed.

A huge grin lit up Sean’s face as he approached Kaeden. Kaeden smiled back. “Hey, Sean. I wanted to thank you for inviting me to your party. It was a lot of fun.”

“You’re leaving?” The smile on Sean’s face was gone in an instant.

“Yes, I need to go.”

“Are you sure? I can make it worth your while to stay.” He winked at Kaeden.

Kaeden smiled again. “No, I’m sorry. I really need to leave.”

Sean could not hide his disappointment. “Well, if I can’t talk you into staying, let me get the limo to give you a ride home.” He pulled out his phone.

“No, that’s not necessary. I have a car coming already.”

Sean didn’t say anything. He looked across the room as if something interesting had captured his attention. “Well, thanks for coming. Excuse me.” Sean’s deep baritone rumbled pleasantly, but Kaeden caught a hint of a catch in his voice. The big Irishman moved away, not even looking at Kaeden again.

Kaeden felt as if he’d just been snubbed. He didn’t have time to examine his feelings before his eyes were drawn to movement at the front door. Yoshi had just walked into the party. Or, perhaps a better word for it would be “staggered.”

Oh shit! Kaeden’s eyes widened as he dashed to Yoshi’s side. The small Japanese man smiled at him crookedly. His face was bright red, and it seemed like he was having trouble focusing his eyes.

“Kaeden, sweetie!” he said. His accent was so thick he was difficult to understand.

“Yoshi!” Kaeden slipped an arm around the older man’s waist to help steady him. “I wasn’t expecting you here.”

Yoshi’s eyes roved the room. “I want to know what party you go to without me.”

Thirty feet away, Sean was staring at Kaeden and Yoshi, his expression one of bewilderment. “That’s him?” he asked incredulously. “That’s the fucking geezer that owns Kaeden?”

Nigel put a restraining hand on Sean’s arm. The minute he’d realized that Yoshi had arrived, he’d rushed to the Irishman’s side. “Yes, I believe that’s Yoshi,” he said. He sounded much calmer than he felt. The situation definitely had potential to be explosive, especially since Sean had been drinking all evening, and Yoshi appeared to be inebriated as well.

“What the fuck does he see in him?” Sean grumbled, not taking his eyes off the pair.

Nigel observed Yoshi objectively. He was shorter than Kaeden, probably by several inches, but the high heels the femme was wearing caused him to tower over the other man. An attractive Japanese with smooth skin and pleasing features, Yoshi was of indeterminate age but clearly quite a bit older than Kaeden. He appeared trim and fit—his perfectly tailored suit didn’t hide much.

His entire aspect spoke of money. Nigel guessed that his shoes alone cost upwards of a thousand dollars. The platinum ring on his manicured right hand sported one of the largest diamonds Nigel had ever seen.

“He’s rich, remember?” Nigel answered Sean’s question.

Yoshi’s expression soured. “I don’t like it,” he told Kaeden. “You can’t go to party when I not here. You can’t wear…” he waved his hand at Kaeden, “these clothing when I not here.”

Kaeden’s surprise at Yoshi’s comments was immediately followed by indignation. He clenched his jaw and bit back the snappish reply that sprang to his mind. He might agree not to go certain places without Yoshi—if he paid him enough money—but he was going to wear whatever the hell pleased no matter what!

Sean didn’t hear what Yoshi said, but he saw him scowl at Kaeden and wave his hands. A low growl came out of his throat as he took a half-step toward them, his face darkening dangerously.

Nigel tightened his grip on his friend’s arm. “Settle down. I think Kaeden can handle this. Yoshi’s just drunk.”

Kaeden heard the growl followed by Nigel’s insistent whispering.Now was not the time to have this conversation with Yoshi. He didn’t want to argue in front of his friends, and he really didn’t plan on discussing it with Yoshi until the older man was sober. He swallowed his pride and smiled sweetly at Yoshi.

I need to get him out of here before there’s a scene. I need to do it carefully though—I don’t want him to wonder why I want him to leave.

“Do you want to sit down—I’ll get you some water or tea?” Kaeden offered. “Or we could go back to your hotel, baby. We could continue where we left off yesterday.” He swayed his hips suggestively.

Yoshi grinned lecherously and slipped a hand under the front of Kaeden’s tank, caressing his stomach gently.

Kaeden heard another low growl behind him. Just then Dani appeared at his side and Yoshi removed his hand.

“Uh, Kaeden?” Dani interrupted them. “I … uh … I’ll get my own ride home.”

“Nonsense. I don’t think Yoshi will mind.” He turned to the smaller man who was looking Dani up and down. Yoshi’s eyes settled on the leather harness and the taut muscles underneath it.

“Yoshisan, this is Dani Stewart, my friend that I told you about.”

“Pleased to meet you, Stewartsan,” Yoshi said politely, bowing slightly.

Dani smiled warmly, “Pleased to meet you too,” he mumbled. He was not used to formalities.

“Do you think we could drop Dani off at his apartment?” Kaeden asked. “It’s on the way.”

“Of course. No problem.” Yoshi smiled at Dani, and Dani thought he caught a hint of something more than friendliness in the smile.

“Let me see if Ty wants to come with,” Dani said, turning to go find the young redhead.

He saw Ty right away. He was standing with Sean and Nigel. Ty and Nigel’s attentions were focused on Sean. The Irishman was staring at Kaeden and Yoshi, his expression carefully blank, but his face was as white as a sheet.

Dani went to Ty. “I’m getting a ride home with Yoshi. Do you want to come?”

“No. I’ll stay for a while. I can walk … from here.” Ty had almost said, “walk home,” but his blanket under the bushes was not really a home. He looked at Sean. “Do you mind if I stay a bit longer?”

“Of course not. Stay as long as you like. Checkout isn’t until noon. We’ll be here until then.”

“Thanks!” Ty grinned at him, but Sean did not return it with one of his own.

Dani looked at Ty. His eyes were slightly unfocused, but he didn’t seem drunk. “Are you okay?”

“Sure! Never better!” Ty grinned again. “I’m just not ready to go yet.”

“Don’t you have to work tomorrow?” Dani asked.

“Yes, but not until four.”

“Well … still. Be careful. You don’t want to lose your job.”

“I’ll be fine,” Ty said. And at that moment, he believed it.

Dani heard Sean gasp. One look at the Irishman’s face caused him to turn and look at Kaeden and Yoshi.

Yoshi had one arm tightly around Kaeden’s waist. A few of his fingers on his other hand were entangled in the cock ring Kaeden was wearing around his neck, drawing him down for a kiss.

This is my queue, Dani thought. “Thanks for the party, sweetheart!” He and Nigel shared a hasty but passionate kiss.

Kaeden tried to make sure Yoshi’s caress was brief, ever aware of Sean’s presence somewhere behind him. He pulled out of the sloppy kiss but smiled coyly at Yoshi.

“Are you ready?” Dani was at his side.

“Yes!” Kaeden said gratefully. He kept an arm around Yoshi’s waist to steady the older man as they headed to the door. While they were exiting he glanced back at Sean.

When their gazes locked, Kaeden was shocked at the intensity of the pain he saw in Sean’s eyes. The redhead was clearly having difficulty controlling himself. A wave of guilt washed over Kaeden followed by anger. Even if I weren’t with Yoshi, I wouldn’t be with him. He has no right to make me feel guilty. The door snapping shut behind them closed the door on his emotions as well.

Tim had come in from the deck in time to see Yoshi’s kiss and Sean’s reaction to it. “Are you in love with the little femme?” he asked in surprise.

“Fuck no!” Sean said bitterly. “I don’t give a shit.” He moved behind the bar, picked up a bottle of Jameson from the shelf, and took a long pull from it.

*****

Yoshi sat between Kaeden and Dani in the limo. His arm was around Kaeden, but his eyes were on the gorgeous blond.

“You wery sexy,” he said to Dani, slurring his words slightly.

Dani wasn’t sure he’d heard him correctly. Yoshi was clearly very drunk; his movements were sluggish.

“D’you wanna join us?”

Dani was startled, and from Kaeden’s expression, he was too.

Yoshi slid a hand onto Dani’s leather-clad thigh, “Please join us. I will pay.”

This Dani understood clearly. He tried not to let his shock show on his face, “No, thank you,” he replied, “I have a boyfriend.” He shifted away from Yoshi, moving his thigh enough that Yoshi’s hand no longer rested on it.

“Maybe you don’ tell him?” Yoshi suggested with a leer.

“No, I couldn’t. I wouldn’t,” Dani replied firmly. His heart was aching for Kaeden, whose eyes were suddenly glassy with tears.

“Too bad,” Yoshi said. He closed his eyes and leaned back against the seat. His body slumped against Kaeden’s.

Kaeden was hurt, not so much by Yoshi inviting Dani to join them, but by the fact that he hadn’t asked him if it was okay. He bit his lip and blinked hard to keep tears from spilling over.

Yoshi began to snore softly.

Kaeden looked at Dani and rolled his eyes.

Dani smiled at him encouragingly. “He’s just really drunk, Kae,” Dani whispered. “He didn’t mean anything.”

“Still, he could have asked me first. It looks like that exclusive relationship is only one-sided. I guess there’s not much I can do about that. He is paying me.”

Dani glanced at Yoshi’s face to make sure he really was asleep before he said, “No matter how much he pays you, you can’t let him treat you like shit.”

Kaeden sighed. “This is the first time he’s done anything like this. Always before he’s been wonderful. Maybe it’s just the alcohol.”

“Here’s my stop,” Dani said as the limo pulled to the curb. He leaned around the sleeping Yoshi and kissed Kaeden lightly on the cheek. “Take care, Kae.” He squeezed his hand briefly before climbing out.

Yoshi’s weight was warm and heavy against his side. Kaeden rested his hand on Yoshi’s firm thigh and sighed. Yoshi’s snores were louder now.

Kaeden looked wistfully out the window as the limo pulled away from the curb. This is not exactly what I thought it would be like. When he first started working for Sal, he expected he’d be seeing different men every time. He was excited but also scared. When Yoshi had made his offer of an exclusive, he had been very happy. He had thought it would be like having a boyfriend—but it wasn’t, quite.

I guess we have a few things to discuss in the morning, he thought. 

Chapter Seventeen

Ty’s head throbbed, and his eyeballs felt like they’d been rubbed with sandpaper. He was having trouble getting his sluggish brain to form coherent thoughts. Luckily his job didn’t require much thought, but the physical effort of moving boxes around was making his stomach churn. He desperately hoped he wouldn’t throw up. He felt eyes on him and glanced up to see Bill glaring at him.

“You seem slow today,” Bill said.

“I didn’t sleep well last night,” Ty responded, guilt flaring in his gut. I actually didn’t sleep at all last night. He had taken a short nap that afternoon. It was the day after Leather’s party, and Ty was feeling the effects of all the drugs and alcohol he’d consumed. He’d had a great time at the party, but now he wished he’d quit partying and gone to bed. He stifled a groan.

“Hmmph!” Bill made a disapproving sound.

Ty ignored him, and struggling a bit under the weight of the box he’d picked up, he hefted it to chest height and set it on top of a stack of boxed canned goods. The box he’d just moved revealed a crate of peaches behind it. Fruit flies hovered in a thick cloud above the rotting fruit.

