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  2. It is a pleasure to be reading another story by you so soon after your posting of Between the Shadow and the Soul. The first day of kindergarten and the ensuing week arriving at Jace's overnight in Brody's home is thoroughly satisfying, The exchange between Brody and his parents about the advisability of Jace spending the night (especially the back-and-.forth of "Of course we're sure." "Sure of what?" "What?" "That's what I was asking.") is as skillfully composed a cat's cradle as Abbott and Costello performing "Who's on First?", but touchingly weighted with the family's loving and caring teasing. It's wonderful. I admire many details of your imagining. At one point in Chapter 28 of "Between" Greg speaks a monosyllable to Keigan: "It came out on a breath, like a word-flavored sigh." In the following chapter, when Greg locates Kyle leaning up against the house that he and his family are moving from to Florida, "Everything he wore was dark, blue or black from the look of it, and he was no more obvious than air." Umph!
  3. Dabeagle

    Chapter 1

    My beta reader was surprised I used the term - I think he thinks I'm old! I mean, he's not wrong, necessarily, but still! I dind't know anything about P!ATD until the movie Love, Simon talked about the lead. Then I noticed a song on Sirius, High Hopes. Their sound is very unusual, but yes he's quite the looker.
  4. #15 - definitely not balderdash #16 has the feel of old school poets. We don't tend to see ourselves as others do, but it's good to see the positive. #17 makes me want to visit your garden #18 describes April perfectly #19 *fans self* #20 #21 I love seeing our different take on the prompts. Well done, as always.
  5. Today
  6. mfa607