“Uh oh,” Ty said under his breath. Bill always had a fit when something like this happened.

Bill heard him muttering and his gaze followed Ty’s. “Son of a bitch!” he exploded. His face went beet-red. In three steps he was at the crate. He picked up one of the peaches and threw it against the far wall. The soft fruit splattered on contact, showering the area in sticky peach pieces. A large glob and the pit slithered down the wall. “Fuck! That’s a hundred and fifty dollars worth of peaches—ruined!”

Ty took a step back and eyed Bill warily. With his quick temper, Bill reminded Ty a little of his dad. He had grown up with yelling and displays of temper. So far, Bill had not gotten physical with him, but Ty didn’t trust that he never would.

Bill glanced briefly at Ty before stomping away and disappearing into the front part of the store.

Ty looked at the box of peaches. Such a shame. He hadn’t been there when the peaches had been delivered, otherwise he would have made sure they were stocked immediately.

The heady smell of ripe peaches hung in the air, but the peaches were beyond saving. He picked up the crate, carried it out the back door, and tossed it’s contents into the dumpster. That done, he cleaned up the peach mess. The less Bill was reminded of his mistake, the better. He poked around, shuffling boxes to make sure there were no other perishables in danger of spoiling. Finding none, he picked up a box of condiments and went into the main part of the store to start stocking shelves.

Bill was nowhere to be seen. He glanced up as he saw Tika coming down the aisle toward him. She stopped in front of him, hands on hips.

“Hi, how’s it going?” he asked. He didn’t expect a civil answer. Tika had given him the cold shoulder since his first day there.

She ignored his question. “Bill had to go home,” she said. “I’m leaving too as soon as I balance out the till. Bill says you can stay and work your normal shift. Just leave through the back door and make sure it’s locked behind you.”

Ty’s eyes widened in surprise. “He’s leaving me here by myself?”

She snorted. “He seems to trust you, although God knows why. Poor man is desperate, I guess.”

“I’m trustworthy,” Ty said defensively.

“Well, you’d better be. Bill has enough problems without some little shit stealing him blind.”

“I would never do that. I don’t steal—even from grumpy-asses.” Ty was still smarting from being yelled at, although he knew that Bill was mad at himself more than at him.

“Yeah, he’s always been grumpy and he’s getting worse. He’s under a lot of stress with his wife and all. Shellie’s a sweet woman. You should see them together.” She gave a short laugh. “I guess opposites really do attract.”

Ty looked at her curiously. This was the longest conversation he’d ever had with his coworker. “What’s going on with him?”

“Maybe if I tell you it will give you some appreciation for Bill’s mood swings. Lord knows, he’ll never tell you himself. His wife has diabetes and she’s getting bad fast. Poor woman’s in a lot of pain. He told me yesterday they want to amputate her foot. She used to work here with him, but she’s been too sick for the past six months or so. He’s running the store and trying to take care of her at the same time, and all his money is going to her medical care. I think it’s really taking a toll on him.”

“Oh.” Ty swallowed. “That’s rough.”

“You’d better be good,” she warned. “If you fuck up while you’re here by yourself, I’ll make you sorry.”

Ty looked her up and down, wondering what she could do to him. She was a tiny girl but not scrawny. She certainly didn’t take shit from anyone. He didn’t want to find out what her revenge might be.

“I’ll be fine,” he said shortly. He opened the box of condiments and started stocking the shelves.

She watched him for a few seconds before returning to the checkout stand to close out.

Bill had started paying him on Fridays. He had been saving as much of his pay as possible. He was trying to live on fifteen dollars a day. So far most days he ended up going over his allotment because he kept buying alcohol. But he had managed to save a little over two hundred dollars after two weeks of work. He knew he needed at least eight hundred to even think about getting his own apartment. And he had to be able to prove he was eighteen. In six more weeks he hoped he’d have enough money saved. He’d be off the streets before the weather turned.

After he turned eighteen, his dad wouldn’t be able to do anything to him. He’d call his mom and meet up with her to get his driver’s license and birth certificate and any other personal paperwork they had. The thought of seeing his mom again brought a large lump to the back of his throat. He missed his mom and sister terribly.

For some reason, thinking of his family brought Abe to mind. He missed the big black man too. He had thought more than once about visiting him, but he couldn’t. He didn’t admit to himself that he was afraid. He convinced himself that it was better for Abe if he stayed away. If Abe truly wanted him as a boyfriend, and Ty thought he might, then it was better if he didn’t see Abe again. Why hurt him by teasing him with what he couldn’t have?

Abe’s better off without me anyway. I’m so messed up. I’m weak … and a loser. He’s got his shit together. He wouldn’t want someone like me if he really got to know me.

Ty was still wallowing in self-pity a half-hour later when Tika came by to tell him she was leaving. “If you do anything bad to Bill, I’ll hunt you down and hurt you,” she threatened.

Ty almost laughed, but one look at her stink-eye stilled him. “Yes, ma’am,” he replied with a straight face. She narrowed her eyes at him and huffed away.

Once he was alone, Ty sat back on his heels with a big sigh. He was really tired and his head was pounding so hard it felt like it might implode. He considered helping himself to a bottle of pain-relievers and either leaving enough money to cover it or paying for it when he came in the next day, but he thought the better of it. Bill had made it very clear that even the appearance of dishonesty would be the end of his job. I should have bought some while Tika was still here minding the till.

An hour later, with his eyes drooping and his body feeling heavy, he considered taking a nap and then just making up the time after he woke up. He nixed that idea too, worried that Bill might show up to check on him. Instead he ended up working an hour past the end of this shift just to get to a good stopping point. He told himself that he was slow today because he was so tired, and that was his own damn fault. It would be cheating to charge Bill for a full eight-hour shift if he didn’t get as much work done as he normally did.

When he opened the backdoor to leave, he was dismayed to see that it was pouring rain. He had been working near the back of the shop and hadn’t noticed. He hesitated in the doorway. He was desperate for sleep, and now his normal sleeping spot was out of the question. In fact, he hoped that Dani would be home tomorrow so he could bring his blanket over and get it washed and dried. It would be soaked.

He had been lucky so far. May was traditionally a very dry month as was June—until it started getting really hot. Once the daytime temperatures climbed into the nineties, thundershowers rolled in. They usually didn’t last long, but the rains were often torrential.

While he stared bleakly out the back door, lightening flashed, illuminating driving rain and a small river gushing down one side of the alleyway. The lightening was immediately followed by a deafening clap of thunder.

He jumped. Christ it’s bad! I’m not going out there until it lets up some.

Having made that decision, he closed and locked the door, swept a small area of the floor in the backroom and lay down, putting his head on his backpack. The concrete floor was hard and the air smelled faintly of garbage, but he fell asleep almost immediately.

*****

“What the hell are you doing here?”

Ty woke up instantly upon hearing Bill’s angry voice. He sat bolt upright, blinking in the morning sun that streamed through the open back door. Bill had apparently just come in, and he was standing over Ty, hands on hips, glaring at him.

“I’m sorry! I’m sorry!” Ty apologized, jumping to his feet. “I was waiting for the rain to let up. I … I guess I fell asleep.”

“My shop is not a crash pad. Get the hell out of here,” Bill growled.

“Yes, sir.” Ty lost no time in grabbing his backpack and heading toward the door. Guilt and worry shredded his guts. He stopped short and turned to Bill. “Am I … am I fired?”

Bill glared at him for a long second, and Ty’s heart sank. “Not this time, but you’re not to sleep here again, understand?”

“Yes, sir. Thank you, sir.” Ty’s face burned with shame.

“See you at four,” Bill growled, but he sounded less angry than he’d been at first.

 *****

Nigel felt like he was walking on a cloud. In his entire life he’d never been so infatuated with someone. The more time he spent with Dani, either in-person or on the phone, the more he wanted to see him. This was a new feeling for him. Always before he had rushed his partner into sex and then quickly tired of him. Most people were just too clingy. Dani was not. He had proven that when he had left the party with Kaeden. Nigel had actually been a little hurt but also pleased. Most of his lovers would have stayed to the bitter end, not letting him out of their sight.

The occasional man who was not clingy was usually sleeping around on him, and that he couldn’t abide. He’d had mostly one-night-stands, but if he was dating someone in particular, he didn’t sleep with anyone else and expected the same consideration from his partner. He had never had a relationship last more than three months. Most didn’t go past a third date.

He and Dani had only had one official date—the hotel party—but he’d spoken on the phone to Dani dozens of times. They had a dinner date set up for Thursday, but today was only Tuesday and he was going insane. He needed to see his boy sooner. He wanted to spend all of his waking hours with him—and all of his sleeping hours too. He smiled to himself. I seem to be the clingy one in this relationship.

Dani still had not told him where he was working, but he knew it was a coffee house near his apartment. Nigel also knew Dani’s schedule because they talked so often on the phone. Luckily the coffee houses also served tea, his drink of choice. He was making the rounds, hoping to find Dani at work so he could simply sit and watch him for a while. Just being near the beautiful blond made him happy.

This afternoon he walked into a new clean shop, Café Donovan. As soon as he stepped through the doorway, he froze in shock. Someone was playing and singing one of the songs from their demo CD. What the hell? After he recovered enough to walk past the counter, he saw the small stage set up at the far end of the L-shaped room. Sitting at the keyboard, playing, and singing a breathtaking rendition of their song, “Angels,” was Dani.

Nigel sank into the nearest empty chair, starring at Dani in wonder. His clear tenor voice rang across the room as his fingers flew over the keys. The song sounded different—better; someone had made changes to it. Dani’s voice had a lilt that fit the haunting melody perfectly. As Nigel watched and listened, his heart swelled with a strong emotion that he couldn’t identify; he felt as if he were going to burst.

Dani was focused on the keyboard, his long bangs hiding his face. As he started the final chorus, he glanced up into the audience. Nigel knew the minute Dani saw him. His eyes widened, his fingers stumbled on the keys, and he missed singing the beginning of the next line. He recovered quickly, turning back to the keyboard and picking up the song where he left off to finish it out in beautiful style.

Nigel was enraptured. Dani had said he liked to sing, but Nigel had no idea his voice would be so melodic … so passionate … so memorable. He had real talent. He was not just a gorgeous face and a sexy-as-hell body, he was the whole damn package.

Enthusiastic clapping greeted the end of the song. Dani stood, gave a small bow, and jumped off the low stage. A young woman with a guitar climbed onto the stage and shyly took a seat at the mic.

Nigel only had eyes for Dani. He had gone behind the counter and disappeared into the back room somewhere without even looking at him. Nigel was sure that Dani had seen him. Why would he leave? Isn’t he even going to come say hello?

Just then Dani reappeared, hurrying toward him. Their eyes met; the young man looked really worried. Nigel stood up and smiled at him hesitantly. What’s wrong?

Dani stopped in front of him and immediately stammered, “I’m sorry. I’m really sorry.”

“Sorry for what? Can you sit for a minute?”

Dani looked slightly relieved. He nodded and took the chair across from him. Nigel sat back down too.

“What’s wrong, Dani?”

“Oh, God! I thought you’d be mad at me. I didn’t ask for permission to sing your song in public. I … I hadn’t planned to, but I’ve been practicing it—I really like it! I had only two songs ready for today but the crowd wanted more and—”

“I can understand why,” Nigel interrupted.

Dani grinned, and his face pinked from the praise. “I didn’t have anything else to sing. I didn’t expect anyone to be here that would recognize that song.”

“It’s okay, Dani. I’m not upset. Actually, Taylor probably would be since we wrote the song jointly, but he gets upset about everything anyway. Your version is different. Did you make those changes yourself?”

“Uh, yes. I had to adapt it for the keyboard and … yeah, I rearranged it a bit.” Dani dipped his head in apparent shame.

“It sounds incredible—way better than our version. I had no idea you were so talented.”

Dani glowed. “I’ve always loved music. I seem to be good at it.”

Nigel snorted. “Good? You’re fantastic, Dani. I can’t wait to hear you play and sing more.”

Dani’s smile would have lit up a black hole.

“When do you get off work?”

Dani glanced at the clock on the wall. “I have forty-five minutes left.” Noting the queue at the counter, he stood up. “I’d better go help.”

“Do you want to do something together when you get off?”

“Sure. Are you going to wait here? Can I get you something to drink?”

*****

An hour later Dani and Nigel left the café together. They both had silly grins on their faces. Nigel grabbed Dani’s hand as they walked down the street and their fingers entwined. “Is this okay?” he asked.

“Yes, of course.”

“My van is parked around the corner. Do you want to go for a drive?”

“Sure. I haven’t seen any of the surrounding countryside except for what I saw through the bus window on the way here.”

“There’s a good-sized lake to the south. We could find someplace there to sit and watch the sunset.”

“That sounds really nice.”

The day was still hot even though the sun was starting to slant toward the horizon. Heat radiated up from the sidewalk, and a light sheen of sweat broke out across Dani’s skin. He was wearing a T-shirt, jeans, socks and tennis shoes—altogether too many clothes for the temperature. Nigel was wearing shorts, sandals, and a tank top which showed off his lean, toned body. He looked amazing.

Heat spread up Dani’s arm from Nigel’s hand. His cock was already becoming uncomfortable in his tight jeans. Damn! They hadn’t even kissed or talked about sex yet and his libido was in overdrive. He could smell Nigel’s scent though, strong because of the heat and his bare skin. Dani sighed happily.

“Here she is. She’s not much to look at. Actually she’s not much to drive either, but she’s all mine.”

They stopped in front of an older model VW van. The red paint had faded to a dull brick color; there were dings in the doors, dents in the fender, and a bit of rust above the wheel casings.

“That’s cool. I don’t have a car at all, so who am I to complain?” Dani smiled up at Nigel and was delighted when the Englishman pushed him gently against the warm van and dove in for a kiss.

Dani’s arms wrapped around Nigel’s neck, pulling him closer, drowning in his scent. Nigel’s tongue snaked into Dani’s mouth and he sucked on it hungrily. They began to grind their crotches together. Dani’s erection became achingly hard in the space of a gasping breath, and he felt Nigel’s answering swell hot against his own.

“Hey, get a room!” someone yelled at them, snickering.

They broke their kiss then, laughing and panting.

“I guess we should go,” Nigel said, his voice husky.

“Mmmm, yeah!” Dani reluctantly agreed.

Inside, the van was scorching hot. “I’m sorry, I don’t have air-conditioning,” Nigel apologized, starting up the van and rolling down all the windows. “It will be better once we’re on the motorway.”

He glanced at Dani whose eyes were still heavy with lust. The bulge in his jeans looked painful. “You should take off your shirt and unzip your jeans,” Nigel suggested. “You’ll be more comfortable.”

“You just want to see my bare chest and hard cock,” Dani teased, pulling his shirt off over his head.

Nigel looked at him and waggled his eyebrows lasciviously before shifting his focus back to driving. There was a lot of traffic on the roads downtown. Presently, however, they stopped for a light. Grinning evilly, Nigel leaned over and took one of Dani’s nipples into his mouth, sucking and biting gently.

“N … Nigel!” Dani’s cry was accompanied by a jerk of his hips forward as far as the seatbelt allowed. “L … light’s green!” he panted.

Nigel eyed him appreciatively one more time before taking his foot off the brake. “You’d better take off your jeans too. I wouldn’t want you getting heat prostration.”

Dani smirked. “If you’re worried about me getting too hot, you should probably stop touching me.” He pulled off his tennis shoes and socks, wiggling his toes in delight.

At the next light, Nigel looked at Dani with a lustful grin. “Guess what, Dani—I got my results back!”

“Huh?”

Nigel reached behind his seat for a manila envelope. He handed it to Dani, explaining, “When you said you’d gone to the clinic, it reminded me that I should go too. I always wear a condom, but I try to get tested regularly just to be sure. Anyway, I’m clean!”

While Nigel was talking, Dani pulled the papers out of the envelope and glanced through them, noting that the results were indeed all good. Not that he doubted Nigel. He slid the papers into the envelope and handed it back with a smile.

When Nigel took it, he leaned over for a kiss. Dani tangled his hands in Nigel’s long, soft curls as their mouths met with crushing passion. Dani parted his lips and Nigel immediately invaded, tasting of tea with cream. Their tongues slithered against each other in a frantic dance. The outside world faded; there were only tongues and lips and moans and the musky scent of horny male.

They both became aware of the honks at the same time. Nigel pulled away from Dani, grinning. “I guess I should drive,” he said. Addressing the impatient drivers behind them he muttered, “Hold your horses!” He shifted the car into drive and took off.

Dani’s cock was now uncomfortably hard and hot. He desperately needed to give it freedom. Hesitating, he looked out the window. Will people notice? Do I care? Unzipping his jeans, he adjusted his cock up so it popped out of his fly but was still constrained by his navy cotton briefs. He sighed with relief.

Nigel glanced over at him, his eyes burning with desire. “Take your jeans all the way off,” he commanded in a low voice.

Dani shivered in spite of the heat. When Nigel used that tone, he obeyed. They were just entering the on-ramp for the freeway. Safe enough, he thought. Suppressing his natural modesty, he unbuckled his seatbelt and pulled his jeans off. “Don’t get in an accident while I’m not belted in,” he warned with a laugh.

“That’s a real possibility,” Nigel said, ogling him. “You’re quite distracting.” He looked over his shoulder away from Dani as he merged onto the freeway. Traffic was heavy, but it was moving at a good pace.

“Maybe I should put them back on.”

“No!” Nigel barked, and then more softly he said, “I’ll control myself.” Without looking, he reached over with his right hand and found Dani’s cock. “It’ll be difficult, but I can do it.” He rubbed his thumb over the head, pressing the fabric against the heated skin and grinning when a drop of dampness moistened the cotton.

Dani moaned through parted lips. His eyelids drooped with lust.

“Fuck, Dani! You’re so delightfully sexy.”

Dani was rapidly melting into a pool of wanton desire. Feeling Nigel’s long fingers on his cock, even through his underwear, swamped him in waves of pleasure. He thrust his hips forward into the friction of his lover’s hand as far as the seatbelt would allow. Small cries flew out of his mouth and his hands fluttered, not knowing where to land.

“Hands up! Behind your head.” Nigel used his dom voice.

Dani obeyed instantly. The position made him feel vulnerable.

Nigel pulled his hand away from Dani’s cock, but he kept glancing at him lasciviously, his eyes going back and forth between Dani and the road.

Dani moaned in frustration. His cock was now weeping generously. He felt close to orgasm just from the smoldering glances he was getting from Nigel.

“Oh sweetheart, you look so hot!” Nigel’s voice was a sexy purr. The position of Dani’s hands behind his head showed off his bulging triceps and his washboard stomach. His thick shaft was clearly visible, struggling to come out from behind the damp cotton. Nigel’s own cock was rock hard and starting to drip too.

“Fuck, Dani! Pull your underwear down and jack yourself with just one hand. Leave your other hand behind your head. Stroke slowly. I don’t want you to cum yet, I just want to see you touching yourself.”

Dani let out another moan and quickly yanked his briefs down to his knees. He dutifully put the arm closest to Nigel up behind his head again, knowing that Nigel liked the view and probably his scent as well. He gathered a bit of precum in his other hand and lubricated his cock, moving excruciatingly slowly. Any faster pace and he’d spill. A whimper of need erupted from his throat.

“Oh sweet boy!” Nigel moaned, “So … so sweet.” I need to get off the damn motorway! They were away from the city now and Nigel took the next exit. He drove a short ways down a country road, focusing most of his attention on Dani now that there was no other traffic about.

Dani’s body shone with a sheen of sweat, causing the light to glint off his well-defined muscles. His head was thrown back, his tousled blond locks adding to his sexiness. His full, red lips parted slightly, and Nigel could hear his breath stuttering in and out unevenly. He had started jacking faster, and as Nigel watched, he saw Dani’s balls twitch.

“Stop!” he commanded. “Both hands behind your head again.”

Dani groaned in frustration but complied. His rock hard cock jerked suddenly and spewed precum. Dani continued to pant and moan, close to release.

“Fuck! Aren’t you the sexiest man alive?” Nigel rumbled.

“No, you are!” Dani’s rasp was barely intelligible.

Slowing down, Nigel turned the van onto a dirt road, pulled to the side, and parked. In a flash he was kneeling in front of Dani on the cramped floor. After unbuckling Dani, he pulled his briefs all the way off. “Oh so lovely!” he murmured as he dove onto Dani’s cock, swallowing it to the hilt.

The sound that came out of Dani was one of desperation mingled with joy. His fingers tangled in Nigel’s tawny mane.

Nigel sucked hard, hollowing out his cheeks as he pulled his mouth slowly off of Dani’s cock. He swept his tongue around the head before he plunged back down, burying his nose in Dani’s lovely caramel curls.

Dani’s wail could have woken the dead. His hips bucked convulsively as he sprayed the back of Nigel’s throat with cum. Dani continued to spasm as his orgasm wound down, but his awareness was still in Nirvana.

Nigel cleaned him gently with his tongue, and when the last of his seed had been swept away, he kissed and sucked his way slowly upward. He followed Dani’s treasure trail to where it began and soon found a delightful belly button to tongue. He continued his quest, paying extra attention to Dani’s nipples on his way. He kissed along his collarbone and nipped his shoulder gently. Sweeping his tongue up Dani’s perfect jaw-line, he kissed his smoothly shaven chin and pulled back to look him in the eye.

Dani’s hands found their way to Nigel’s shoulders, caressing softly. His head lolled back, his eyes were slits, and his breathing was rapid. When he saw Nigel looking at him, he roused himself from his post-orgasmic stupor. “Good God, Nigel! I keep thinking it can’t possibly get any better, and then it does.” He noticed that at some point the drummer had taken off his tank top. His eyes roved eagerly over his lover’s hairy chest.

Nigel smiled and could not resist kissing those alluring, shapely lips.

Dani returned the kiss languidly, but Nigel’s lips on his were urgent. Realizing that Nigel had not yet been satisfied, Dani reached down and started rubbing his lover’s erection through his jean shorts. He was rewarded with a hiss into his mouth.

Using both hands, he deftly unfastened Nigel’s fly and eagerly stroked the hardness that sprang out, caressing it through Nigel’s silky briefs. Nigel trembled under his hand.