    Loved it! I think they should have taken a shot together!! 😜 Thank you for this unexpected chapter!
  7. Caleb lay awake while Wren continued to sleep. The rooster had already crowed a couple of times, but Caleb's black-haired companion stubbornly remained in the world of dreams. Caleb sighed. He had decided, after last night with Wren, that he was very likely gay. He had enjoyed both the physical act of their coupling and the emotional way he felt connected to Wren. More, he also liked the way it felt to lie with his bare chest against Wren's back in the still, slow brightening of the morning. It was warm and comfortable there. It wasn't what Caleb dreamed of when he imagined waking up with another person - it was more. It was beyond what he had dared to hope could be. 'It feels natural.' Caleb smelled the back of Wren's neck. The rooster crowed again, closer this time, and Wren made a sleepy noise. Caleb lay still as Wren shifted. He heard Wren swallow, then there was a sharp intake of breath as his friend woke and realized they were naked and spooning. "G'morning, Wren." Caleb's voice was gravelly and even deeper than typical, thanks to its lack of use. "Hey. Good morning, Caleb." Wren turned so that he faced Caleb, and Caleb put his arm back over Wren's slim waist. Caleb's hand stroked up and down the small of Wren's back. Wren's half-awake cock was warm against Caleb's hip. Caleb looked openly at him. He slid his hand up Wren's back and lightly moved an errant lock of black hair out of Wren's face. Wren blinked slowly as the hand moved over his face. Caleb's eyebrows knit in curious concentration, and he continued to stroke his fingertips over Wren's barely stubbled chin. "Caleb?" Wren's eyes closed under that delicate touch. "Yeah?" Caleb leaned in and smelled Wren's skin. He bore the scent of wood smoke, the lotion they had used, and the muskiness of their lovemaking. Wren breathed quietly, his breaths warm against the side of Caleb's face. "Everything okay? Like, really okay?" The worried tone in Wren's voice made Caleb smile. "Yeah." "Good." Wren's lips pulled into a smile. "Okay." Wren lay still, and Caleb continued to touch him. Wren appeared to struggle to stay awake, yet he was also unwilling to surrender to sleep. He chuckled quietly. "That feels nice." "Yeah?" Caleb wet his lips. "It's okay? You don't mind me doing this?" "I don't mind." Wren sighed with contentment. "Why would I mind?" "I don't know." Caleb's palm lay against Wren's warm jaw. He could feel his friend's steady heartbeat under his fingers as they touched Wren's neck. "I've just never done this. I don't know what's, ah, what's right." Wren's eyes opened, green and vibrant. "How does it feel?" He pressed his body against Caleb's, their groins together. Wren's hand rested on the back of Caleb's neck, while his gaze searched Caleb's face. "Does it feel wrong, being here with me?" Caleb swallowed. "No." His voice was almost a confession. Both of the men's erections lay up along their bodies, pressed between them. "It feels right." Wren leaned in, and Caleb closed his eyes. "Then it's right, Caleb," Wren whispered. Wren gently kissed him, and as Caleb rolled on top of him, he began to believe it. ⤱ A half-hour later, Wren stood naked in the tent. He shivered in the early morning coolness and cleaned his body with a sanitary wipe. He glanced down and saw Caleb as he lay on the cot and looked up at him, an enigmatic quality in that gaze. Wren smiled. "What?" Caleb smiled slightly. "I just," he sighed and the smile remained. "I don't know." Caleb sat up and Wren admired his exposed chest. "This," he motioned back and forth between himself and Wren, "it's new. I don't know what to do with it." He swallowed, and nervousness showed on his face. "I don't know what, ah, what the rules are, or what I'm supposed to do with it." A moment of deep fondness and empathy ran through Wren. He put the used wipe in the trash bag hanging from the center tent pole and sat on the cot facing Caleb. Wren squashed his immediate desire to put his hand on his handsome friend's neck. He wasn't sure what had brought on that urge. Wren just didn't do physical displays of affection outside of trying to convince a guy to have sex with him. "Well, we can clear that up." Wren wet his lips, a little nervous himself. "Do you want to keep doing this with me?" He watched Caleb's blue eyes as he spoke. "I'll just tell you now that I'd like that. I'd like it a lot." Caleb chuckled. "Well," he rubbed the back of his head, scratching fingers through his very short hair, "I guess there's no denying that I like doing it." He bit his lip and shrugged. "So, what would that make us? Are we fuckbuddies now?" Wren grinned. "Well, if that's what you want to call it, sure." Caleb nodded, seemed to consider something then cocked his head. "What do you want to call it?" Wren felt a weird flutter of panic. "Uh, 'fuckbuddies' is fine." He nodded. "Yeah, it's fine." He grimaced. "Uh, but to keep doing things without condoms, then we'll have to keep it just between us. No fucking around." He gauged Caleb. "That okay with you?" Caleb eyed him and weighed Wren's response. He took a breath and nodded. "Yeah. All right. Sounds good. It's not like I've had anything going on, so monogamy works." He motioned for Wren to move and they both got up. Caleb took one of the sanitary wipes and began to scrub himself. Wren hunted around for a clean pair of underwear and Caleb chuckled. "What now?" Wren smirked as he put on his briefs. Caleb wore a mischievous expression, finished with his quick cleaning and tossed his wipe. "I guess touching is back on the table." Wren laughed, stepped close to his still naked friend, and cupped Caleb's furry balls. He grinned into Caleb's face. "Yep. It is." They horsed around a little, touching and playing, while in the back of Wren's mind, he tried to avoid defining what a monogamous fuckbuddy could more easily be called. ⤱ It wasn't long before they were up and dressed. The first item of the day was to get the garden tilled so that they could plant the seeds gifted to Wren by Beecher. The disced earth was a good start, but they needed to break it up with the rototiller, form the rows, and get the seeds in the ground. That was proving difficult. Wren frowned at the rototiller. "What do you think is wrong with it, Caleb?" They had pulled the old workhorse out from under the shed roof and tried to start it. Caleb looked down at the machine and scratched his head. "I don't know. It should run fine. I cranked it up for Beecher once this year." He tried a couple more times on the pull-start. The engine gurgled but never fired up. Caleb knelt to examine it. Wren sighed loudly. Caleb smirked and looked up at him from where he was crouched. "It's fine." He made a motion toward the shed. "Can you grab the toolbox?" Wren moved under the simple little roof of the open-sided shed. Beecher's toolbox was an old, hinged metal beast of a thing, and it was always under the workbench. Wren saw the empty spot where it should be. "Caleb." He raised up so he could see his friend. "Did papaw move it?" Caleb straightened and set his jaw. "No." He stalked over and stood next to Wren. They could both see the imprint of the heavy metal box in the dirt, but it was now gone. The slow fire of anger began. "They took it." Wren shook his head and clenched his jaw. "I swear if I find…" Wren jumped when his phone vibrated. He pulled it out. "It's Mom." Wren answered. "Hey, Mom." "Wren, you'd better get over to the highway, near the mouth of the holler. Ragan just called. A couple of Beecher's cows are loose. Ragan said the fence is down there. He's keepin' them from gettin' hit, but he needs help gettin' em back on the property." Wren made a flabbergasted noise. "We just -" he huffed. "Okay, Mom. We'll go get 'em wrangled." He frowned. "I think when we're gone, something else will happen to the property." Rachel sighed. "Those boys. Do you think they cut the fence, Wren?" "I know they did. The rototiller won't start either. I'm sure they're going to do everything they can to make sure we fail." Wren and Caleb were already on the way to the truck. "Can Charles keep an eye on things while you're gone?" Rachel's voice sounded worried. "Son, I'd come keep watch, but if they're really doin’ this stuff, then there'd be nothing to stop ‘em from wrecking my place too." "No, Mom, you stay out of it." They got into the truck, Caleb behind the wheel. "I'll call Charles. We'll get it handled. I don't know how much use it'll be, but I'm gonna call the police after we're done too." Wren hung up and immediately called Charles. He quickly gave his friend the lowdown. "Shit, Wren. I'm in town shopping with the baby. I wanted to give Tracy a break, so she's the only one home." Wren groaned, then sighed. "It's fine. We'll just try to finish up quick." Charles snorted. "Oh, don't you worry. We'll make sure we keep eyes on your place." Wren hung on to the handle above the door as Caleb drove quickly down the twisty road leading to the mouth of the holler. He frowned. "How?" ⤱ The big, white Dodge truck nosed carefully down Wren's gravel road. It crunched on the rocks, and then jerked to a stop when the driver caught sight of the old, blue Corsica in Wren's roundabout. Tracy strode down the gravel drive, purpose on her face and a twelve-gauge in her hands. She raised the gun, aimed, and the Dodge threw rocks as it reversed. The gun discharged, and birdshot pinged against the metal and glass of the vehicle. Tracy broke down the shotgun, still moving forward, shoved another shell in and whipped the weapon back up, ready once again. There was no need. The Dodge careened backward around the curve, out of sight of the house. Tracy watched the road for a moment, then turned and walked back to her car. She sat on the hood and made sure her cotton dress wasn't showing more to the world than she liked. With a little smile, she waited and enjoyed the sun on her face, the twelve-gauge in her lap. ⤱ Caleb waved his arms. The six-hundred-pound heifer danced, bouncing on her front hooves, trying to find a way around him. "Hey!" he yelled at her, took another step, and she turned. Ragan and Wren kept her from running around the edges of their little blockade, and she finally ran back through the gap in the fence, onto Wren's property. "Thank god." Ragan, the old farmer who had noticed Wren's errant cattle, wiped his weathered face. He looked behind them at the road. It was only a dozen feet from the fence, and the cows easily could have been hit by a car. "I'm glad it went this way." Caleb nodded. "Thanks to you, Ragan. We appreciate the help." He frowned. "You got any pliers? We can twist the fence back together for now, till we can come back and do it right." "Yup." The coveralled man moved to his truck parked on the roadside where he had pulled off when he saw the animals. Ragan returned with a couple of pairs of pliers while Wren guarded the hole in the fence. Wren eyed the cattle as they slowly moved away, deeper into his property. "Thanks, Ragan." Wren took one of the tools. "If Caleb and I pull on the posts, you think you can twist the wire together?" Ragan nodded affably. "Sure can." Wren and Caleb got into position on either side of the gap in the fence. "All righty, go ahead, boys." Ragan started with the top wire while the two younger men strained to bring the posts closer together. The old farmer had strong hands, and he firmly twisted the wires together with the pliers. Ragan stepped back. "Okay, let's see if it'll hold. Careful." Caleb and Wren gingerly turned the posts loose, and the wire tightened. It wavered, but the twisted metal held. Wren grinned. "One down. Three more to go." Ragan stood with them while Caleb and Wren finished the task. Soon the fence was back up, and there was no longer a danger of the cattle getting out. Ragan nodded at the work. "Looks good." He eyed Wren. "Sorry to hear about Beecher, Wren." Wren gave him a pained smile and nodded his head. "Thanks, Ragan. He was a good man." "That he was." Ragan worked his jaw. "So, yer home now?" Wren nodded. "He left the farm to you, didn't he?" Wren sighed. "He did." Ragan looked thoughtful then turned his eyes to the fence. "I was gonna ask how your uncles were taking that, but I reckon now I don't have to." The Hambricks were not well liked by much of anyone in the county, thanks to Wren's uncles. Everyone knew that they were not good men, yet many didn't have a choice except to deal with them. They owned so much property in the area, it was inevitable that other locals would have to interact and do business with the family. Wren shook his head. Caleb knew Wren didn't want to air his family's dirty laundry for the world to see, but it was apparent what had happened. "Yeah. They didn't take it well." They all chuckled uncomfortably. Ragan smiled at Wren, then clapped a hand on Caleb. "Well, looks like you've got some help, at least." "Yes, sir." Caleb nodded. "Wren's letting me put my degree to use on his land." Caleb looked fondly at Wren. "We're partners." Ragan grinned. "Good. You boys are gonna need to look out fer each other." Ragan took his pliers and dropped them into his pocket. "I'm gonna get back to the old lady. She probably thinks I had another heart attack and keeled over this time." He got into his truck and grinned. "Time to disappoint her!" He cackled with a laugh. Wren giggled. "Thanks again, Ragan." The two guys waved as the old, wiry fellow drove away. They got back into the truck. Soon they were on their way back home. Caleb only hoped that they'd find everything just as they had left it. ⤱ Caleb parked, then he and Wren got out of the truck. They both approached Tracy where she sat on her vehicle with the twelve-gauge. Tracy was not a small woman. She was wide across the hips, and similar at her shoulders. Sturdy, hardworking, far from being fat, instead she had a frame used to the rigors of farm life. Wren waved, and Tracy grinned. "Hey, thanks for keeping an eye on things, Tracy. Everything all right?" "Oh, things are just dandy." Tracy slid off the hood of her car, the shotgun pointing up and leaning against her shoulder. She handled the weapon with a comfortable familiarity. Wren grinned at her as they talked. Charles and Tracy began dating in high school, and she had been someone Wren always liked. That only increased as time went on and he got to know her better. "So, there wasn't any trouble?" "Well, trouble tried," her grin widened until most of her teeth showed, "but trouble got peppered with some birdshot." "Hah!" Caleb hooted gleefully. They all laughed, and Caleb patted her back affectionately. "Which one was it? Was it Wade?" She narrowed her eyes and shook her head once. "I don't think so. I would have seen him coming down the hill. No, it was one of the others." Wren couldn't stop grinning at the idea of Tracy shooting at his uncles. "Well, maybe that'll make them think twice before they try anything again." Tracy cocked her head and looked a little disappointed. "Yeah." Her expression shifted, and Wren thought that her smile was just a touch malicious. She gazed up at the tip of the barrel of her gun. "It might make me a bad person, but I sure hope they're dumb enough to try again." ⤱ It was an hour later, and Charles had returned from town. He had taken Oliver to his house and Tracy took over watching their young son. Now he stood by his brother as Caleb took the rototiller apart. He held up the carburetor and a slurry of thick, grainy fuel dripped out of it in glops. "Sugar." Charles tapped his foot. "Guys, I think it's time to call Casey." Casey Keen was the sheriff of Carter County. "Yeah." Wren sighed and straightened. "I'll ring him up tomorrow. I know it's only going to make the uncles change tactics - get even more underhanded." He blew out a breath. "I'm not sure they're going to stop." Wren wrinkled his nose. "Huh. I've not heard from Mr. Roseberry. I figured they would have tried to take the farm through the court before resorting to all this." Charles snorted. "Oh, you can bet they talked to him. But they didn't have a leg to stand on, an' Roseberry knows it." He waved a hand over the rototiller. "So now they're doin' this." Caleb swiped as much of the contaminated fuel out of the machine as he could with an old rag. "They'll stop if it costs them." He looked up at Wren and Charles. "I'm tellin' ya, the second they're caught, the second we can prove it's them, then this is over." "Yeah, but how?" Wren shook his head. "We can't keep watch over everything, all the time. Plus, now that Tracy shot at one of them you guys are in the line of fire too. Not to mention Mom." Wren felt weighed down by all of the worries. "I'm just, I'm not sure how we're going to do this without resorting to the same tactics." "I think that's what they want. They'd love to catch us wrecking their properties." Caleb pulled more parts off of the little engine as he spoke. "But, you're right. We can't keep eyes on everything all the time." Charles was quiet, and Wren looked at him. "What are you thinking?" Charles's jaw worked as he thought. "Well, I was just remembering seein' something at Glen's Sporting Goods that might help." "The place in Grayson?" Wren asked, and Charles nodded. "What? If there's something that helps keep the uncles away, then I'm all for it." ⤱ It neared dinner time and all three of the men were hungry, but they were almost finished with their task. Caleb twisted the screwdriver as Wren and Charles held the ladder against the tree beside Rachel's drive. Once done, he leaned back a bit and found the button on the small, weatherproof camera. Wren made a noise. "Yep, it just sent a picture of your big, goofy face to the app on my phone." Caleb grunted at Wren's description. "Good." Charles grinned. "I didn't know there was an 'app' or whatever, but that makes things real handy. We can see movement in real-time." He jerked and pulled his phone out of his pocket. "Huh. Tracy sent a text. Guess who's on the move?" Caleb climbed down, and they all heard an engine. They watched as Wade slowly drove by, staring over at them. Wren smiled a huge grin and waved. "Go ahead, you son of a bitch," he said through his teeth. "You even turn down our roads now, and we'll know it." They placed cameras near the highway where the fence was cut, at all of the entrances of their private roads, and one at each of their homes overlooking their houses. The little crew also installed additional devices at each of their barns. They were motion activated and instantly kicked on when movement was detected in their field of view. They took pictures every fifteen seconds when something was moving, and those photos were dropped into a folder Wren set up in the app provided by the manufacturer. Wren played with the settings so that he received a notice instantly when any of the ten monitoring devices took a shot. It was an expensive solution. Wren dumped a lot of money into the equipment. Caleb knew they'd be a tempting target for a well-aimed shot from a rifle, so he also screwed thick, steel guards into place beside and under each of them. The only way someone could shoot one down now was to stand right in front of it, right in view of the lens - where it would promptly take the offender's picture. Wade motored on past and the young men watched him go. "Well, I'm sure Wade will tell the other two what we're up to," Charles said as the Dodge disappeared around the curve in the blacktop. "Good." Wren put his phone back into his pocket. "I'd rather they just stay away. I don't want to fight with them, and if the cameras do that for us, then great." Caleb had his doubts. "I don't know." He frowned. "I mean, they're committed to this road now." He made a face. "And Tracy did shoot at one of them." "They deserved it. They were trespassin', whoever it was." Charles considered as they got into Caleb's truck. "Still, I think you're right. I don't think they'll stop, they'll just change tactics." Caleb started the engine and looked over, confused, at Wren. Charles always rode shotgun when they all used the truck. This time his brother sat behind the front passenger seat, and Wren took it instead. Caleb met Wren's gaze, and his black-haired friend smiled and shrugged. "We sittin' here for a reason?" Charles groused in the back. "Uh, no." Caleb put the Chevy in gear. He pulled onto the gravel drive, pointed back up the hill toward Charles's place. Charles had already texted and warned Tracy that he had his hungry brother and Wren along with him. She assured him that she was ready for the assault on their dinner, and even suggested inviting Rachel up as well. They all thought it a good idea, now that they had the monitors in place. Caleb found himself looking forward to the meal. It had been a long time since they'd all eaten together. They got up to the house and Rachel's truck pulled in as they got up onto the porch. They waited while Rachel approached in the fading light of early evening. She grinned at them. "You boys get the cameras up?" "Yep. It's all done, Mom." Wren nodded. "Oh, good." She shook her head as they all went inside. "It's sad you had to resort to this, but maybe it'll help." Caleb instantly smelled coffee, chili powder, and several other spices and herbs he couldn't place as they walked into the kitchen. Tracy was just removing a pork loin from the oven. It looked terrific, coated in a dark, savory rub of some kind. "Lord, that smells good." Charles watched as Tracy removed the meat from the hot cast iron pan. "What kinda rub is that?" "Instant coffee, Italian seasoning, and a pile of other stuff." Tracy grinned at the loin as it steamed on the plate. She waved a hand. "That Bobby Flay, he makes some crazy things, and I had to try it." "Oh, gettin' fancy!" Rachel hugged her while Caleb and Wren found seats. She pushed back and frowned at Tracy. "Now, you didn't go through no trouble for me, did you?" "Well, it has been a while. I wanted it to be special." Tracy waved off her concern. "But it wasn't no trouble." Charles smiled and put a hand on Tracy's back. "Hon, thanks for feedin' us." He patted her. "Sit. I'll serve it up." While the pork rested, Charles served broiled vegetables, mashed potatoes, and by that point, it was time to cut into the pork loin. Soon they all had full plates of food before them and glasses of milk to drink. Caleb looked around the table as Charles settled in. Everybody was happy, hungry, and they all complimented the blushing Tracy on her meal. "This is nice." Wren wiped his mouth and looked at Tracy and Charles. "Thanks for having us." Caleb swallowed and nodded. "Yeah, thanks." Charles cocked his head at Caleb, a little frown on his face. "Well, I think Wren meant him and Rachel, but, sure Caleb." He smirked. "I reckon you forgot that you live here?" Caleb flushed red. Wren too looked at him, a bit of stress on his face. Caleb began to speak, but Rachel beat him to it. "Well, that's good." She glanced around. "Means he feels at home down on the farm." She nodded and cut another piece of pork. "That's how it should be, right?" Tracy nodded. "Yep." She grinned and held up her glass of milk. "To new starts." Caleb felt relief and picked up his glass, then all of them echoed the toast and took a drink. Caleb swallowed the milk, then set his glass back on the table. He felt Wren's warm hand pat his leg and had to stop himself from looking over at his friend. Though he couldn't keep from grinning.
  8. Wesley8890