In the times they’d been together, Dani hadn’t yet played with Nigel’s cock. The drummer was always doing things to him, and now he was greedy for his turn. He pulled out of the kiss so he could see the drummer’s cock. As he yanked Nigel’s shorts and briefs down, fully exposing his prize, he heard Nigel’s sharp intake of breath.

His eyes feasted on his lover’s cock. It was long, but not too thick, jutting up from a forest of dark curls. Curving slightly to the left, it was a lovely dusky color with prominent veins running up the stiff shaft. A drop of precum glistened at the slit.

“I want to taste you,” Dani growled.

Nigel’s response was an appreciative moan. He pulled himself up so that he hovered over his young lover, resting his forearms on the seat behind Dani’s head.

Nigel’s gorgeous cock was tantalizingly close. Dani could smell his wonderful, animal musk. A drop of precum drooled out and dripped onto Dani’s chest. Not wanting to miss any more, Dani hungrily took the head into his mouth, savoring the first salty taste of his new love.

“Oh God, Dani,” Nigel panted. “Fuck, you feel good!”

Dani hummed with pleasure as he slid Nigel’s cock as far back into his throat as he could without choking. He started a rhythm, using one of his hands to stroke the base of Nigel’s shaft below his mouth. His other hand began a thorough massage of the drummer’s heavy balls.

Nigel succumbed to bliss. It was not the best blowjob he’d ever received, but it was Dani giving it, and if the noises he was making were any indication, his boy was enjoying himself immensely. That thought sent him straight to the edge. He began to thrust, barely controlling himself from ramming his cock all the way down Dani’s tight throat.

“D … Dani!” he wailed as wave after wave of pleasure washed through him, tingling down his limbs. Dani was using his tongue to devastating effect, and each time he went down he seemed to go further than the time before. Nigel worried that he was thrusting too hard, but Dani was still humming happily, so he gave himself over to the overwhelming sensation of Dani’s wet, sucking mouth.

Dani’s hand on his balls squeezed more firmly, almost but not quite to point of pain. Nigel’s legs began to shake as a tremendous orgasm ripped through him. With a roar he convulsed, shooting his hot seed down Dani’s throat. His orgasm seemed to go on and on as he struggled to maintain a thread of consciousness.

Slowly, slowly his senses returned to him. He became aware that he was gasping on his in-breath and moaning softly on his out-breath. Small shudders still reverberated through his body. He had collapsed onto his knees, one on the seat to either side of Dani’s thighs. Dani was gently lapping up the last few drops of cum that dribbled out of his slit.

It was damn hot in the van, and sweat dripped off of him to land on Dani or on the seat. He saw that Dani was soaked with sweat as well.

Dani looked up at him. “Was it okay?” he asked.

Nigel didn’t answer right away. He was still recovering; his brain was not processing words yet.

“I … I know that wasn’t very good,” he heard Dani say. “I just need more practice. I’ll get better.”

Nigel’s brain engaged. “Not very good?” he asked incredulously. “Dani, it was fantastic! If you get any better, I’m not sure I’ll survive.” He grinned down at him. “Although, if you want to practice on me, I’ll gladly risk it.”

“Really?” Dani looked relieved.

“Oh God, yes!” Nigel dove in for a kiss but ended it quickly. It was too hot in the van, and he was completely spent from his massive orgasm. He groaned as he pulled his shorts back on and settled himself into the driver’s seat. He leaned back and closed his eyes, letting his heart rate slow.

“Fuck, Dani! That was awesome. I can’t wait to do it again.”

Dani laughed. “I’m ready.”

Nigel opened one eye and looked over at Dani. He had pulled his briefs back up, but the outline of his cock was clearly visible, straining against the fabric.

“Horny boy!” Nigel teased. “I’m not nineteen anymore. I need some recovery time. And it’s too damn hot in here. Shall we go to the lake?”

“Yes,” Dani replied enthusiastically. “I’d love to go swimming.”

“That sounds great. We don’t have any suits, but I do have a towel.”

“Depending on who else is around, I might swim in my briefs.”

“Or we could skinny-dip.”

“Maybe,” Dani said doubtfully.

A half-hour later found them parked at the lake, and a ten-minute walk down a trail brought them to a secluded cove. The beach was covered with smooth pebbles rather than sand. A large flat rock that jutted out into the water made a perfect place to sit. They settled their things on the rock, and Dani entered the water in his briefs, quickly submerging himself in the cold depths. “Shit, it’s cold! Feels great though.”

Nigel stripped bare and followed Dani into the water. “I can’t swim well, so I’ll need to stay where I can touch,” he said.

Dani smiled. “I’ll save you if you get into trouble. I spent a couple of summers as a lifeguard.” To prove his point he swam a short distance out and then returned to Nigel with a perfect crawl stroke.

“Is there anything you can’t do?” Nigel asked, admiring his form.

“Well, I’m not much of a cook.”

“Neither am I. Maybe we can learn together.”

*****

Two hours later the night was fully dark, but warm yet. They were still lounging on the rock by the lake. After they had been swimming for a while without seeing other people, Dani had finally been bold enough to take his briefs off, but the damage had already been done; they were soaked. They had both put their clothes back on, but Dani had left his briefs spread out on the rock to dry.

“You’re driving me wild knowing that you don’t have any underwear on,” Nigel said, nuzzling Dani’s neck. They had already exchanged blowjobs again, and even though he felt well sated, the thought that Dani’s bare cock was just a zipper away was titillating.

“Are you hungry?” Dani asked.

“Famished.”

“Me too.”

“What about Joe’s Bar and Grill? It was a couple miles before the lake turnoff. I’m sure they have greasy burgers and greasier chips.”

“Sounds great! I’ll buy,” Dani said.

“What do you mean, you’ll buy?”

“Just what I said. You’re still taking me out on Thursday aren’t you?”

“Of course.”

“If you’re going to insist on paying for dinner on Thursday, then I insist on paying tonight. Unless you want to go Dutch for both?”

“Dani, I’d like to buy both tonight and Thursday.”

“Well you can’t. If you buy tonight, I’ll buy on Thursday.”

“You are so stubborn!”

Dani smiled.

“Dani, be reasonable,” Nigel said. He almost followed it with, “I make more money than you do,” but luckily his better judgment prevailed and he bit back that comment.

“It makes total sense for us to share expenses, Nigel. I won’t have you paying for everything. I’m not that kind of guy. You’ve already bought me several things. I love what you’ve given me, but if you keep spending money on me without letting me reciprocate, it will make me uncomfortable.”

“Can’t have that,” Nigel grumbled, pinching Dani’s ass hard. “Wouldn’t want you uncomfortable,” he teased, pinching him again.

“Hey!” Dani cried, laughing. He began to tickle Nigel in self-defense, and a tickle-fight ensued until both of them succumbed to laughter and collapsed together in a heap. Not too much later their hard bodies were pressed tightly together, grinding rhythmically as they shared passionate kisses. Dani was well on the way to his third orgasm of the evening. 

Chapter Eighteen

As Abe stepped up to the front door of his apartment building, his skin began to crawl. He paused, glancing around, uneasy. Someone is watching me.

His eyes were drawn to a silver sedan parked on the street in front of his building. He could make out the dark silhouette of a large man in the front seat. He could not distinguish any features, and he could not have said later what it was that made him feel this way, but at that moment he sensed such malice emanating toward him from the shadowy figure that a shudder ran through his body. He turned quickly back to the door and pushed it open.

Relief flooded him as he was met by a rush of cool air. He shot one last quick look over his shoulder at the man in the sedan. He was still there, exuding hatred.

Abe was not easily intimated, but he had a really bad feeling about that man. He was sure he was watching him with ill intent. Thinking about it, he was also sure this was not the first time. He couldn’t imagine why anyone would stalk him, but he decided to be extra wary when next he went out.

*****

Bill sat at the small desk in the back room glowering at the computer. His body language told Ty that he was frustrated and angry. Ty worked quietly, keeping a wary eye on Bill, trying not to draw his attention.

Bill became increasingly agitated until suddenly he jumped to his feet. He grabbed the computer keyboard roughly with both hands. “Fucking computer!” he yelled.

Ty was at Bill’s side instantly. He laid a restraining hand on Bill’s arm just as Bill started to swing the keyboard. “Bill, no! You’re going to make things worse!” he cried.

Bill looked at Ty with a startled expression.

Ty took his hand off Bill’s arm and reached for the keyboard. “Let me help you.”

Bill let Ty take the keyboard from him, his anger fizzling. He put both hands on the desk and leaned on it, head down. “I’m sorry,” he said quietly. “I lose control sometimes. I guess I should go to anger management classes or something.” He laughed bitterly. “I was going to slam the keyboard into the monitor.”

“I know you were,” Ty said, “but that wouldn’t have helped.”

“Yeah. Thanks for stopping me.”

“What’s going on? What has you so frustrated?”

Bill stood up straight. “It’s the fucking network!” he yelled, punctuating his words by slamming his fist down on the table. “I can’t get the fucking thing to work today.” He looked at Ty and then added more quietly. “Sorry about my language.”

“Let me see if I can tell what’s going on,” Ty said, sitting down at the computer.

“You know about computers?” Bill asked, obviously skeptical.

“Yes, some,” Ty said modestly.

“Well have at it. Lord knows I can’t work the damn thing. If you get the network going let me know. I need to upload my orders. The password is taped to the underside of the keyboard.” He turned and stomped through the door into the front of the store.

Ty started checking through menus. It wasn’t long before he decided to recycle the router and the cable modem and reboot the PC. That did the trick and the network came right back up.

“I got it working, Bill,” he called into the front room.

Bill appeared at his side a few moments later, a huge grin on his face. “Wow! That’s great Ty! I always have so much trouble with it. How did you do it?”

Ty took Bill through his troubleshooting steps, explaining why you would want to try each one.

“Damn! You know a lot about this stuff!” Bill was clearly impressed. “Would you mind uploading my order? Say, can you help me with my inventory program? I’m having trouble making heads or tails of it.”

“Of course,” Ty grinned. He was in his element in front of a PC.

Bill showed him the various applications he used to keep the shop running. “The fuc—er—idiot salesman said they’d all work together, but I can’t get that to happen. The inventory module is supposed to automatically spit out a report that I can feed into the order module, but if I can get it to give me a report at all, it always just has weird shit on it—things I don’t need. And the stuff I do need never shows up. I always end up just keeping track of what I need on a piece of paper and entering it into the order module manually. They didn’t even give me any documentation for it. It’s all supposed to be ‘online’.”

“Okay. Let me see if I can figure it out.”

“I’ll leave you to it then. Let me know if you need anything, but don’t expect me to be able to help much. All that computer crap makes no sense to me.”

Two hours later Ty had answers for Bill. The problem was that the checkout stand was not interfaced properly with the inventory module, so items that were sold were not being deducted from the inventory. The weird items that showed up were simply part of some sample data that had come with the application.

“Can you fix it?” Bill asked. He wasn’t sure he’d followed all of Ty’s explanation, but the kid did seem to know what he was doing.

“I can get everything set up and properly connected, but your inventory is off. I’m afraid you’ll have to do a manual inventory of what’s in the shop in order to get back to a good baseline state.”

Bill smirked. “I’d say, you’ll need to do a manual inventory. Can you work a few hours overtime each day until we’re back on track? I’ll give you time-and-a-half.”