    Chapter 12

    Richie really is being a dick to Freddy for no reason!
  9. ObicanDecko


    Nathan had no idea shooting a naked calendar could be so much fun. Now he's gonna start sending naked selfies to Jaymes every day.
  10. Wayne Gray


    Thanks for reading and commenting, Mac. The gay thing is just one more hurdle for Wren, one that creates problems for him he wouldn't otherwise have. Rachel definitely seems happy to see him, though. His reunion with Charles and Caleb is only a chapter away. I hope you enjoy that as well. Have a great one, Mac.
  11. Ronyx

    Chapter 12

    Things are starting to return to normal- a little. I’ve been back to school for about three weeks. It isn’t as bad as I thought. Most people just leave me alone. A few students stare at me as I walk down the hall, and I can hear a few of their remarks as they pass, but I just ignore them. If it wasn’t me they are talking about, it would just be someone else. Trying to catch up on the work I’ve missed has been a bitch. My counselor summoned me to the office last week and told me that there was a chance that I might not pass this year if I didn’t start applying myself better. How can I ‘apply’ myself with all the shit I’ve been through? But they don’t care. All they focus on is your GPA. There should be some way of factoring in a person’s personal problems. It shouldn’t be based just on class work and test scores. Shouldn’t a student who is going through their own personal hell be evaluated differently than the nerdy boy who has nothing to do at night but stay holed up in his room studying all the time? I’ve come to realize over the past few years that life isn’t fair. Actually, when you come right down to it, it really doesn’t make a lot of sense. There isn’t any continuity to it. You can go along one day and everything is fine. Then bam. You go to a doctor and he tells you that you have the Big C. Like my mother. Or you can go out to dinner and have the best meal of your life. Then anticipate going back and losing your virginity to someone who you’re falling in love with. Then bam. You get broadsided by a car and he’s dead in an instant. Like Wade. I’ve learned that life offers one guarantee- there is no guarantee for life. It can leave your body slowly or it can leave in a split second. But one this is guaranteed- it will leave. I’m fifteen and I already know that. I’ve watched it happen twice. Gabe wants me to join him and the other basketball players for lunch, but I don’t have the time. I come to the library each day to try and catch up on some work. It’s quiet and I don’t have to deal with anyone. That’s something else I’m finding myself doing more and more- withdrawing from people. I don’t think I’m depressed or anything, I just want to be left alone. I’m working shit out in my mind and people just get in the way. Aunt Barbara and Uncle Ray are beginning to realize that. For a couple of weeks, they tried to get me to do things with them, but I’d always refuse. They would sit at the dinner table at night and look worriedly at me. One night I just opened up and talked to them. “I’m all right,” I assured them. “I’m not going to do anything to myself. I just need some time to be alone.” “Perhaps we should find you a counselor,” Aunt Barbara suggested. “Your father has agreed to find you someone.” I bristled at first when they mentioned his name, but I didn’t say anything. I knew he was worried about me. Why, I don’t know. But sometimes I can hear Uncle Ray talking to him on the phone late at night. For some reason, it seems like he is attempting to get me to come back home. But that is something I am determined that I will never do. Even though I miss Andrew and Melinda terribly, I do get to see them almost every Sunday. He drops them off in the early afternoon and they stay until after dinner. Many times Aunt Barbara will take us some place, and I spend the afternoon with just them. Last week we went roller skating at a nearby roller rink. I don’t think I’ve had so much fun in such a long time. Andrew couldn’t stand upright on the skates. Every time he would start to wobble away from me, he’d fall down. He’d pout and I’d roar with laugher. Finally, I held him in front of me while we skated around the rink. By the time we left, he was doing it by himself if he was holding my hand. Then after dinner, I return to my quiet room. I’m doing a little writing. I find that it helps if I put down my feelings on paper. They only problem is, most of the time I don’t know what my feelings are. At times I feel sad. Then the sadness turns to anger, and the anger turns to rage. Then I get mad because I’m angry, and then the sadness returns. I feel like a hamster running around inside a wheel. Everything is going in circles, but I’m running to nowhere. Gabe’s a good friend. The best anyone could have. He rides his bike over almost every night to spend time with me. Sometimes we play video games, but most of the time we just sit around and say nothing. He’s also about the only person who can make me laugh. One night last week, we sat around watching television. Neither of us had said anything for almost fifteen minutes. He looked over worriedly at me and asked, “Would you like me to kiss you again?” I sat up and looked surprisingly at him. “What!” I shrieked. He gave me a goofy grin. “Well,” he responded, “the last time I did it, it made you feel happy. I just want to see you laugh again.” I started grinning. “Thanks, Gabe,” I replied. “You’re a good friend.” He smiled. Then I started laughing and said, “But you’re a lousy kisser.” We started laughing and he pushed me back on the bed. “Am not,” he grinned as he leaned in toward me. “I’ll prove it.” When his lips reached mine, I stuck my wet tongue into his mouth. “Ewww!” He screamed as he raised his sleeve and wiped my slobber from his mouth. “You’re fucking gross!” I lay back on the bed and roared. “I told you that you were a lousy kisser.” “Fucker!” He mumbled as he rushed over to my bathroom and wiped his mouth out with water. I then heard him gargling. I was still laughing when he returned. He sat down beside me and started laughing. “At least you’re happier,” he smiled. “And you’re still a lousy kisser,” I laughed. Good old Gabe. The best friend anyone could have. ******** I looked over when someone sat down beside me at the library table. “Can I sit here?” It was Earl Buckman, the student who had passed me the note when Stephen had spread the news that I was gay. “Free world,” I replied as I pushed by book bag away so that he could have room to work. He fumbled around his book bag before pulling out a notebook and his literature book. He kept looking over at me and smiling as he opened the book and started to read. He turned and looked at me. “Did you do the assignment today?” “Not yet,” I replied. I had been trying to catch up with my algebra assignment. I was going to do Mrs. Livingstone’s assignment when I got home. He read a few more minutes before scooting over towards me. He pushed his leg against mine as he looked over at me. “Do you know what this word means?” When I scooted away so that our legs weren’t touching, a disappointed look appeared on his face. “It means you’re not sincere.” I said as I leaned over and looked at the word he was pointing to. “What?” “Disingenuous,” I said. He looked down at the book. “It means insincere.” “Oh, yeah,” he replied as he wrote down the definition. He looked back and stared into my eyes. “Thanks.” Earl is a cute guy, but he is rather effeminate. Wade had long blonde hair, and he was always brushing it back, but he didn’t look like a girl when he did it. Earl has a habit of brushing his brown hair back as if he is waving at someone. Students sit in class and mock him. Many times I hear a student tell someone that they are “so gay.” The person would act insulted and brush aside their hair in the same manner that Earl would and then reply with a lisp, “I am not.” It usually ends with a round of laughter. I had found myself many times feeling sorry for him over the years. It was obvious when we entered middle school that he was different from the rest of the boys. He instantly became the butt of many jokes. Around that time, I was beginning to question if I too was like Earl. That was one of the reasons I had hidden my sexuality for so long. I didn’t want to become like Earl Buckman. I didn’t want other students to tease and ridicule me the way they did him. Earl is actually a great guy. Besides being cute, he is kind and generous. He is usually the first to volunteer for projects that involved helping other students, especially around the holiday season. He organizes a ‘giving tree’ each year to buy unfortunate students presents for Christmas. Unfortunately, his participation often discourages other male students from becoming involved. Guys are particularly hesitant to participate because they don’t want other students thinking they are involved because they want to be closer to Earl. That is the reason that Earl is usually surrounded by girls. They find him funny and charming, and they feel safe being with him. I could tell he was looking at me, so I turned toward him. He frowned and said, “You never called me, Richie.” “Look, Earl,” I started, but he stopped me. “It’s okay,” he replied sadly. “I really didn’t expect you to. It’s just that you’re a really nice guy. I’ve had a crush on you since the fifth grade.” His face started to redden as he brushed the hair from his eyes. He started gathering his books and quickly stuffed them into his book bag. “I’m sorry, Richie,” he said softly. “I don’t know what made me think...” He got up and looked down sadly at me. “Bye, Richie.” I watched as he walked slowly from the library, pushing his book bag onto his shoulders. I called out his name. “Earl!” He turned and looked at me. “I didn’t say I wouldn’t.” He gave me a big grin and then waved. I waved back as he turned and left the library. ******** “You did what?” Gabe shrieked when I told him about the incident with Earl. We were heading to his house after school. He needed help with a chemistry assignment. Help usually means do it for him while he watches a rerun of a football game on television. “Well he looked so sad,” I replied. “If you could have seen the look on his face.” “But Jesus, Richie,” Gabe said as he looked over at me. “You told him you would go out with him.” I stopped and turned toward him. “What’s wrong with going out with Earl? I don’t plan to have sex with him. Besides, he’s the only other gay boy I know.” “But Jesus,” Gabe stammered. “He’s so..so..you know.” “So what?” I asked angrily. “Gay?” “Well, yeah,” he replied. “Duh!” I turned and started walking down the street. Gabe ran up and grabbed my arm. “Come on, Richie. You know what I’m talking about. I don’t mind you dating a guy.” He gave me a worried look. “But Earl?” “I’m starting to get bored sitting around the house all the time,” I insisted. “I need to go out.” “You got me,” Gabe responded. “Don’t we have a good time together?” “When you’re around,” I said. “But now that you’re dating Teresa, I hardly ever see you anymore.” “I’ve told you,” he reminded me, “that you can go with us.” “Oh, yeah,” I rolled my eyes. “That would be fun, watching you two swap spit all night.” “We don’t swap spit,” he laughed. “Well, maybe.” His face reddened. “When I drop her off at night.” I started off down the street. He ran to catch up with me. “We’re going to the movies this weekend. Why don’t you come with us?” I turned and grinned. “Can I call Earl and ask him to go?” Gabe’s eyes widened. I knew I’d caught him off guard. It was fun watching him try to come up with some excuse why he couldn’t go with us. Finally, he shrugged his shoulders. “Okay,” he said apprehensively. “I’ll tell Teresa tomorrow. I don’t know how she’ll react, though.” I threw my hand around Gabe’s shoulder. “It’s okay, Gabe.” I laughed. “I was just teasing you. I wanted to see what you’d say.” He gave me a look of relief. “So, you’re not going to ask Earl out on a date?” “Naw,” I said as I started to walk away. “Not this Saturday, anyway.” “Wait, Richie!” Gabe said excitedly as he ran to catch up with me. “What does that mean?” I started laughing. ******** “You seem in a happy mood.” My aunt was sitting across from the table smiling at me. I shrugged my shoulders and ate a big scoop of cereal. “Why do you say that?” She frowned. “Don’t speak with your mouth full.” She threw the newspaper at me when I opened my mouth and showed her the contents of half eaten cereal. I started choking when I started to laugh. “Serves you right,” she said as she got up from the table, poured herself another cup of coffee and sat back down. I was feeling in a good mood. In fact, I hadn’t felt so good in a long time. Since it was a Saturday, he was bringing Andrew over. Gabe and I were going to take him to a nearby amusement park. I hadn’t been there since my mother got sick, and I was looking forward to going. When Gabe had suggested it, I asked him if Andrew could go along. He said he would like that, so I had asked Aunt Barbara to ask him if he could go with us. After talking to him on the phone, she said that he had readily agreed. He thought it was a good idea that I wanted to spend time with my little brother. When she said he even volunteered to take us, I told her I wouldn’t go if he did. After discussing it with him, he agreed to let her take us. The phone rang and Aunt Barbara got up to answer it. She returned and handed the receiver to me. “Hello?” “Richie!” It was Andrew. He sounded excited. “I know you won’t like it, but can Harley go with us? He’s sitting in our room crying because he can’t go with us. Can he go, huh? Please?” I looked over at my aunt who was staring at me. I think Andrew had probably said something to her and she had decided to let me make the decision. I had really hoped that Andrew and I could spend the day together, but he wouldn’t have fun if he knew Harley was sitting at home alone and sad. “Sure,” I answered reluctantly. I looked over and saw my aunt smile. “He can go.” “He can?” I held the phone from my ear when Andrew squealed excitedly. “Thanks, Richie!” I started to hang up when he stopped me. “Richie?” “Yeah, Andrew?” I could hear Harley talking to him in the background. Finally, he came back on the phone. “Harley wants to know if Freddy can come with us?” I didn’t mind Harley going, but I was skeptical about Freddy joining us. I still didn’t feel comfortable around him. He and Gabe had become good friends, and Gabe was always trying to get me to talk to him. So far though, I had been able to avoid him. I knew that he wasn’t involved in the decision of moving into my room. However, he was there, and I wasn’t. That was enough for me not to like him. “I don’t think there’s enough room in the car,” I said. Again, I heard Andrew and Harley talking. “Harley says he can sit in my lap,” Andrew suggested. “He don’t mind.” I looked over at my aunt. Even though she couldn’t hear Andrew’s question, I was pretty sure she knew what he had asked me. “Hold on,” I told my little brother. I covered the receiver with my hand. “He wants Harley and Freddy to join us,” I informed her. “Tell him the car won’t hold all of us.” I tried to hand her the phone. “He knows better than that,” she replied. “Besides, what’s the harm of them going?” “I don’t want Freddy to go.” “Why?” she asked. “I don’t see anything wrong with him joining you boys.” “Fine,” I said angrily. “Tell Andrew that they can go. I’ll just stay home.” I pushed myself away from the table and stormed to my room. I pulled out my literature book and started to work on a homework assignment. I was upset because I had wanted to spend the day with my little brother. We hadn’t seen each other for a week, and then we went out with Aunt Barbara and Uncle Ray to the video arcade in the mall. Harley went with us then, and Andrew spent most of his time playing games with him. There was a knock on the door, and then Gabe entered. He sat down on the bed and looked over at me. “Barb said you don’t want to go with us.” I pretended to write and didn’t look up at him. “I got too much work to do.” “But you were excited about going yesterday.” “Well,” I huffed, “I’m not excited now.” I turned and faced him. “Go and have a good time,” I said sarcastically. “Ohhh,” he grinned. “Someone’s in a shitty mood.” “Fuck you, Gabe!” I turned and pretended to write something down in my notebook. Just then Andrew came running into the room and jumped in my lap. “You ready to go, Richie? Me and Harley want to ride on the roller coaster.” “He’s not going,” remarked Gabe as he gave me a snide look. He knew I couldn’t tell Andrew no to anything. “Why?” Andrew looked sadly at me. “I thought we were going to have a good time together.” I pulled him from my lap and stood him on the floor. “You got Harley.” “But he ain’t you, Richie.” Tears started to form in his eyes. “Please go with us. It won’t be any fun if you don’t go.” I looked over at Gabe. “You still got Gabe, Harley and...” my voice turned to a tone of anger, “and Freddy.” I heard Gabe mutter, “So that’s it.” He stood up and walked over to Andrew. He gently led him to the door. “Why don’t you go in the family room and wait for us.” He turned to me with an angry expression on his face. “I’ll try to talk this hard-headed brother of yours into going.” Andrew timidly waved at me before leaving. Gabe slammed the door shut. “Don’t start on me!” I said angrily. “I’m not in the mood.” Gabe walked over and looked down at me. “You’re going to miss having a good time with your brother just because Freddy is going?” “That’s not the reason I don’t want to go,” I insisted as I turned and picked up my pencil. He snatched it from my hand. “When are you going to grow up, Richie?” His expression was more hurt than anger. “Freddy hasn’t done anything to you. He doesn’t like the situation any more than you do. He told me he’d love to leave, but he has nowhere else to go.” “He could live with you,” I replied sarcastically, “since you two are such good friends anymore." “Fuck you, Richie!” He balled up his fist, but then he walked over to the window and let out an exasperated sigh. “Freddy has done everything he can to be your friend, and you treat him like a piece of shit.” “Maybe he is a piece of shit,” I responded. Gabe walked back over and stood before me once again. “You know better than that. If you would give him a chance, you’d find out he’s a really great guy.” I turned and started writing in my notebook. Gabe watched for a minute before turning and heading for the door. He stopped before leaving. “I hope you get your assignments done,” he stated sadly. “I just hope it’s worth missing out having fun with Andrew today. He’s been looking forward to this all week.” I jumped when he left and slammed the door behind him. I didn’t know what to do. I had also been looking forward all week to spending time with Andrew- alone. Sure, Gabe was going, but he understood that I needed to spend time alone with my little brother. Things just didn’t fit anymore. I missed my home, and I missed my room. I missed eating breakfast with Andrew and Melinda in the morning. I missed wrestling with Andrew in the family room as we watched television at night. I missed helping Melinda with her math homework after school. Most of all, I missed tucking them into bed at night and kissing them on their forehead. Now, two strangers had taken my place. Now it was Harley wrestling on the floor with Andrew. Freddy was helping Melinda with her math. He was putting them to bed and kissing them goodnight on their forehead. Tears appeared when I thought about all the times he had put me to bed when I was Andrew’s age. “Read me a story, Daddy,” I would beg, “Please?” He’d ruffle my hair and smile. “Sure, Sport. What story?” I would then get out of bed and grab the book he had been reading for the past few days. Harry Potter had been one of my favorites. “Here, Daddy,” I would say as I jumped back into bed and pulled the covers over me. He would turn the book to where he had inserted the marker, lean back on the headboard and start reading. I would listen for a while before my eyelids would become heavy. After reading a few more pages, he’d close the book, kiss me on my forehead and then turn out the light. “I love you, Son,” would be the last words I’d hear before sleep overtook me. “Damn it!” I sighed as I wiped the tears from my eyes with my sleeve. Just then the door opened, and Andrew entered. After noticing I had been crying, he walked over and climbed into my lap. “It’s going to be okay, Richie.” He too started to cry. “I promise.” I held him tightly for a minute before removing him from my lap. I reached up and wiped his tears away with my finger. He leaned in and hugged me again. “You’re the best brother in the whole world,” he stated proudly. “You are too,” I replied as I kissed his forehead. I stood and took his hand. “Let’s go. You and Harley have a roller coaster to ride.”
  12. mikedup

    Alo Chapter 30

    Awesome chapter, more drama he has a knack of sorting things out very rapidly
  13. Howzat


    I can't spot the joins though so you both did a good job! Great chapter though I'm still a bit anxious about the Australian cousin and when he comes into the story in person to see what his plans are and how they'll affect Nathan and Jaymes. And Polly is going to be so livid that neither of them told her about them getting together - but in the same breath she'll be so happy for them both.
  14. April 15 The world is full of melody, the brook, the bird and bumblebee, the poplar creaking on the wind that groans in perfect harmony. Each sings a tune none can rescind: the wolf that howled, the goose that dinned the marshland or the reedy lake cannot be silenced or chagrined. Fall rains which thrum when I awake keep time with every step I take through puddles like the cymbals’ clash, till warmth gives way to ice and flake. Great ocean rollers roar and thrash, then croon to sands which they abash; love’s chorus in cacophony - though you may think this balderdash. April 16 Of what substance are you made, O my soul, O my soul; Of what fabric and what shade, O my soul? Braided fair and woven fine, found in patterns wholly thine, and upon the body laid, O my soul. And of what yarn did you weave, O my soul, O my soul; Of what thread did you conceive, O my soul? Twisted silk and linen new, golden skeins known to but few, blended to your fears relieve, O my soul. But my eyes don’t see it thus, O my soul, O my soul; Only crude twine treasonous, O my soul. You must look as others do, not with mirrors all askew, but with love harmonious, O my soul. April 17 Of all the vegetables I may grow that prosper in the ground, amongst the seeds that the hand will sow Tomatoes wear the crown. They have their infinite multitude of type and cultivar from long, determinate Romas rude to heirloom whites, bizarre. Now one may argue the melon’s case, such is their great demand, or peppers possibly may misplace one’s thinking on the land; but give me Brandywines warmed by sun in August, for my meal and heirloom cherry tomatoes, fun, which grow with untold zeal; The Kellogg’s orange skinned giant orbs September’s breakfasts make, Their juice my sourdough bread absorbs would sweeten any cake. Take your asparagus, it’s quite fine, and beans and parsnips, too; but I’ll take Cherokees from the vine and leave a few for you. April 18 April sings of robins bouncing on green lawns, of fishermen with day-old beards hip deep in icy creeks and tiny daffodils blazing yellow-gold in grass that hasn’t yet caught up; Her voice recalls scents of warm earth, old furrows, uncovered gardens and open water; She sways to the rhythm of the sapsucker’s drumming on cottonwoods, the hiss and patter of raindrops on the roof, and the staccato playing of the John Deere up the hill; April’s tune has no final cadence as with November’s first snowfall, but blends itself into May’s fresh green leaves, Memorial Day lilacs and June’s tang of sun and sweat. April 19 Beforehand he kissed me at the door and led me to that bright sunlit room where with mutual breathless exhilaration he unveiled me, button by button, speaking naked truths on our bare skin. Afterwards, he held me in the hush; in the room’s sudden sated stillness warm breath and dazed kisses on my neck and shoulder bound me closer and tighter to him than all our explosive ecstasy. April 20 Bees buzz, such lilliputian insects procuring sugars complex attired in yellow-black checks facilitating plant sex. Buzz biz, they trip the light fantastic in motions quite stochastic appearing most gymnastic relaying food thoughts drastic. Biz bros, relations in gazillions the offspring of cotillions the queen held with civilians who rode with her as pillions. April 21 I believe that we are made for love; to bless and to receive great blessing, and mend a fractured heart or sustain weary friends with strong arms and spirits that embrace; to breathe compassion and wake to joy.
  15. aditus