“Sure!” Ty grinned at Bill who smiled back warmly.

*****

Ty’s head throbbed again. He had been trying to walk off his hangover. He and Trish had celebrated his extra large paycheck with an extra large bottle of whiskey the night before. Why am I drinking so much? Even as he asked himself that question, he wanted more. Once he got a few drinks in him, he would feel better. His fear would fade. He would no longer feel like a hopeless loser—until he was sober again, of course.

I need to quit drinking. Why am I so weak? Dad always said I was weak. Actually, that’s not true—when I was little he always said I was strong. Is it only the past few years that I’ve become this weak loser?

His feet hurt from walking; his boots were starting to get tight on him. He would need new shoes soon. The pain felt good in a way—it gave him something to focus on other than his aching head and his empty heart. I need more alcohol.

Trish had disappeared during the night and he wondered if she was back yet. He’d moved his blanket next to hers under the overpass. It was a lot more exposed. There were other itinerants there, and some of them were aggressive and mean. He much preferred to sleep in his hidey-hole in the bushes, but it had started raining almost every night and more than once he’d woken drenched by a torrential downpour.

He was toying with the idea of asking Dani if he could move in with him. Dani had made the offer more than once, so he must have meant it. Ty had a job; he could probably swing half the rent. Dani was dating Nigel now though. He didn’t want to impinge on their privacy and their closeness made him uncomfortable. Watching them kiss had freaked him out.

Goddamned fairies! He was shocked when this thought popped into his mind. It had been in his father’s voice too. He’s brainwashed me. Fucking asshole!

The shadows were deepening, and Ty was glad the temperature was finally dropping. The afternoon had been unbearably hot. He was sweaty and really wanted to take a shower or even just hang out somewhere air-conditioned for a while.

Noticing his surroundings, he realized he wasn’t far from The Shay Shay Club where they had gone to the Leather concert. Without seeming to take direction from his brain, his feet changed course and headed in that direction. He passed the club, noting a few people going in the front door. That was out of the question for him, of course. He went around the building and walked down the alley, eyeing the back door where he had entered before.

What would happen if I knocked on it? The worst they could do is refuse me entrance, right? If they let me in, there might be drinks.

His natural shyness prevailed, and he walked on out of the alley and around the corner where he could see the front entrance to the club. There he paused, leaning against the brick wall of the building. He watched people passing, some of them going into the club, and he wished he had enough courage to try the back door.

He had been standing there for quite some time, arguing with himself, when he spotted Tim coming down the street. The drug dealer had already seen him and had a huge grin on his face.

“Hey, Ty,” he called when he got close. “What’s up?”

“Not much,” Ty replied. “Good to see you Tim.”

“This is Brady.” Tim introduced his tall, scary-skinny companion to Ty.

Brady’s dark eyes roamed over Ty with suspicion. He looked decidedly unfriendly. He had multiple piercings in his eyebrow, a pierced lip, snakebites, and enlarged piercings in his earlobes. Almost every inch of skin that Ty could see, except for his face, was heavily inked. His blacker-than-black dyed hair hung limp and greasy around his chin.

“Hey,” Brady nodded at Ty. He seemed dangerous.

“Hi,” Ty said with a small smile. Brady did not smile back but eyed him with an intensity that raised little hairs on the back of Ty’s neck. He turned his attention back to Tim who was smiling warmly at him.

“So what are you up to tonight, Ty?”

“Nothing. Wishing I was old enough to get into the bar.” Ty laughed.

“We’re going in,” Tim said. He glanced around and leaned closer to Ty. “I could probably get you in if you want me to.”

“Really?” Ty asked hopefully.

“Yeah, it just takes a little persuasion. Do you want to try?”

“Uh, sure.”

Tim turned back to Brady and said, “Why don’t you go on in? I’ll be in in a minute.”

“Sure, dude,” Brady replied, but he didn’t look happy.

“What’s up with him?” Ty asked quietly as he followed Tim around the corner. “Is he always so glum?”

Tim laughed. “Yeah, that’s Brady. Every now and then he’ll laugh, but usually only if there’s blood involved.”

Ty shuddered.

Tim entered the alley and Ty followed him. “It’s great to see you, Ty,” Tim said. He kept up a one-sided conversation as they walked to the back entrance of the club, Ty being too shy to comment. Tim rapped confidently on the door, and Ty hung back a few feet. Presently the door was opened by a bouncer who Ty hadn’t seen before.

“Hey, Tim. What’s up? You coming in the back door tonight?” the large man asked, seeming surprised. Then he spotted Ty. “Oh, I see. He’s too young.”

“He’s a good friend of mine. We want to hang out here together.”

The bouncer frowned and eyed Ty up and down. Ty stood tall and smiled at the man, hoping it made him look older.

“I don’t know, Tim. He doesn’t even look old enough to be legal for sex.”

“Of course he is,” Tim scoffed. “Here, dude. Let us in.” Ty’s eyes widened as he saw Tim slip a small baggie of white powder into the bouncer’s palm.

The man slipped it into his pocket and stepped aside without another word. Ty followed Tim into the darkness of the club.

*****

Even with bloodshot eyes, he’s still beautiful, Tim thought. The curve of his jaw, his sleek auburn hair, his pale, smooth skin … and those eyes…

What the fuck am I thinking? He’s a dude!

Ty excused himself to use the bathroom just then, and Brady leaned toward Tim, echoing similar, if baser, thoughts. “He’s one fine piece of ass!”

“If you’re into guys,” Tim clarified. Brady made no secret of his bisexual orientation.

“Even if you’re not, you have to admit the boy is gorgeous.”

“That he is,” Tim agreed. Thinking that doesn’t make me gay, right?

“I’d like to stick my hard dick in his sweet—”

“Brady!” Tim interrupted, aghast. “Enough already. Sheesh! Horny much?”

“Well, yeah. It’s been too fucking long … or too long for not fucking. Hah!” Brady laughed at his own joke.

“Maybe you’ll get lucky tonight.”

“I’d like to get lucky with your boy. I mean if you’re not going to do him, someone should.”

“No!” Tim almost yelled this. The thought of Brady and Ty together caused a sharp twinge of … what? Jealousy? “Leave him alone,” he growled.

Brady eyed him knowingly. “Yeah, you want to fuck him almost as much as I do.”

Tim tried not to show his irritation. “I’ll be right back. I gotta piss.” What he really planned to do was more coke, and just to thumb his nose at Brady’s attitude, he thought he might share with Ty. He went into the bathroom and caught Ty washing his hands.

He slipped an arm around Ty’s shoulders and steered him toward one of the stalls. Ty started to pull away, but Tim bent over and whispered in his ear, “Do you want to do some blow?”

The younger man nodded slightly and quit trying to squirm away. He felt warm against Tim’s chest, and he had a sweet, slightly musky scent that Tim found very appealing. He led him into the far stall, locked the door, and reluctantly released him. Pulling out a small baggie of pre-chopped powder and a tiny silver spoon, he carefully scooped some of the drug onto the spoon and held it under Ty’s nostril. Ty sniffed it up and smiled up at Tim.

Tim’s heart caught in his throat. He was willing to give Ty coke just to see that gorgeous smile directed his way. Tim was not normally so generous, but something about the achingly beautiful youth made him want to share.

Three beers later Tim decided he needed more than just a little coke. They were hanging out on the main floor of the bar. He asked Ty if he wanted to do more drugs, and after getting a happy nod in response, he led the way up to the balcony level. The bar there wasn’t open yet, but there were a few people hanging around, mostly watching the bar scene below. The stairway up to the next level was roped off, but Tim stepped over it and made his way to the smaller room above, checking to make sure the beautiful redhead was on his heels. The balcony level was unoccupied, as expected. Tim sat down at a dark booth in the back, and Ty joined him, eyes shining.

“So, I’m going to shoot up,” Tim whispered. “Do you want to try it?”

Ty shivered but then nodded, smiling nervously. “I don’t know what to do, though.”

“Just relax. I’ll tell you how to do it, but you have to give it to yourself. That’s the rule.”

Ty nodded again, looking uncertain.

Christ, he’s adorable, Tim thought. 

Chapter Nineteen

The restaurant featured an awe-inspiring view of the city with the river in the foreground. City lights and the rising full moon reflected in shifting shards on the water. Dani’s gaze was focused on a more breathtaking view. He sighed as he stared into Nigel’s tawny eyes, and the Englishman smiled, returning his intense gaze.

The whole evening has been perfect. I am so ready for you!

Dani wondered if tonight would be the night. It had been six weeks since he’d met Nigel and three weeks since Leather’s party where they had first gotten together. He had been seeing Nigel a lot—almost every other day—and the days in between when he didn’t were excruciating. When they were together he was in heaven.

Nigel had bought him dinner many times, and each time Dani had thought they’d go all the way afterwards, but Nigel always held back—“held back” being a relative term. They’d had plenty of hot sex. They’d sucked and jacked and frotted and rimmed until Dani had screamed in shattering orgasms. It had been amazing and erotic. But there had been no anal penetration with anything more than a finger. Dani was still technically a virgin, and he was desperate to change that. He wanted Nigel in him so badly that sometimes he felt like he was losing his sanity.

Nigel poured the last of the wine into his glass. “Do you want dessert?”

Dani waggled his eyebrows suggestively. “Most definitely, but I couldn’t eat another bite.” The steak dinner had been delicious, and he’d eaten much more than he should have.

Nigel licked his lips and winked. Dani’s penis, which was half-hard just from being with Nigel, started to swell in earnest. “Perhaps we should go someplace private before I make a spectacle of myself,” Dani murmured.

“Can we go to your place, Dani?” Nigel asked. “I want to hear you play and sing for me.”

Dani had gone home one weekend and, with his mom’s help, had brought back his keyboard, as well as his desk, his computer, his guitar, and many smaller items.

“Sure. My apartment is closer too,” Dani replied.

“You in a hurry?” Nigel smirked and Dani blushed.

Nigel signaled for the bill, and a half hour later they walked into Dani’s tiny apartment. It was much more homey now that he’d moved in all the way. He’d cleaned house and changed his sheets before his date, as he’d done before every date for the past three weeks, just in case they ended up at his place. A large bouquet of flowers sat in a vase on his counter, compliments of Nigel—he was such a romantic.

Dani, being a romantic himself, had bought a multitude of candles. After kicking off his shoes, he turned out the lights and moved around the room lighting them until the room was bathed in a warm glow.

Nigel pulled Dani to him and they kissed deeply for several minutes, heat rising dangerously.

“I could just eat you up right now,” Nigel growled, nibbling on Dani’s ear. Dani moaned. “But I want to hear you sing for me. Please?”

Dani nodded and reluctantly pulled away.

Nigel sat down on the futon, leaning his back against a pile of pillows. Dani smiled and pulled his stool up to his keyboard, shifting his attention to what he should sing.

“Wait, Dani.”

He looked at Nigel in surprise. The sexy drummer was stretched out on his bed, looking sultry and intense.

“Take off all your clothes first,” he purred. “Sing for me in the nude.”

A shiver went through Dani. “Only if you take off your clothes too.”

Nigel’s grin was lecherous. “Deal!”