    Chapter 12

    Landyn ducked as he jumped out of the open door of the chopper. He ran over to the rusted gate, followed quickly by his men. They had landed on the helipad of one of the abandoned estates near the Order’s property. After Ronan exited the helicopter, it took off to allow the other one to land. Quickly, they reached the small door Sho had told them was the side entrance to the mansion where the king and Ivan were being held. When they couldn’t find Nico and Sho, Landyn sighed. "As expected." He looked at the suspiciously clean doorknob. "Sho said opening the door triggers an alarm inside. Ronan, do you think you could disable that? If it takes too long though, we just blast through it. We don’t have time to play around with door mechanisms." “Excuse me, sir.” Landyn instantly reached for his gun, then he recognized the man and grinned widely. “Damn, Lionel! What are you doing here?” “Noël ordered me to wait for you here. He and Sho couldn’t wait any longer. His precog urged him on. The king and Ivan were in immediate danger.” Ronan stepped closer. “I gather your presence here isn’t a coincidence?” “No, I was observing the house when Noël and Sho arrived. I thought they could use my knowledge about the Order before they infiltrated the facility.” “Nico scanned you?” “Immediately.” “Why didn’t you go with them, then?” “As I said, Noël ordered me to stay and wait for you. I saw members of the Order bringing the king and Ivan into this house. He said you needed an eyewitness to prove the Order is involved in their abduction. For that I needed to stay outside, away from harm.” “That sounds like something Nico would say.” Landyn narrowed his eyes. “I can’t sense any deceit. Ronan?” The big man stared into Lionel’s eyes. “Me neither.” Then he smiled at Lionel and slapped him on the shoulder. “’s good to see you again, my friend.” Landyn watched Keith’s mate warily, then sighed. “Okay. Tell me everything you know about this place.” Lionel told him everything he had told Nico and Sho. “We can’t recharge our energy as soon as we are underground!?” Lionel shook his head. “That’s bad! It means the king and Ivan are utterly helpless—at the Order’s mercy for hours. No wonder Nico didn’t wait for us. And we have no chance to contact them, coordinate our approach. Our phones won’t work down there too.” “The Order has WLAN installed down there. I gave Noël, er...Nico, the password.” Landyn narrowed his eyes at Lionel. “How did you acquire that?” “I worked at the bar they go to after their shift ends. A newguard forgot his phone, and they were too drunk to notice me.” “Or it was a trap.” Ronan mumbled while he examined the lock, then pushed a thin metal plate between the latch and the doorframe. "This should disable the alarm." “Give me the password. We’ll use it only when absolutely necessary.” Landyn turned to Lionel. You stay here.” He nodded at one of his men. “Walt here, will guard you.” Then he turned to his men. “Were you listening? As soon we are in the tunnels, we can’t recharge our energy. Use your powers sparsely.” They carefully opened the door to the property, and Landyn immediately grinned at what he saw. Too many feet had followed the ornamented tiles early that morning and formed a visible track through the dewy, knee-high weed. “Let’s walk along that path someone kindly showed us.” When the group reached the open space in front of the mansion, Landyn motioned to three of his men. "Look at the drag marks; one of the boards can be moved aside.” He opened his senses. “Probably three guards inside. Under no circumstances are they to warn the others; do whatever is necessary." The men scurried to the nailed-up entrance. The others went on. Halfway down to the tool shed, their exceptional hearing caught muffled shots, and Ronan swore. "Shit, so much for not warning the others." Looking at each other, the men hurried even more, anxious somebody heard the shots. They found the entrance to the tunnels easily. "Hopefully Nico and Sho already took care of any guards." Nico and Sho had to pass yet another room, and they quickened their pace, hoping it would work as it had before, and nobody would identify them as intruders. Nico turned his head at the last moment, caught a glimpse into the dimly lit room to his right, and stopped so abruptly Sho was several feet ahead before he noticed Nico wasn't with him. "What now?" he asked impatiently. Two men were lying on stretchers, their arms, legs, and midriff secured with broad straps. Tubes were coming out of their arms, and their blood was being pumped into bags. "They are Seraei, and one of them is council leader Cieran O'Connor," Nico whispered. That brought Sho back to his side. The man who wasn't O'Connor turned his head, and his eyes widened when he saw Nico. "My prince! Hide...get to safety." And then even more urgently, he stated, "We have no powers here." Nico couldn't help himself, despite the fact he could hear his mate screaming in his head in agony and fury, he stepped into the room. "What are you doing here?" He stared at the tube coming out of the man's arm. The man shook his head vigorously. "No time...Sire...go, hide. They come back here to check the blood bags regularly. Go!" When Nico still didn't move, he croaked, "...need our blood. Seraei blood. Bleed us to death eventually...get help." When Nico looked over at the council leader, the man shook his head. "Too late...He’s dying." Sho stood in the doorway, watching Nico impatiently. "Come on, we can't help him right now, and that scumbag of a traitor Cieran...he deserves to die anyway. We have to get to—" He stopped, not trusting O'Connor was already gone. "You know...." Nico nodded. Sho was right. He gently squeezed the other man's shoulder. "We’ll come back for you. Promise." Outside he muttered, "I want to know what's going on here. I want to know why they need our blood, what this facility is." Then he remembered the smell of decay they had encountered before and felt sick. How many Seraei had already died and were rotting down here? They passed another room, where a pregnant woman was laying on a bed, connected to several tubes and beeping machines. “The doctor's mate.” “Do you think they’re experimenting on her too?” Sho asked, appalled. Guns at the ready, Landyn and his men felt with their feet for each of the slippery, wet stone steps. It was dark and damp; the odor of mold and mildew coming from below was nauseating to their sensitive noses. With his back against the roughly plastered wall, Landyn raised his hand, and one of his men turned into the room at the end of the stairs. Seconds later came the "Clear!" They followed him, and Ronan instantly perused the room, saw the two worn overstuffed chairs, cards, and beer bottles. "Probably the guards’ room, but where are they?" When his gaze fell on the jammed door in the back, he grinned. "I bet that's where our boys put them." "We have to check anyway, just in case that's where the guards put our boys," Landyn griped and motioned for two of his men to pry open the door. After they found the two stripped men, still unconscious, they jammed the door shut again, and Landyn felt decidedly better, not that he would admit it. Ronan smiled grimly. "If they had been detected, by now the whole compound would be swarming with guards, so I guess our boys are still on their mission." "Why am I thinking of Frodo and Sam right now?” One of their men asked in the back. “I wonder how long they will stay undetected," Landyn muttered. Simon shook his head. "Ever the optimist, love?" "Realist. It's called realist, love." Ronan took point, and when they found the tunnel with the holding cells, he immediately gestured for four of the men to inspect them. They waited in silence as the men silently checked the small rooms.One of them raised his left hand and pointed at the last cell. Its door was wider, and there was no lock. He lifted his hand again, this time showing four fingers. It looked like the last room wasn't a cell, but another guardroom, and at least four guards were inside. Ronan turned to Landyn and whispered, "What do we do? We can't fight them without betraying our presence." "Assuming the room isn't that big, Roberts could probably stun them with a power blast." “It would mean he’d use up some of his energy.” Thinking about it, Ronan eventually nodded. “It’s worth it.” Landyn made the appropriate sign to his man, who stood with his back pressed against the wall beside the guardroom, waiting for orders. A brief nod, and Roberts tore the door open, released a power surge, and then his companions stormed inside, one using their rifle’s butt to knock out the guards who were still fumbling for their guns. "They must feel very safe down here, seeing how careless they are." Landyn pointed at the scattered cards and half-empty beer bottles on the table. "Secure them and make sure they can't call for help." When he turned around, he noticed Roberts was slumped against the wall. "Roberts, are you okay?" "I don't know, sir. After I cast the power blast, I felt drained and dizzy, more than I should be." He lifted his hands, which were trembling slightly. Noticing the thin sheet of sweat on the man's forehead, Landyn frowned. "Lionel was right. From now on we use our powers only if absolutely necessary." Nico was about to round the next corner when he abruptly stopped. Sho looked at him questioningly, but then he heard it too: Two male voices talking to each other. "Why is Jones in there with them? It's always he, who has all the fun." "Yeah, he gets to play with them fuckers all the time, and we're just here to clean up the mess after him." "What's the big deal with those two anyway?" "One is supposed to be their king." "Sweet. Maybe we can get our hands on him for a bit, after all." Sho pulled his phone out of his pants pocket. Then he held it so he could take a picture of the men guarding the door. He retracted his hand after pushing the button several times, and together they looked at the screen. Two men with their guns in their holsters stood before ornate double doors. They didn't look in their direction but were concentrating on what was going on in the room behind them. Perfect. “Do you think Landyn and Ronan arrived?” Sho asked “I believe I can feel them. Send them one of the pictures. We have to risk it, or they’ll have to search every room.” Nico knew Diarmad was facing utter horror in that room. He could hear muffled voices, followed by a protracted keening noise, which sounded more like an animal than a Seraei. Sho gasped. “It’s Ivan.” Diarmad was exhausted. The constant barrage of questions, only intermitted by the agonized screams of his dying friend, was taking its toll. His control was slipping. At the same time, he knew if he showed the smallest sign of weakness, their jailers would exploit it. The torturing would go on until Ivan would eventually die the most horrible death. His hope was if he appeared unimpressed and cold, they would lose their patience with him and kill Ivan in a fit of rage, then start to torture him instead. That was all he could hope. He had no illusions they would get out of this alive, not with his powers gone and his lack of energy. Nico. It had to be a figment of his imagination. Even if the transmitter worked, and his people knew where he was, he doubted Landyn would let Nico be part of a rescue mission. He would never risk Nico's life. Nevertheless, even the imaginary presence of his mate reinforced his resolution to stand with his plan. He smiled serenely. This seemed to have the desired effect. The secretary’s face flushed red, and he balled his hands into fists. The man was furious. Under different circumstances, Diarmad would have laughed at his reaction. Now, he hoped it would speed up his plan. He felt Nico again. This time his mate's distress was almost palpable, and he realized it wasn't an illusion. Nico really was close. Hope fought with anxiousness. If his mate was here, he was in grave danger. Diarmad hoped Nico had been smart enough not to come alone, but knowing his impulsive mate, anything was possible. Covertly, he looked at the secretary and his men. Had they realized something was going on? No, they were fully concentrated on Ivan, taking perverse pleasure in torturing their prisoner. At the same time, they tried to gauge Diarmad's reaction. He schooled his expression, but knew he couldn't completely hide his agitation upon sensing Nico. He hoped they would chalk it up to the horror they were forcing him to witness. The secretary's lips curled cruelly. "Why, my king, is it finally getting too much? Even for your cold heart?" He nodded at his men, who turned Ivan's body so Diarmad could better see the effects of their doing: unseeing, bright, green eyes stared back at him, tears running down his face. The ragged, gaping cut was only slightly bleeding. Then the doors flew open and shots rang out. The secretary and one of the men holding Ivan immediately fell down, severely wounded. In moments, the attackers were on top of them, finishing them off with their swords. The third guard desperately fumbled with his gun, and aimed it at Diarmad. He saw it too late to react, and the bullet grazed his left shoulder. He staggered backwards and tripped, falling to the floor. Sho kicked the gun out of the remaining guard’s hand before he ran him through with his nihontō. Looking around, his gaze fell on Ivan. He dropped his sword, and ran over to the mutilated body of his mate. After sinking down on his knees beside him, he pulled the unconscious man into his lap. Muttering in Japanese, he desperately tried to stroke bloodied strands of blond hair out of Ivan’s face. Nothing existed for him at that moment, only his battered mate. Then Diarmad felt Nico's arms around him. His mate's unique, vibrating energy permeated his body. "Diarmad." He felt Nico’s lips on his temple, then his mate carefully examined his shoulder wound. "The bullet only grazed your shoulder, but it's not healing. Your energy is too low." "Ivan...." Diarmad croaked, and the last bit of strength he had clung to so hardily, left him. "He is unconscious, and Sho is with him. Landyn and Ronan are on their way here." Nico tilted his head for a moment and a faint smile appeared on his face. "I think I can already hear them." There was shouting in the distance, shots ringing out, and men running. Nico grabbed his discarded gun, just in case, but then saw Landyn and two of his men run into the room. They immediately headed to Diarmad and Nico. "Nico! Sire, you're hurt!" Landyn visually examined Nico before he looked down at Diarmad's wound. "His wound isn't closing." "No, his energy level is too low to heal himself," Nico explained. Diarmad’s eyes fluttered open briefly. "Ivan...take care of Ivan...I am all right...look at his eyes." "We brought a doctor. We found him in one of the other rooms." Diarmad closed his hand around Nico’s wrist with amazing strength. “No! Don’t let him near Ivan. He made the eye drops!” Landyn motioned to two of his men and pointed at the nearby, hovering doctor. “Take him away from here for further questioning.” The doctor took a step back. “No! I had no choice. They have my mate! She’s pregnant. We have to look for her! She has to be here somewhere.” Nico looked up. “I saw her in one of the rooms. Landyn, they were experimenting on her!” “What? They promised—” The doctor struggled against his bindings. “We will find her. The men are combing the rooms as we speak.” Impatient, Landyn waved his hand. “Get him out of here.” Then he narrowed his eyes at Nico. "Now take care of your mate. The room is secured; feed him." Nico nodded, then he pulled Diarmad into his arms, and positioned his mate’s mouth to his neck. When Diarmad didn't react, he tilted his head to the side so his throat was more exposed. That was all the incentive Diarmad needed. He sank his sharp canines into Nico's flesh, then shuddered in anticipation before the blood hit his tongue and he started to suck greedily. Being close to his mate, enveloped by his scent, swallowing his blood, Diarmad could feel the strength coming back to him. When he was able to stop drinking, he rested his forehead against Nico's shoulder. He would live. Nico had come for him. His mate poked his shoulder, then smiled. "You're healing. How do you feel?" "Better, much better." He sat up and looked around the room. “Ivan?” Ivan still lay with his head in Sho's lap. Sho had tears in his eyes when he looked up at Diarmad. Diarmad turned to Nico. “Help me up, please.” Nico quickly stood up and held his hand out. Diarmad took it and pulled himself up from the floor. His shoulder twitched, and his gait was a bit unsteady, but otherwise he seemed to be okay. “We need to get out of here, so we can replenish our energy and bring Ivan to a hospital.” Then he looked at Landyn, who seemed to be in a heated discussion with Ronan. "Let’s see what is going on over there." "Sire, before we leave...you have to make a decision. What we found in that room...is unbelievable." Diarmad saw Ronan’s disturbed expression, and his irritation quickly transformed into worry. "Which room? What are you talking about?" "It's a room further down this tunnel... n-near the entrance, to be exact. I-I'd rather you have a look at it yourself, Sire. It's-I can't describe–" Ronan’s voice broke. The image of ornate double doors popped up in his mind, and Nico knew immediately which room Ronan meant, even without having scented the sickening smell of decay on his clothes. Unquestioned, his brain provided pictures of piles of dead, rotting bodies, bled to death by sick Order members, and his throat felt like it was closing in on itself. "I think I know which room he means. We passed it on our way here... the one with the other two guards. Right?" Nico croaked. Landyn nodded. "That's the room." Seeing the ever-collected Ronan so completely beside himself made Nico expect the worst, so much so he didn't want to see for himself and have his fears confirmed. Diarmad felt his mate's anxiety increasing, and instantly wanted to find the cause and eliminate it. He grabbed Ronan's arm. "Have only the absolutely necessary amount of men down here and rotate them on a regular schedule so they can regenerate their powers outside." He pointed at Ivan. "You took the helicopters?” Ronan nodded. “Landyn, take one of them and get Ivan to our hospital ASAP. Don't forget to take a sample of those eye drops so they can examine them." Then his gaze fell on the doctor. "He goes with you; do not let him out of your sight. Maybe he can be helpful." The last sentence made the doctor look up. "I-I can't...My wife... I-I cannot leave without her," he stammered. Already in the hallway, Diarmad tossed back, "Take her to the hospital too, as soon you find her." He nodded at Ronan. "Lead the way." The smell grew stronger the closer they came to their destination. It became clear to Nico why when they turned into the right tunnel: The formerly tightly-closed double doors stood wide open and people walked in and out of the room at the back, most of them looking pale and sick. Ronan and Diarmad immediately lifted their arms to shield their noses against the stench and continued on, but Nico couldn't take another step. Something utterly ugly assaulted his mind. He pressed his hands against his lips and gagged as soon as they rounded the corner. Saliva pooled in his mouth, and he had difficulty swallowing it without retching. When Nico didn't immediately follow, Diarmad came back and wrapped his arm around his shoulder. "Nico, what is it? The smell?" Nico could only nod. Then he shook his head. Puzzled by Nico’s ambiguous gestures, Diarmad examined Nico’s pale face. He lifted his hand to the back of his head and pressed Nico’s nose against his own chest. "Do you want to go outside? You─" "He should come," Ronan said. "We might need him in there." Nico glanced over Diarmad's shoulder at the chief of security. "To do what? Scan dead people?" Ronan shook his head. "They aren't quite dead. At least I don't think so." "What's that awful stench then?" Nico asked, his voice muffled by the fabric of Diarmad's shirt. Ronan looked helplessly at Diarmad, than back at Nico. "Come— Look for yourself." Diarmad tightened his arm around him, and Nico closed his eyes and pressed his face into the crook between his mate's neck and shoulder. Taking in the familiar scent helped with the disgusting smell of rotting flesh, at least to some degree. He gave a small nod to signal his agreement. The moment they entered the room, an incessant hissing and wailing started. Nico’s eyes snapped open and it felt like his blood froze at what he saw. Three bodies wrapped in loose white cloaks, littered with greenish stains, lay on something between a hospital bed and a large, overstuffed recliner. Their skulls seemed unnaturally large in comparison to their frail, emaciated bodies. Clumps of oily, white hair dotted their heads. Deep, sunken eyes of indeterminate color were narrowed at them. Black, thin lips hurled a constant flow of curses and insults at them. "Outrages! Intruders! Out! Out! We don't want those here! Guards! Remove the abominations! Murderers! Filth! Out!" They frantically hit the buttons on the panels integrated into the armrests of their chairs. Grayish skin, covered in bruises, stretched tight over the bones of their flailing arms. The figures were hooked up to several humming and blinking machines. Tubes and wires came out from their noses, the crooks of their arms, and some places that were hidden by their gowns. They looked like the living dead. “What, the devil is, that?” Diarmad snarled. Nico shuddered. "Zombies."
  16. Wesley8890