They both stood and stripped. Dani laid his clothes carefully on the back of a barstool while Nigel simply tossed his onto the floor. By the time he finished stripping, Dani’s cock was rock hard, jutting straight up, slapping against his stomach as he moved back to the keyboard. Nigel’s dick was mostly hard too, and as his eyes roved over his boy’s naked body, it hardened further, pointing like a spire to the sky. He relaxed back onto the futon and began to finger his balls as he watched Dani play.

Dani closed his eyes and let the music come from his soul, flowing out his fingertips to grace the world with its magic. He sang a song he’d written himself. He’d started it months ago, but it had been missing something until he began dating Nigel. Then it had come together in a hurry, and he’d spent the last few days tweaking it slightly here and there. It was a song of love and loss and redemption; it had fast-paced verses cut in between by a slow, haunting chorus.

The song was unusual but beautiful. Nigel found himself enraptured with Dani and his music. He wondered where the song had come from; he’d never heard it before. As the song progressed, he found he needed to be closer to Dani. He climbed off the futon and stood directly behind the young blond, trying to keep his hands away from him, to keep from distracting him from his amazing music.

As the last note died down, he ran his hands across Dani’s shoulders and down his arms. His hard dick poked into Dani’s bare back.

“That was beautiful, love. Whose song is it?”

Dani leaned back into Nigel, smiling. “It’s mine.”

“Yours?” Nigel was shocked. “You wrote that?”

“Yes,” Dani admitted. “I been writing songs for years, but it’s only recently that I’ve gotten pretty good.”

“Pretty good?” Nigel snorted. “You’re incredible! You could make a living as a singer-songwriter, most definitely. I think that song would sell. It’s got a great hook.”

“You think so?” Dani wondered if Nigel was exaggerating—just being nice to him because he was his boyfriend. Still, it felt wonderful to get such positive feedback from a musician he respected.

“Of course, love. I’d tell you if your music sucked, and it definitely doesn’t suck. I think you have a lot of talent. Enough to make a good living at it.”

“Wow!” Dani was suddenly overwhelmed with emotion.

Nigel scooped him into his arms, sat down on the stool, and settled Dani on his lap. His hard dick slipped between Dani’s legs.

Dani gasped and twisted around to face Nigel. Their lips mashed together in a storm of passion as their hands roamed each other’s bodies. Presently Dani began to whimper softly as he sucked on Nigel’s tongue. He pulled away, gasping for air.

“I want you Nigel. Will you take me all the way tonight?” he whispered.

“Are you ready?”

“God, yes! I am so ready!” Dani jumped off Nigel’s lap and grabbed his hand, pulling him toward the bed.

Nigel laughed. “Slow down there, angel. We’ve got all night.”

“If I don’t have you in me soon, I’m going to die!” Dani cried, pulling harder on Nigel’s hand.

Nigel chuckled and allowed himself to be led to the futon.

Dani sank down on the mattress and lay back, spreading his legs wide and looking up at his handsome lover imploringly.

Nigel stood over him, taking in the sight of his naked lover, so vulnerable, so beautiful, so needy. “Fuck, you are gorgeous! I could stand here just looking at you forever.”

Dani whined softly and thrust his hips forward a few times, causing his steel-hard cock to bounce enticingly. “Please, Nigel,” he begged. “Don’t tease me.”

“Oh, I’m going to tease you,” Nigel teased. He knelt between Dani’s legs and suddenly pulled one of his nipples into his mouth, sucking hard.

Dani let out a low wail and arched his back up off the bed. His head was swirling with sensation. The suction on his nipple sent jolts of electricity straight to his painfully swollen cock. Nigel’s fingers found his other nipple, twisting and pulling as he nipped gently on the first.

“Nnngh!” The noise that came out of Dani’s mouth was frantic with need. He thrust his hips uncontrollably toward Nigel, rubbing his cock against the drummer’s hard abs.

Nigel pulled his mouth away from Dani’s nipple. “Slow down, love. Take a deep breath,” he instructed.

Dani did as he was told, but his desperation didn’t wane. Nigel took a nipple in each hand, gently rolling them between his fingers as his mouth trailed hot kisses down Dani’s sculpted stomach. Dani moaned and writhed, wanting friction for his spewing cock.

Nigel avoided Dani’s cock, kissing around it, as he moved lower. He could hear Dani’s breath coming in short, sharp pants. He spent some time being slow and gentle, kissing and sucking the tender skin on the inside of Dani’s thighs, letting Dani come down a notch. He longed to lap up all the precum Dani was leaking, but he didn’t want him to come yet, and he knew his hair-trigger boy was probably close. Instead he very slowly and gently licked Dani’s nutsack with his long tongue.

“Fuck! Nigel!” Dani cried, squirming under the experienced man’s ministrations. He was close to orgasm, on the edge, but Nigel managed to keep him from tipping over. Ripples of pleasure wracked his body. Waves of heat undulated up and down his torso. He needed release so badly he was almost crying with frustration. He wanted to beg, but he was so far gone his mouth refused to form words, only small wails and moans. He twisted and writhed like a worm. Nigel had well and truly hooked him.

Nigel backed away and sat on his heels, watching Dani. It took Dani several moments to realize Nigel wasn’t touching him anymore—the sensations continued to wrack his body. He finally came down enough to open his eyes and look at his gorgeous lover who was driving him to delirium. He took a deep breath and found his voice.

“Please, Nigel. Please!”

Nigel smiled. “Turn over.” His voice was low and commanding. A shudder went through Dani. As he complied, a flash of fear flared within him. This is it! He’s going to take me now! In spite of himself, his stomach clenched tight as a wave of apprehension washed over him. He drew in a shuddering breath.

But Nigel knew what he was doing and wasn’t done torturing Dani with pleasure. He pulled Dani’s perfect butt cheeks apart and dove in to lavish his tight rosy bud with licks and sucks.

Dani wailed and opened his legs wider, giving Nigel full access to his most private area. His fear was immediately gone, replaced by intense pleasure as the Brit’s talented tongue did unspeakable things to him.

Nigel licked hungrily all around Dani’s sweet bud and then began to alternately nip and suck. The moans pouring out of his boy’s mouth fueled his passion. He forced his tongue into the tiny opening, working it further in to a cacophony of desperate sounds from his lover. The tight little hole spasmed around his tongue, and he moaned. His own cock was dripping furiously, also needing urgent release. He tried to slow down, to take his time, to make sure his boy was completely ready for him.

Dani had other plans. If he didn’t get Nigel’s cock into him soon he was going to go insane. The things Nigel was doing to his anus were driving him absolutely out of his mind. “Nigel! Nigel! Now, please. Oh please!” he managed to gasp out. “Take me! Please take me!”

Nigel couldn’t resist any longer. His boy was begging for him with such sweet anguish. As he fumbled for the lube and a condom, he felt Dani stiffen slightly.

He’s still afraid. Well, I’m not quite done yet.

He slid the condom onto his rock hard cock. It wasn’t going down until he came, and he didn’t want to have any more interruptions to his seduction. He lubed himself well and rubbed some around Dani’s tight hole, pausing to admire the beauty of the dusky puckered skin.

Dani was breathing hard, his hands clenched into the sheets, but Nigel worried that it was more from fear than from desire. He moved up and kissed Dani on the back of his neck. “You have no idea how sexy your arse is, love,” he whispered. “Fuck, I want you so bad!”

“Yes, oh yes,” Dani moaned.

Nigel began to suck a dark bruise into the skin where Dani’s collarbone met his neck. At the same time he pushed his well-lubed finger into Dani’s tight channel, slowly and gently.

Dani moaned. The intrusion felt strange, but Nigel had fingered him before. He knew that Nigel was capable of driving him to a quick orgasm with just a finger in his ass. He tried to relax his sphincter to let the digit in to work its magic.

Sure enough, Nigel curled his finger and rubbed against Dani’s bundle of nerves. Dani bucked back into him as intense pleasure shot through him. Nigel did it again, and Dani was quickly reduced to a wailing, writhing, brainless fool. At some point he realized that Nigel had several fingers inside him; he wasn’t sure how many nor had he noticed when they’d breached him. He was humping back into Nigel’s hand like a wanton whore, but he didn’t care. He knew he was close to orgasm and he wanted Nigel in him.

“N … Nigel!” It was difficult to form thoughts, let alone words, but he managed to gasp out, “Fuck me! Oh, now please! Oh please, I’m ready!”

A low growl came out of Nigel’s mouth. The fingers slid out of Dani’s channel, and he immediately felt something large and blunt pressing against the entrance to his hole. He heard rather than felt Nigel adding more lube to his cock. Dani had no fear now, only intense desire. He wanted this so badly he was almost hyperventilating.

“Yes! Yes!” he cried.

“Oh sweet boy. I … I’ll try to go slow.” Nigel’s voice was low and strained as he whispered in Dani’s ear. “Relax,” he commanded. Dani felt a sharp pain in his earlobe at the same time he felt a burning, stretching sensation in this ass. The head of Nigel’s cock popped past his tight ring and he gasped in pain.

Fuck, it hurts!

He bit his bottom lip to keep from begging Nigel to take it out. He was close to panicking, it hurt so much. He closed his eyes tightly and tried to focus on breathing and relaxing.

Nigel held perfectly still, whispering in his ear, telling him how beautiful and sexy he was, how good he felt. Presently the intense pain subsided to a dull ache, but there was no pleasure. This is it, huh? I’m not sure I like it. His hard-on had disappeared with the pain. Dani tried to swallow his disappointment and focused instead on Nigel.

His lover was obviously still very turned on. He was sucking on Dani’s ear and moaning softly. “Are you okay, Dani?” he gasped.

Dani nodded.

Nigel inched in slowly. Dani tried to relax. The pain did not flare up again as brightly as it had on that first breech, but it still hurt.

“Oh, God Dani! You’re so unbelievably tight! Fuck, love! Let me know if I’m hurting you.” Without waiting for a response from Dani he slid further in.

Dani gasped in pain.

“Sorry. Fuck, you feel fantastic!” Nigel wiggled his ass a bit and slipped the rest of the way in. Dani felt his lover’s balls butting up against his own, and that sent a thrill of excitement through him. He was terribly disappointed that he hated anal sex, but Nigel was clearly in ecstasy; it was worth the pain to give Nigel so much pleasure. His ass ached and burned and felt curiously full at the same time.

“You okay, Dani?” Nigel asked again.

Dani nodded, not trusting himself to speak. He was afraid he would start sobbing.

“Okay, I’m going to make love to you now,” Nigel whispered. As he pulled out, Dani felt a great relief. He almost begged Nigel not to push back in, but he pulled his lower lip between his teeth instead. He would give Nigel his pleasure even if it killed him. And it felt like Nigel was killing him. Fuck that burns!

Nigel pushed all the way back in slowly then pulled out again, equally slowly. The next time on the way in, Nigel shifted his angle. Suddenly pleasure ripped through Dani. He spasmed involuntarily.

“Fuck!” he cried out.

Nigel’s laugh was low and throaty. “Let’s see if I can do that again, love.” Keeping the angle, he pulled out and thrust back in. On the outstroke was another small jangle of sensation, but when he pushed in, bright joy crashed through Dani’s body. His cock swelled rapidly. His ass still burned, but the pleasure that accompanied Nigel’s thrusting far surpassed any lingering pain.

Dani began to thrust back against Nigel as he picked up the pace. Dani’s head swirled as his body succumbed to intense pleasure. He became oblivious to everything except bliss.