    Black and White always seems sexier to me.
  17. Timothy M.


    You naughty man, you added those sex scenes after I edited.
  18. Butcher56

    Alo Chapter 30

    Another excellent chapter. It seems like Lloyd is making out fairly well as there was mostly trash in the main family home on the farm, with some furniture damage which was repaired and the furniture that was beyond repair was disposed of. The local Lions Club has come to Lloyd’s rescue as they were the ones that went in and cleaned everything up and they also recommended someone who could fix the windows they found broken. As they were preparing to leave for the return trip to the station Davis came up to Lloyd and asked him if there was anything else they could do to help him as he & Alistair aren’t suited for work on the station, Lloyd told him he would have them as the caretakers of the family farm and he would make arrangements for a four wheel drive vehicle be delivered so they could get around, and he would pay them $475.00 a week. I hope that Mr De Luca gets himself into a lot of trouble for the way he treated the farms he had leased from Lloyd’s parents, also I think he should get a hefty fine for his mistreatment of his own family.
  19. Will Hawkins

    Chapter 5

    I was surprised to hear that the British are aware of what chitterlings are. I thought those were essentially Southeastern American. I may have wasted time in explaining\translating a couple of the foods mentioned in previous Chapters, the author did it so well in this chapter. I guess I will wait on 'chitterlings' too. Do I dare hold off on "spotted dog' as well? My partner found that for sale in our local market here in Brazil under the name 'fruitcake'! "Spotted Dog" is frequently applied to pudding in Britain or a cake, in the US containing dried fruit, though in the US "fruitcake" is used also as a slang term for a gay man. The reasoning is slightly complex but it essentially relies on the fact that a 'fruitcake' contains both dried fruit and nuts just as a gay man is supposed to be a 'fruit' -- queer -- who is "nuts" -- crazy -- as well. All this conversation about foods that I have come to know as delicious in my travels over many years and many lands is making me hungry. Thank Goodness it is nearly lunchtime!
  20. Kev

    The Council Stands

    We all knew this moment was coming ... Jon, rip the fuckers head off!!! Love that little one Alice... Now I know why I never won as my daughter is pretty much like her.
  21. chris191070

    Alo Chapter 30

    Awesome chapter
  22. I am upset with one of my characters in a new story I've been working on instead of everything else I should be working on. He killed one of my other characters. That was not the plan, goddamnit! :( 

    1. Puppilull


      Naughty boy!