Suddenly Nigel yelled. “Oh fuck! Oh! Daniiiiiii!” His steady thrusting faltered, his rhythm broke, and he thrust a few more times hard into Dani’s ass and then collapsed on top of him.

Dani smiled. It was over. He had given his lover pleasure and had even enjoyed it himself at the tail end. He was no longer a virgin. He felt Nigel’s warm body on his. Nigel’s breathing was rapid and he was moaning softly.

After a few moments Nigel gasped, “Oh God, Dani. I’m so sorry.”

“Why are you sorry?” Dani asked, bewildered.

“I wanted your first time to be perfect.” Nigel’s softening cock chose that moment to slip out, and Dani felt Nigel removing the condom although he kept his chest pressed close to Dani’s. “It was supposed to be all about you, and you didn’t even get to cum. I’m really sorry. I … you felt so good. So tight! So hot! I … I didn’t realize I was so close. Suddenly I was right there and I couldn’t stop myself. I’m so sorry Dani.” Nigel’s voice was full of remorse.

Dani squirmed around underneath Nigel, and the drummer pulled up a bit to give him room to maneuver. When they were lying face-to-face, Dani looked into his lover’s eyes and smiled.

“It felt fantastic Nigel. Well, not at first.” He glanced away not wanting Nigel to see the memory of pain in his eyes. “We’ll have other times won’t we? You’ll make me cum next time or the time after.”

“Of course, but I wanted your first time to be perfect,” Nigel pouted.

“Besides, I won’t complain if you wanted to suck me off right now.” Dani was still achingly hard, his cock jutting like a sword against Nigel’s hip.

Nigel looked into Dani’s eyes. “I have a better idea.”

Dani looked at him in disbelief. Better than a blowjob?

“Dani, you can make love to me now. I want you to top.”

“What?” Dani’s eyes widened. He couldn’t believe what he’d just heard his lover say. Nigel was well known for being a top. Dani hadn’t considered it ever going any other way.

“Nigel, you don’t have to … I’m not sure … I don’t know…” Dani was flustered.

“Shhh, love. It will be fine. You’ll love it.”

“Have you even ever…?”

Nigel laughed. “Of course, love. I’ve done it both ways. I usually prefer to top, but I can be a slutty bottom whore too.” With that, he grabbed Dani tightly around the waist and rolled with him until Dani was on top.

Dani giggled. “Are you sure?”

Nigel’s voice was a low purr. “I want you to fuck me, Dani.” He thrust his hips up into Dani’s erection.

Dani moaned with need. “Okay. Tell me what to do.”

“Essentially, you just prepare me the same way I prepared you,” Nigel said.

“Turn over, then,” Dani commanded.

Nigel flipped himself over on the bed, spread his legs, and put his ass into the air. He was surprised when he felt Dani’s tongue sliding down his crack.

“Dani, you don’t have to rim me.”

“I want to,” came the muffled reply.

Nigel wasn’t going to argue. It was one of his very favorite things.

Dani had never rimmed anyone before, but Nigel had rimmed him several times, and he had learned a few things. Before long Nigel was moaning with desire and fighting the urge to thrust back into Dani’s face. Dani had gotten his tongue past his sphincter and was thoroughly swabbing out the base of his hot channel.

Dani pulled back a bit gasping. “You taste good! I never would have believed it. You’re spicy!”

Nigel’s chuckle slipped into a low moan of desire. “Dani, use your fingers. Please open me up for you.”

Dani grabbed the lube and squirted it liberally onto his fingers. When he rubbed them around Nigel’s anus, he was rewarded with a groan and a thrust of a shapely butt into his hands. He was admiring Nigel’s rosy puckered hole when it suddenly spasmed open. Dani caught his breath in astonishment and pushed his middle finger into the warm gap. Nigel moaned again and wiggled, urging his finger further in.

“My prostate is in the front, near the base where it starts to curve,” Nigel’s voice was strained.

Dani curled his fingers around, searching, feeling the smooth insides of Nigel’s tunnel.

Suddenly Nigel let out a small cry and arched back.

“Is that it?” Dani asked trying to repeat the motion exactly like he’d done it the first time.

This time the back arch was even more pronounced as Nigel’s hips came up sharply. “Oh, yeah!”

Dani smiled. Nigel seemed too overcome with sensation to say anything else. Dani slid a second finger into his lover’s hole and continued to stroke his button. Nigel wiggled and moaned.

“Oh, love! Oh, love!” He made a few incoherent desperate-sounding noises before Dani realized he was urging him to add a third finger. Dani wasted no time in complying and Nigel fucked back into his fingers.

“Fuck Nigel, you have a sexy ass,” Dani crooned. His cock was stiff and eager in spite of the small bout of nerves with which his mind still wrestled.

“Okay! Okay! Hang on!” Nigel gasped out.

Dani paused, and Nigel squirmed underneath him, twisting around so that he was facing Dani. The color drained from Dani’s face as he asked, “What is it? What did I do wrong?”

“No, nothing love!” Nigel brought his fingers to Dani’s face to stroke his cheek gently. “I just want to see your face when you enter me. I want to do it this way. I am so ready for you.”

“Really?” Dani asked uncertainly.

“Yes. Oh God, I can’t wait any longer to have you in me. Please!”

Dani reached for a condom and Nigel took it from him.

“You don’t have to if you don’t want to,” he said. “You’re a virgin. I’d let you go bareback.”

Dani’s eyes widened. “I … I don’t know. Since I’ve never done it, I don’t know what it’s like either way. Maybe I should wear the condom to keep from coming too quickly?”

“Whichever you want, love. I’ll put it on you if you want.”

“Yes please.”

Nigel ripped open the package and rolled it down Dani’s hard cock. He squeezed some lube into his hand and rubbed it on Dani’s stiff rod. The hard cock jerked in his hand and Dani let out a small cry.

“Careful, love,” Nigel warned. “Don’t cum yet.”

“Oh God, I’m trying not to!” Dani closed his eyes and took several deep breaths, willing himself to calm down. Finally he opened his eyes and looked down at Nigel beneath him. The drummer’s eyes were heavy with lust. His wide, sensuous mouth was slightly open, panting. His dark waves spilled over the pillow, framing his face in a lion-like halo. Nigel’s tawny eyes locked with his, echoing his own lust and need.

Nigel pulled his legs apart and shifted a pillow under his ass. He locked his legs around Dani’s lower back.

“Are you ready?” he whispered.

“Yes.”

Nigel took Dani’s cock in his hand and guided it to his opening. “Just push. Go slow, please. It’s been a long time for me.”

Dani pushed the head of his cock against Nigel’s hole, which resisted his attempt. He pushed a bit harder, and suddenly his head popped in and he slid forward about halfway in.

“Fuck!” he cried as his cock was enveloped in tight heat. He had never felt anything quite like it. Fighting against the orgasm that threatened to consume him, he froze and tried to focus on breathing. It was a few moments before he could open his eyes and look at Nigel.

He had heard Nigel’s gasp, and now he saw a touch of pain in his lover’s eyes. He almost offered to pull out, but he also saw a look of wonder on Nigel’s face.

“Oh, sweetheart,” Nigel whispered. “Your expression was perfect. Did you almost cum?”

“Uh huh,” Dani nodded. He grinned. “I can’t believe how good this feels. Unbelievable!”

“Don’t cum yet!” Nigel commanded. “I want to cum with you.” He grabbed his own cock, which appeared to be fully hard, and started to stroke.

Dani pushed again and very slowly slid into Nigel up to the hilt. He watched Nigel’s face for any sign of pain, but all he saw was lust.

“Fuck me, love. Make love to me, Dani.”

Dani slid out and back in, starting up a long, slow rhythm. Nigel matched his rhythm with his own hand on his cock. They locked eyes, feeding off the pleasure they saw in each other’s depths.

I’m doing it! I’m making love to him! Dani could hardly believe it. His body felt like it was on fire, consumed by the pleasurable sensation of his cock sliding in and out of Nigel’s channel. Nigel began to buck up into him, shifting slightly.

He’s looking for me to hit his prostate, Dani realized. He shifted, trying a different angle on each stroke, until suddenly Nigel cried out and his eyes squeezed shut with ecstasy. Dani focused on trying to repeat his movement. Nigel gasped and moaned and as Dani continued his assault, pounding harder and faster, he began to let out small cries of pleasure.

Dani’s control was starting to fragment. He had been able to maintain this long because he was so focused on doing it right. Now, however, pure pleasure flooded his mind, blocking out any further attempts at finesse. A million years of evolution took over. He became an animal bent on procreation; no matter that his actions could never result in producing an offspring. As he plunged in and out of Nigel’s tight hole, his own harsh cries mingled with those of his lover.

His nuts tightened and drew up. He felt a huge load of sperm surge up his cock. He could not have stopped if the bed were on fire. His rhythm broke as he thrust wildly a few more times, screaming out his joy as his cock spilled his seed into the condom deep inside his lover. He was barely aware of white, sticky semen spurting all over his stomach from Nigel’s release, of Nigel’s ass milking the last few drops of cum out of him just before darkness took him. He collapsed onto Nigel.

When he became aware again, Nigel was stroking his back and making a satisfied rumble that sounded almost like a purr. Dani lay completely boneless on top of Nigel. His cock was starting to soften but was still inside its warm, tight home.

“Are you okay, love?” Nigel asked, kissing him on the side of his face.

Dani couldn’t answer right away. He was incapable of movement. Finally he managed to grunt out an affirmative sound.

Nigel chuckled. “It was okay, then? You liked it?”

“Mmmph!” Dani made a sound that was meant to be a protest. “Okay” and “like” were not words he would choose to describe the unbelievable orgasm he’d just experienced. He had never cum that hard before.

His cock slipped out of Nigel’s anus and Nigel grabbed the base of it, carefully peeling the condom off and tying it up. He climbed out of bed and disappeared into the bathroom.

A few minutes later he came back with a warm washcloth. He tenderly washed off Dani’s stomach and cock. Dani still didn’t move, but his eyes followed Nigel with an expression of blissed-out wonderment.

“So, how’s it feel not to be a virgin anymore?” Nigel smiled down at his lover.

“Wonderful!” Dani replied. He felt his eyelids drooping and fought to keep them open. He didn’t want this moment ever to end. He was fighting a losing battle. The world faded around him and he sank into a deep, peaceful sleep.

He woke to sunshine streaming through the window and a warm, furry chest pressed up against his back. Nigel was obviously awake. He was rolling Dani’s balls gently between his fingers. Dani’s cock was rock hard again.

Memories of the previous night flooded Dani and he smiled with contentment. He shifted around to kiss Nigel and hissed as his ass let him know that he had tried something new.

“Sore, love?”

“Yeah, a little.”

“Me too.” Nigel smiled at him. “It’s been a long time since I’ve done that, and you have a fat fucking cock!”

“You better watch out,” Dani warned. “I’ll shut you up with my fat fucking cock in your big mouth.”

Nigel’s pupils dilated. He pulled Dani in for a passionate, tongues-thrusting-down-each-other’s-throats kiss. When they came up for air, he shifted around, bouncing his stiff member in front of Dani’s nose while he began to lick his lover’s soft balls.