  23. Well, look at the bright side. At least, you're not told the opposite, which would be that you look like you're wearing a scowl all the time. I had people telling me, once they knew me, that they were afraid to talk to me, lol! I suppose we can't truly control how our faces look like. If we were aware, we would be way too tense.
  24. Thank you! Especially for encouraging Aidan since he needs it a lot
  25. Aww, so sorry! I promised it will get better, and from that moment onward, a new chapter in their lives will begin!
  26. lomax61


    Following Arlene’s directions, Jenny Gillespie’s studio sat tucked away in the centre of Royal Tunbridge Wells, above a travel agent on the main high street. Jaymes—his Rover now back in action—eventually found parking a few streets away on the third floor of a municipal car park. As the engine died, in the gloom of the building, Nathan felt Jaymes’ gaze come to rest on him. Insightful as always, he knew exactly what Nathan was thinking, which is why he’d kept the conversation light and diverting on the drive over. Truth be told, Nathan appreciated his presence, because he knew only too well how nervous he’d have been if he’d come alone. Still, it wasn’t every day you got to take your clothes off for a photographer and showcase your skin and bones, even if not your crown jewels. As though hearing the doubting voice in his head, a warm hand landed on his thigh and squeezed. “You know you’re going to rock this, don’t you?” “Not sure about that.” Nathan mourned the loss of heat when Jaymes removed his hand, but almost immediately the warmth transferred to around Nathan’s neck and shoulders, pulling him into Jaymes’ body. Nestled against him, Jaymes kissed the side of Nathan’s face and whispered in his ear. “I’m going to be with you, Nate. All the way.” Since Sunday—except for working hours—they had spent every waking and sleeping moment together. After visiting the solicitor, they enjoyed a light brunch inside a trendy brasserie overlooking the stormy Eastbourne seafront, and had a long chat about the implications of the will. Jaymes quelled any worries Nathan might have, reasoning that if Nathan, a relative his uncle had met only once, had left him so much money, then his true next of kin would surely have been left a hell of a lot more, making him a very wealthy man. After lunch, they agreed to drive straight to Polly’s. Instead of dessert, Jaymes had stoked Nathan’s ardour by promising him another unhurried session in the bedroom when they got home. Nathan drove barely under the speed limit and arrived at Polly’s at three-thirty. When Nathan explained the plan to set Jaymes up in Nathan’s spare room, Polly became pensive. If she suspected anything between them, he couldn’t tell. And even though Nathan cited the good sense of the plan, about them keeping very different work hours, about having the spare room available and being able to keep an eye on her cousin, she gave him a quizzical frown as they watched Jaymes load his things into the van. On his way past them, Jaymes deftly changed the subject, asking about her dinner date the night before with her girlfriends. Brilliant ploy, too, because a flustered Polly soon went on the defensive. “Girlfriends? She told me you had a dinner date with somebody, and it definitely wasn’t the girls. You had a date with Benny Osmond, didn’t you, Polly?” asked Nathan, his arms folded. “What? No!” said Polly, aghast. “Why would you think that?” “Because you two were thick as thieves the other night down the pub.” “He’s a child.” “Told you,” said Jaymes, tilting his head at Nathan as he carried another box to the van. “So who, then? We know it wasn’t the girls.” “None of your beeswax.” “You know he’s going to keep guessing, Poll,” called Jaymes. “May as well fess up now.” Polly looked between the two of them, before ramming her hands onto her hips. “Fine. I had dinner with Katherine Osmond, Benny’s mum.” “Oh. Oh?” said Nathan, raising his eyebrows. “For goodness’ sake, nothing like that. I called her to find out what she knew about Arlene and, as she wasn’t busy on Saturday night, suggested we have a drink and a bite to eat. Appeal to her journalistic curiosity, so to speak. Apparently she doesn’t trust her either. So now I’ve got her on the case to find out more.” “My goodness, you are one tenacious little private detective, aren’t you?” said Nathan. “Hang on. Were you going to keep this a secret?” “I wanted to surprise you. She may not come up with anything.” “Polly,” said Nathan, mock frowning. “You know we don’t keep secrets from each other.” Behind Polly’s left shoulder, Jaymes stopped moving, caught his eye, and pulled a face. Catching on, Nathan felt his cheeks colour. Fortunately Polly didn’t notice. “If I find anything out, you’ll be the first to know, okay? So are you boys coming in for a drink?” Jaymes beat Nathan to the reply. “Would love to, Poll, but I really need to get back and unpack my stuff in the spare room. And if Nathan doesn’t mind me using his ironing board, I should get some clothes ready for tomorrow morning.” “Knock yourself out.” “Fine, I’ll come to you then,” said Polly, not letting up. “I’ve been marking homework all morning and my brain is ready to implode. Need a dose of adult company along with my favourite tipple. I also want to hear what your solicitor had to say.” Nathan and Jaymes exchanged a panicked glance. “Sure,” said Nathan, shrugging defeat, noticing Jaymes rub a hand over his eyebrows. “How about you give us an hour to get Jaymes settled and then come over. Text me when you’re near. Maybe we can order some take-out—” “No, I’ll cook,” said Jaymes, a little abruptly, slapping Nathan on the shoulder. “Enough with the bloody take-outs. But can we stop off at the supermarket on the way back?” “Ooh,” said Polly, clapping her hands together. “Jaymes is going to cook. Bonus. He has a proper oven now. He cooks really well, Nathan. Wait until you’ve been wowed by one of his recipes.” Nathan knew Polly managed to feed herself with only a microwave, a toaster, and piles of take-out menus. How Jaymes survived so long, heaven only knew. “Can’t wait.” Fortunately, Polly left early. After Jaymes amazed them both with tenderloin steaks, red wine jus, fried onions, button mushrooms, green beans and sautéed potatoes, together with Polly’s bottle of full bodied red Italian Amarone, they fell onto the sofa—Polly in between Jaymes and Nathan—and discussed the trip to the solicitors. Polly agreed with Jaymes, about the warning being unnecessary, that his first cousin already had a life in Australia, maybe even a family of his own, and probably a huge windfall from his late father. Why would he want to endure the miserable weather of England and be chained to a bakery? By eight, knowing Nathan had to rise early, noticing him yawning a couple of times, Polly left. Nathan and Jaymes both waved her off from the front stoop. As soon as Nathan stepped inside and closed the front door behind them, Jaymes pulled him into an embrace, eagerly seeking out his mouth, his hands cupping and squeezing Nathan’s backside. An involuntary moan escaped Nathan, as he moulded himself into Jaymes’ body, his own passion burning with anticipation. Until Jaymes broke the kiss and whispered into Nathan’s ear. “Come on. Let’s rinse the dirty dishes and load the dishwasher.” “Mr Fischer, you have a strange sense of foreplay.” “I’m thinking bed, but maybe we ought to sleep. You have to be up early tomorrow.” Nathan pulled away and stared incredulous at Jaymes. “There is absolutely no way I’m going to be able to sleep. Not until I’ve expended a good deal of energy. Any suggestions?” “Want to go for a run?” said Jaymes, smirking playfully. “I’m thinking more along the lines of a blow job,” said Nathan, rubbing his erection against Jaymes’. With a growl, Jaymes lifted Nathan off the floor, threw him over his shoulder, and swiftly clumped up the stairs. In the bedroom, he carefully unloaded him onto the mattress and proceeded to climb on top. Face to face, unhurriedly now, they began to undress each other, helping one another by shifting their body weight to allow an item of clothing to be fully removed. Eventually, when both lay naked alongside each other, Jaymes kissed him deeply, before letting his mouth and hands explore Nathan’s body. Without pausing for breath, Jaymes swallowed Nathan’s cock, his tongue working him hard, while a hand squeezed his balls before sliding around to his backside, a finger stroking around his crack. Nathan already felt his orgasm building, but when Jaymes pulled his mouth away and instead focused his tongue’s attention on his backside, spreading the cheeks wide with his hands, Nathan felt his control slip away. At the first swipe, Nathan surrendered to the sensation, but when Jaymes face buried into him, his tongue working wildly, rabidly, a fierce climax ripped out of him. Jaymes seemed as surprised as Nathan, because, after a brief chuckle, he stopped what he was doing and concentrated on the head of Nathan’s cock, drinking as much as Nathan had left to give him. “I think somebody needed that,” said Jaymes, giving Nathan a salty kiss. “You have no idea. But what about you?” “Hmm. I’m looking forward to being inside you.” “Then what the hell are you waiting for?” This time, a usually energetic, enthusiastic, Jaymes took his time preparing and fucking Nathan. When he finally began the erratic to-and-fro thrust for home, Nathan’s erection had returned and he came a second time moments after Jaymes. “It’s almost ten. We need to sleep.” Nathan reluctantly agreed, relaxing against Jaymes’ body. Jaymes was right, of course, Nathan would need to rise in just over three hours to get things ready for Arthur and his son. Nevertheless, he breathed out an irritated sigh. “Your cousin is a total passion killer, you know that?” “She wasn’t to know. Are you annoyed?” “Not really. There’ll be plenty of other times. Simply looking forward to having you in my bed.” “Ditto. Breakfast at five-thirty? I’ve bought blueberries, yogurt, and oatmeal.” “Are you sure? You can stay in bed, if you want.” “Nope. We breakfast together. New home, new rule. Now let’s sleep.“ Which is what they did. Nathan rose just before one on Monday morning, sliding carefully out of bed so as not to wake Jaymes. However, this time, once he’d done his usual routines and made sure Arthur and his son had everything they needed, he slipped back upstairs, set his alarm for five, and climbed back into bed. As promised, they shared breakfast together, the first in a line of concessions. ++++ At seven on Monday evening, Nathan heard the door slam downstairs. He’d just emerged from the bathroom after a customary shower, a towel wrapped around his waist. “Honey, I’m home,” came the now-familiar voice, from below stairs. Nathan chuckled to himself. Jaymes’ slow, deliberate footsteps clomping on the stairs halted him, a moment of delicious anticipation at seeing the man he shared a bed with, a man he was allowed to touch and kiss and savour, a man he had been thinking about all day. As Jaymes’ entered the room, he slowed, his smile slipping, his eyes widening, taking in Nathan’s state of undress. Nathan’s pulse raced at the instantaneous reaction. Dropping the bag from his shoulder and absently throwing papers onto the table, Jaymes strode over to Nathan and almost knocked him off his feet, crushing him into an embrace. “Fuck! I’ve been thinking about you naked all day. And here you are, like an unexpected Christmas present. Do you always shower after your day in the shop?” “Most always.” “Then I am well and truly fucked. I’m not normally a creature of habit, but this I could get used to.” “Hmm,” said Nathan, nuzzling Jaymes’ neck but jumping as a hand crept beneath the rim of his towel and softly squeezed his balls. After letting out a gentle sigh, Nathan inhaled Jaymes’ body scent of leaf, and earth, and manual work. Yes, thought Nathan, he could definitely get used to making a habit of this kind of stress relief at the end of a busy day. +++++ Tuesday evening, as Nathan stood under the shower, he thought he heard the front door slam, and reduced the water pressure so he could listen better. Confirming his suspicions, he heard the sound of running footsteps on the stairs, punctuated by a sudden crash, a string of expletives in Jaymes’ distinctive voice, followed by more hastened footsteps. When the door to the bathroom burst open, Jaymes had already removed his boots, shirt, most of his jeans, and hopped on one foot trying to remove a thick wooden sock. “You started without me!” he said, in a mock petulant voice, “Only just begun, Jay,” said Nathan, setting the water to full throttle again. “Getting myself washed and ready and prepped to give you a good time. But do you really want to start in here? In my—what was it you called it—phone booth shower? I mean, is it safe, bearing in mind you can barely navigate the stairs?” Unheeding, Jaymes--completely make now--wrenched open the cubicle door and squeezed in with Nathan. Instantly, his arms snaked around Nathan, their slick bodies crushing together, Jaymes’ already hard cock rubbing against Nathan’s, their mouths finding each other with new familiarity. After satisfying himself, Jaymes pulled away, then pushed his nose gently into Nathan’s ear. “Let’s find out, shall we?” +++++ Wednesday afternoon, and both Jaymes and Nathan had taken a few hours off work. Traditionally, Wednesdays tended to be less busy than the rest of the week and old hand Molly could always call him with any problems. Jaymes, having worked nonstop since he had arrived in town, kept his own hours and simply took the time off. Nathan found himself getting calmer on the stroll from the carpark to the studio. Jaymes walked alongside in companionable silence, their shoulders occasionally bumping together. In only a few days, they had settled into a comfortable existence of careful, companionable distance in public, and full throttle, no holds barred action in the bedroom. For the moment, at least, Nathan relished the arrangement. At the top of a narrow staircase, a smiling Jenny met them at the front door to the studio. After shaking hands with Nathan she peered quizzically at Jaymes. “This is Jaymes. He’s a friend. Here for moral support,” said Nathan, clocking the appraising looks Jenny cast Jaymes. “He’s not a member of the football team, if that’s what you’re thinking.” “Shame,” said Jenny, giving Jaymes an appreciative once-over. “Come on in, both of you.” Inside what was probably once a largish flat of two or three bedrooms, the structure been knocked into a substantial wooden floor-panelled workspace. Two doors led off into what Nathan assumed to be a bathroom and a kitchen. Three couches stood arranged against one of the walls, one of them beneath the shuttered windows and the others either side, somewhere for the subject matter to relax when they weren’t being photographed. Someone had decorated a corner of the studio to look like a miniature baker’s shop. Shelves housing trays of assorted glazed bread loaves, buns and colourful cakes, together with a wooden butcher’s block lit by bright spotlights filled the space. Nathan walked over and squeezed one of the loaves but found them to be solid. “They’re plastic” said a laughing Jenny. “Well, a couple of the props are real. But a friend works in West End theatre as a set designer, and loaned them to me.” “Apart from the smell—or lack of—I’d never have known. So where do you want me?” “Let’s sit down, have a cup of tea and a chat first. Then I can tell you what I have in mind.” Jenny’s ploy, clearly meant to get Nathan relaxed, worked up to a point. Apart from soothing pop songs playing in the background, and a lavender infuser lightly tainting the air of the room, they reclined on one of the comfortable sofas. Jenny ran through her ideas, of having him in a variety of poses and his groin being covered each time by various props. For each idea, she continuously asked his opinion and purposely included Jaymes. To compliment the glaze of the loaves, she suggested Nathan oil his entire body with baby oil, and have him naked except for his football socks, either shoved down the ankles—as though he’d just played a game—or neatly pulled up to the knee. For his part, she wanted some photographs with him looking directly at the camera, and some where he picked a spot off-camera and held the gaze of someone. “You’re probably thinking this is all about the body, but remember that people always zero in on the face first. A good-looking face like yours with an interesting expression will trump a sexy body any day. And remember I’m a static camera photographer—no Annie Leibovitz—so don’t worry about me hopping about or crouching down in front of you. I’ll be seated on a small stool all the time, but if you get the impulse to move about, don’t worry, just go with your instinct. The camera’s on a swivel and I’ll follow your lead.” An hour after they’d arrived, she suggested he head to the bathroom to get oiled up and put on his white robe, while she played with her light meter and adjusted her camera with trial snaps at the empty backdrop. Jaymes began to offer to help, but Nathan waved him off, knew if Jaymes started to rub him down with oil, they would never leave the bathroom. Just as Nathan began to stand, Jaymes put a hand on his shoulder and pulled him back down to sitting. Without removing his hand, he began to massage the shoulder. “Are you okay, Nate?,” whispered Jaymes. “You’re wound tighter than the first lady.” “I’m fine.” Jaymes reached another hand out and tidied a lock of hair over Nathan’s ear, before massaging the other shoulder. Nathan closed his eyes and enjoyed the sensation. “You want me to cook you dinner when we get home?” Nathan opened his eyes and rolled them, but smiled into Jaymes’ warm gaze. “You’re always cooking for me. It’s not fair to you.” “Do you hear me complain? Besides, it’s part of our rental agreement. And I’m hoping that maybe you’ll get naked for me again later tonight.” Jaymes reached out and smoothed his thumb slowly across Nathan’s lips, a little idiosyncrasy of Jaymes that Nathan had begun to enjoy. “I’ve been naked for you every night since Saturday.” “And your point being…?” Nathan chuckled and felt some of his anxiety fade. But the soft clicking of the camera brought him back to himself, and he began to stand. Before leaving, he leant in, held Jaymes’ chin in one hand, and a pecked a quick kiss on his lips. Freezing suddenly, he realised what he had done, and quickly cast a glance at Jenny, but noticed her already immersed in her work. “Oops, sorry. Come on. Let me get this over with.” Unlike the rest of the studio, the small pink bathroom appeared original with its cracked sink, scratched perspex shower cubicle, short but deep bath—all in pink, of course—and pink toilet. Only the floor-to-ceiling mirror with lightbulbs all around appeared new. Nathan undressed, grabbed the giant sized bottle of baby oil and started to smother himself. After ten minutes, Nathan poked his head out of the door and called Jaymes in, to check he had covered himself evenly. Satisfied, Nathan tied his robe and pushed Jaymes back out into the studio. “Okay, Nathan. For the first couple of minutes, leave your robe on, and just find a spot and a pose that feels natural and where you feel at ease.” “Local pub?” offered Nathan. At least Jenny had the decency to laugh at his lame joke. “I’m not sure the elderly patrons at the Duke’s Head are ready for a semi-naked baker.” After five minutes of self-conscious posing, Jenny suggested he drop the robe. Jaymes obliged by coming over and collecting the garment from him. Even when he eventually got used to the blinding spotlights, Nathan felt as stiff as a board—and not in a good way. Following Jenny’s choreography, he moved around the set, at one point holding a wholemeal loaf in front of him, or kneeling down sidelong to place bread into a basket, his outside knee raised and hiding anything but a sprinkling of pubic hair. On a couple of occasions, Jaymes told him to relax, but the coaxing seemed to have the reverse effect. An occasionally murmured ‘good’ from Jenny seemed far from adequate, but fifteen minutes into the shoot, and Nathan felt ‘good’ was going to be as much as he had to offer. “Relax, Nathan,” said Jaymes, again. “I am trying to bloody relax. You constantly telling me is not helping.” At that point, Nathan noticed Jaymes—standing a good stride behind Jenny—lean forward and whisper something into her ear. Without turning, Jenny stopped shooting and nodded. “Nathan,” she said, her eyes focused on him. “Let’s have you up on the butcher’s block, facing the camera, lying on your side. Use the football to cover your groin.” “Seriously?” said Nathan, clambering up onto the surface and laying out flat. The coldness of the countertop raised gooseflesh as first, but the studio lights soon helped to provide warmth. Comfortable at last, he looked over to see Jaymes standing behind Jenny’s right shoulder, watching and grinning, while Jenny snapped away. “Try to relax a little more,” said Jenny, which succeeded in making him roll his eyes and tense up even more. As he lay on his side, matching the pose Jaymes had adopted in the Mosswold lodge—no coincidence there, clearly what Jaymes had suggested to Jenny—Jaymes caught his eye. Grinning mischievously, Jaymes smoothed a hand down from his tight tee-clad chest, passing over his stomach, and stopping at the fly to his jeans. Without hesitating, he popped the top button, unzipped himself and then thrust a hand behind the waistband of his briefs. With Nathan watching mesmerised, he grabbed at his package, slowly squeezing and readjusting. Nathan’s eyes became saucers and instant lust filled him. “Good. Good!” said Jenny. “Nice. Hold that expression.” Not difficult for Nathan. Except the good intentions began to have another effect on Nathan, and he felt blood pounding south. With one hand cradling his chin, the other draped on top of the football of black and white regular pentagonal patches, he felt his cock begin to rise to the occasion. Embarrassed, he rolled onto his stomach but in doing so, his hip knocked the ball away from himself and off the bench. All the time he could hear the click, click, click of Jenny’s camera mingled with the rhythmic smack, smack, smack of the football bouncing across the floor. Totally exposed now, stretched out with his backside on full display, he crossed his long legs at the socked ankles, raised his upper torso on his elbows and glared over at Jaymes. “Brilliant!” said Jenny, snapping her camera furiously. “Keep that look!” Jaymes, of course, simply grinned back at the glare, and Nathan couldn’t help the wicked grin that joined in with his angry glare. “No idea what you’re doing behind me, Jaymes, but keep doing it. And as for you, Nathan. Amazing. You’re a natural,” said Jenny, the excitement clear in her voice. Five minutes later—probably fifteen minutes earlier than expected, Jenny called time. “Already?” said Jaymes, astonished. He handed a relieved Nathan his robe which he donned instantly. “Trust me. I’ve got everything I need. Unless you want to get naked, Jaymes.” “Maybe another time, thanks.” “Good. Then I think we’re done here.” “Can we take a look?” Jenny beckoned them both over and used the small viewer on the back of her camera to show a couple of the better shots. Although Nathan couldn’t see the full details in the miniature screen, he was impressed with the quality. “I said you’d rock this,” murmured Jaymes, grinning at Nathan. "And, as usual, I was right.” “They’ll need cropping and editing,” said Jenny. “Not sure if they’d be better in full colour or monochrome. We’ll see. I promised I’d let Arlene see them all before we choose the final shot. My one small concession to her. Hope that’s okay with you?” “Fine by me,” said Nathan. “Good then,” said Jenny, smiling. “I think you’ve set the bench quite high today, Nathan. Sometimes I snap hundreds of shots and never get the one. From what I can tell, at least ten of these are beauties. Unless one of the other players pulls something out of the hat, I think we may well have our calendar centrefold.” Nathan gulped, while Jaymes beamed triumphantly. “And?” asked Jaymes, a smug look on his face, waiting for Nathan to tell him he was right. “And, I’m going to take a hot shower to get this oil off me. And then, you’re taking me for a drink.” “Duke’s Head?” “Fine, but fully clothed.”
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