*****

“God, I wish I didn’t have to go,” Nigel said. “I could be happy staying in bed with you forever.”

“We might get hungry,” Dani observed.

“We could live for a while on each other’s cum,” Nigel countered.

“You’d better go if you’re going,” Dani said. He reached up and stroked Nigel’s stubbled cheek. “If you stay too much longer I’ll have you in my bed again.”

Nigel glanced at his watch. “Yeah, I’m late already. I’ll be back as soon as I can. I promise!” He kissed Dani’s too-red lips. “Three hours—four at the most,” he whispered. “How am I going to survive that long without you? You’re like the air that I breathe.”

Dani laughed. “Good-bye, goofball. I’ll see you later this afternoon.”

Nigel sighed as he disengaged and stepped to the door. He turned and looked at Dani one more time, drinking in the sight of his tousled hair and kiss-swollen lips. “God Dani, you are the sexiest man alive!” he declared as he closed the door behind him.

Dani sank gingerly onto his keyboard stool with a sigh. He could not stop the huge smile that plastered his face. The night had been even better than he’d dreamed it could be. Nothing could mar his happiness today. He already missed his leonine lover, but Nigel had promised he’d be back in a few hours, and Dani believed him.

*****

Abe had finished his run and was now in the cool-down phase, walking slowly as he returned to his apartment. As he turned the corner onto his street, he spotted a silver sedan parked not far away. A large man sat in the front seat. Abe froze.

It’s that same guy! What’s he doing here? His first instinct was to dodge back around the corner before the man saw him and go home later after the sedan left. He dismissed that plan. Like hell I’m going to let someone intimidate me like that. I’m going to find out what the fuck he’s doing here.

He walked quickly up to the car, approaching it on the driver’s side. The car windows were all down allowing some breeze to reach the occupant. As he got close he recognized the man in the front seat, and his blood started to boil.

“Well, hello Mr. Iverson,” he said. His voice was eerily calm, belying the seething emotions in his gut.

Ty’s dad jumped, startled, and swore under his breath. As he started to reach into his breast pocket, Abe grabbed his wrist, gripping it tightly.

Shit! Does he have a gun? Abe beat down the fear that flashed through him. He needed to stay in control of the situation. He knew he was intimidating. Standing at six-foot-six, he was two hundred and seventy pounds of solid muscle. Usually it bothered him when people feared him, but in the current situation he was grateful for his scare-factor.

“Hands on the steering wheel, Mr. Iverson.” Abe placed the hand he had captured onto the steering wheel and was relieved to see Mr. Iverson place his other hand on the wheel on his own accord.

Ty’s dad opened his mouth to say something, but then seemed to think the better of it. Instead, he glared at Abe with such malice, the black man felt a tremor run up his spine. This man would enjoy killing me.

“Are you staking out my apartment, waiting for Ty to appear?” Abe asked.

“You give me my boy back!” Richard Iverson spat.

“I have not seen him since before I met you,” Abe replied evenly. He almost added that when and if he did see him, he would do everything in his power to make sure Ty didn’t go back to his father, but he refrained. The less he engaged with this psychopath, the better. “You’re wasting your time,” he said instead.

“You fucking faggot! You probably have him locked away up there,” Iverson growled.

“Sir,” Abe gritted this word through clenched teeth. “I suggest you start up your car and move along, nice and slow. I don’t want to see you out here again.”

“I can do whatever I want! No fuckin’ nigger…!” That’s as far as Ty’s dad got before one of Abe’s huge hand clamped around his neck, constricting his air supply. Abe’s other hand hovered, ready to stop any other move Iverson made.

“You need to go before I do something dire.” Abe loosened his grip enough for Iverson to breathe but left his hand threateningly wrapped around the smaller man’s throat.

Richard Iverson paled visibly and sucked air into his lungs.

“Start up the car, Mr. Iverson. Nice and slow.”

Richard did as he was instructed. A vein bulged in the side of his forehead. He did not take his eyes off Abe. The hatred that gleamed out of them was caustic.

Fuck! I need to be careful. He’s got all those self-defense moves—and he’s probably armed. I’m way over my head. I should have called Officer Dunning instead of confronting this maniac myself.

“I’m gonna let go and step back, and you’re gonna drive away—real slow. Got it?”

Iverson nodded slightly.

Abe took a deep breath, pulled his hand away from Iverson’s neck, and took a half-step back. He was ready to lunge forward at the first hint that Iverson was going for his gun.

Instead Iverson shifted into drive and stepped on the gas, veering suddenly toward him as he pulled the car out of its parking spot.

Abe jumped back, cursing, and staggered a few steps to regain his balance.

Iverson laughed. “I’ll get you someday, you fucking faggot-nigger!” he yelled out the window.

Abe watched the car squeal away. His heart was pounding harder than it did even when he was on a long, fast run. He wasted no time crossing the street and entering his apartment building. He noticed his hands were shaking as he pressed the elevator button.

He was shocked at his own behavior. I grabbed his throat and started to strangle him! Abe had never been aggressive. He had always had firm control of his temper. However, there was something about Richard Iverson that made him see red.

Just maybe it’s because he tortured Ty? Abe’s anger flared brightly again. How dare he stake me out? How on earth can such a sweet guy have a father who is so evil?

In the whole horrible encounter, there was one bright spot. Abe hadn’t found Ty yet, but obviously his father hadn’t either.

Excerpt from Rough Boys: Redemption

It was raining buckets and Ty was drenched. The night air wasn’t cold but the rain was. A shiver racked his body as he shuffled through the dark streets, arms crossed tightly over his hunched chest. In spite of being chilled, he could feel heat radiating off of his skin. His throat was sore; when he swallowed it felt like someone was rubbing sandpaper over the rawness. His brain felt too large for his head, pressing painfully against his skull. With every movement he felt an ache in his bones. He was pretty sure he had the flu, maybe even strep throat.

To make matters worse, he hadn’t seen Trish in two days—she had just disappeared. He was really worried about her. And someone had stolen both of their blankets from under the bridge.

With what seemed like the last of his strength, Ty climbed the stairs to the front door of Dani’s apartment building. After ringing the buzzer he collapsed against wall. Some minutes later he roused himself to hit the buzzer again. His befuddled mind registered that Dani wasn’t home. He had no idea what to do next. He wanted to sink to the ground right there and fall asleep, but the doorway was not sheltered. Cold rivulets ran down the back of his neck. He started to shiver uncontrollably.

Dani is probably at Nigel’s for the night. I need to get out of the rain and get warm somewhere.

If he had known where Nigel and Sean lived, he would have tried to make his way there. He was so miserable that he was even willing to pay for a taxi. He went through the short list of people he knew who might take him in. Abe was the first person who came to mind, but the thought of seeing him again brought cold panic. He immediately dismissed him. Off limits!

Kaeden or Tommy? He wasn’t comfortable showing up on their doorstep; he knew what kind of business Sal was running. Besides, she had made it clear that he wasn’t welcome until he turned eighteen. He still had three weeks to go—and even then he wasn’t going to Sal’s.

Who else? Tim? He wasn’t comfortable going to Tim’s either, but he knew where he lived. It wasn’t far. Just then lightening flashed illuminating the torrential rains. It was immediately followed by a gust of chilly wind.

Ty shivered so hard his teeth rattled. Tim’s it is. I hope to God he’s home!

He set off through the rain-drenched streets, focusing only on putting one foot in front of the other. His head throbbed so painfully that he had trouble stringing two thoughts together. He felt like he was high or drunk, but with Trish gone, he hadn’t done anything in days. He was just very sick. At one point he took a wrong turn. It was ten minutes before he figured out he was off and backtracked.

By the time he got to Tim’s apartment building, he was stumbling, barely staying on his feet. He managed to climb the steps, and then he stood numbly looking at the list of names on the wall with codes next to them. They were all last names only, and Ty had no idea what Tim’s last name was. There were fifty or sixty names; Ty didn’t want to start ringing bells randomly in the middle of the night.

He leaned against the wall and closed his eyes, not having the strength to go on. Eventually he let himself sink to the ground. His pants were soaked anyway. He wasn’t going to get any wetter sitting on the damp steps. At least the doorway was in a small alcove; he was somewhat sheltered from the wind and the driving rain.

He wasn’t sure how long he sat there shivering and miserable. When a man went into the apartment building, throwing a glare his way, he thought, I should probably hide before someone calls the police on me. But he didn’t move.

He was roused from his stupor again by someone punching a code into the panel. The answering voice sounded familiar, and when the stranger addressed him as Tim, Ty couldn’t believe it. He staggered to his feet.

The man, who was small and wiry, with long dark hair and dark eyes, glanced at Ty apprehensively but seemed to dismiss him, turning his attention fully to the conversation.

“Tim, it’s Lonnie. I need some more, man.”

“Lonnie, you’re supposed to call me. I don’t want you standing out front talking about shit.”

“Tim, please just let me in, man.

“You got money?”

“I’ll have it Friday. Tim, please let me in.”

“Come back Friday.”

“No, Tim, please! You gotta help me!” The man’s voice held an edge of desperation.

Ty heard a click and the speaker light went out.

Lonnie frantically punched Tim’s code back into the panel. Ty watched carefully but wasn’t sure he’d seen it correctly. 1487?

“What?” Tim sounded really irritated.

“Tim, please help me!”

“No can do, Lonnie. Go home.”

“You gotta give me some Tim. I’m dyin’ here!”

“I don’t gotta give you shit, Lonnie! And if you don’t fucking leave me alone, I ain’t givin’ you shit on Friday either.”

“Fuck, Tim! Please!” The man sounded like he was on the verge of tears.

“Get the hell out of here, you fucking freak!” Tim yelled. The speaker clicked off again.

The man was visibly shaking. He punched Tim’s code in again, and this time Ty was pretty sure it was 1457.

Tim’s angry voice came over the speaker. “Lonnie. If you don’t leave right now, I’m sending Brady down to fuck you up.”

The man took a step back from the panel, stiffening. “Fucking asshole!” he muttered. Without a backward glance, he made his way unsteadily down the stairs.

Ty hesitated, watching the man walk away. Tim sounded angry and Brady was with him. Ty would have preferred to make his way into the alleyway behind Tim’s apartment and pass out in a doorway, but he couldn’t remember ever feeling quite as sick as he felt at that moment. He was swaying on his feet and chills racked his body. He was worried that if he didn’t get dried off and cared for, he’d end up with pneumonia or worse. He waited until the man was out of sight before he stepped up to the panel and punched in Tim’s code.

“Brady’s on his way down already,” Tim said. There was no emotion in his voice.

“Tim!” Ty rasped. His voice was almost gone. He swallowed and was immediately sorry as pain tightened his throat.

“Who the fuck is this?” Tim asked.

“It’s Ty,” Ty whispered.

“Ty?”

Just then the door swung open. Ty had been leaning over the key panel, elbows on the wall and head resting on his forearms. Now he looked up, catching a flash of silver in the man’s hand that quickly disappeared. His gaze traveled further up and he found himself gazing into Brady’s cold eyes.

Surprise showed on Brady’s face. “Ty, you’re soaking wet! What the hell happened to you?”

Ty looked at him dumbly, not sure what to say.

“Well, come on in. Tim will want to see you in any case.” He grabbed Ty’s arm and pulled him into the dimly lit hallway.

 

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s