Jump to content

Andrew Todd

Author: Author
  • Content Count

  • Joined

  • Last visited

Everything posted by Andrew Todd

  1. Andrew Todd

    Chapter 3

    Irish Summer By Andrew Todd Chapter 3 Cam held his breath as he watched Rory help Finn mount the black colt for the first time. With Rory busy helping his Uncle the past few days, Cam had spent most of his time watching Finn work with Prince and learning about the farm and horses. He was impressed with the youngster’s patience and control with the young horse. He didn’t know who was more excited for this moment, him, or Finn. Finn had been pestering Rory relentlessly as Rory wanted to be there for Finn’s first ride on the colt. Having witnessed the bond between boy and horse, Cam was thrilled to be able to capture this moment on film. He had a video camera set up on a tripod as he had promised Finn, he would video the training session. He moved around slowly with his camera, not wanting to be a distraction but wanting to get as many good shots as he could. “Are ye ready, then?” Cam heard Rory ask Finn. “I been ready for days, ya daft sod.” Finn replied. Cam laughed as he captured the looks and grins between the two brothers. “Prince is ready, too.” Finn continued. “Aren’t ye, me son?” He said quietly as he stroked the colt’s nose. “All right then.” Rory said with a chuckle. “Let’s go, I’ll give ye a leg up.” Finn reached as far up the horse’s back as he could and bent his right knee. Rory looped his fingers under his brother’s extended right foot and boosted him up. Finn landed gently on the horse’s bare back. The colt barely moved. “See, I told you he was ready.” Finn grinned ear to ear. He stroked the horse’s neck and wrapped his fingers in Prince’s long mane. Cam watched as Rory walked to the center of the ring holding a longe line attached to the horse’s halter. “Let’s go, boy.” Finn said confidently as he squeezed the horse’s sides with his knees. Prince moved out at a slow walk. Over the next few minutes, Finn would signal the horse to increase his speed until the two were cantering around the ring. When Finn brought the colt to a stop, Rory walked over to them. “Good job.” He said stroking the horse’s neck. “Both of ye.” He grinned at his little brother. Rory unsnapped the lunge line and took the halter off the horse. Finn rode over to where Cam stood by the fence. “Want to give him a try, me friend?” He asked with a toothy grin. Cam shook his head as he stroked the horse’s face. “I think Ivy is more my speed right now.” He laughed. “But you two looked good out there.” “Did ye get it on the video thing?” “I’ll have to double check, but it was working good when you started.” Cam answered. “And I know I got some great shots of you two, too.” “Do ye want to take some of us now that he’s free o’the halter?” Finn asked. Cam nodded. “Sure.” Fin nudged the colt forward and took him through his gaits again. At one point, as the horse cantered around the ring, Finn lifted his arms up and out like he was flying. He reminded Cam of the boy in ‘The Black Stallion’ movie he had seen as a child. He couldn’t snap pictures fast enough. “I think Prince’s had enough for the first time, Finn.” Rory called from the center of the ring. “You want to make sure you leave him in a good place, and he’s done very well today. Take him to the barn and hose him down now.” Finn slipped from Prince’s back as the colt came to stop in front of the round pen gate. “C’mon, me boyo, you’ve earned some rest time after today.” Finn said as he snapped the halter and lead back on the horse and led him through the gate that Cam held open. Rory walked up to Cam as he took down the video camera and tripod set up. “How did ye like that, Cameron?” “It was great.” Cam grinned. “After watching them together the last couple days, I think I was as excited for this as Finn was. I want to get the video loaded in my computer so we can get a look at it.” “Aye, Finn will enjoy seeing himself and Prince.” Rory nodded. “I’m glad ye were here for that.” “Me, too. It was great to experience something like that, at least to see it.” “We could arrange for you to try it yourself.” Rory offered. Cam laughed. “I don’t think I’m ready for that.” “But, ye will be.” Rory replied. “We always have horses in training, Finn and I could pick one out for you and work with you. Ye’d learn a lot.” “Really…” “Sure, ye’ll be here for a while yet, so we wouldn’t have to rush things.” Rory answered. “I’ve got a couple young ones in mind, that’d be fine for ye. They’re used to people and should take to ye easily.” “If you think I can do it, I’d like to try.” Cam said. Rory nodded and wrapped his arm around Cam’s shoulder. “Well, then we’ll start first thing tomorrow.” He suggested. “Now that things have settled down at me uncle’s place, I’ll have more time to be ‘round here. And I should thank ye, too, Cameron.” “For what?” “For bein’ here to help Finn.” “I don’t know how much help I was.” “Finn said ye was a big help to him.” Rory replied. “Even if you were only cleaning stalls and helping him that way, it’s one less thing for me and him to be worrying about.” “I feel like I’m the one who should be thanking you.” Cam offered. “You’ve taken me into your home and given me something to keep myself busy while I’m over here. The farm is great. I never thought I’d look forward to the work involved here, but I’m having a good time and Finn’s been a great teacher for me.” “When he puts his mind to it, he can get things done, can’t he?” Rory grinned. “Yes, he can.” Cam answered as he walked towards the house with Rory. Later that evening after dinner, Cam was able to show Rory and Finn the video he had taken of Finn and Prince. “Look at that.” Finn said grinning. “He looks so fine, there.” “That he does.” Rory replied. “Ye both look very fine, indeed.” Cam appreciated how Finn’s smile lit up his whole face as he basked in his older brother’s praise. He never realized what he was missing not having siblings. He knew that in spite of the way he often spoke to his brother, Finn idolized him and sought to please him as much as he could. Seeing Finn’s reaction to his brother praising both him and the horse he had worked so hard with made Cam wish he had his camera handy, but he decided some moments didn’t need to be captured, some moments just needed to be enjoyed. “Tomorrow, we’re going to start Cameron training his own horse.” Rory announced to his brother. “Really, Cameron?” Finn asked excitedly. Cam nodded shyly, still not a hundred percent sure he was ready for the task. “Don’t be doubting yourself, Cameron.” Finn ordered, as if he could read Cam’s mind. “Ye’ll be doin’ a fine job with Rory’s help.” “Thanks.” Cam replied. “I’ll need your help, too.” “Aye, we’ll need your help picking one out for him first.” Rory said. Finn’s eyes lit up. “I know who’d be great for him. Ivy’s colt. He’s just coming three now and he’s level-headed and very kind-hearted, like his ma.” “I had a feeling you’d choose him.” Rory nodded. “I agree, he’d be a great horse for Cameron to start with.” “What’s his name?” Cam asked, starting to get swept up in the brother’s excitement. “Don’t have one, yet.” Finn explained. “We don’t name them all as we sell them and then their name’s get changed. Ye’ll have to be naming him since ye’ll be working with him.” “Did you name Prince?” Finn nodded. “I did, but he was an exception, we knew my Da was going to keep him for breeding, so I named him ‘The Prince’ when he was born.” “Are you still planning to breed him?” Cam asked Rory. “Not sure, yet.” Rory replied. “He’s got a great temperament and ye’ve seen how easy-going he is, but I’m not sure about breeding him to our mares. We may just put him out to stud for others and collect the breeding fees. We do that with some of our stallions, and others we keep for ourselves.” “What about the horse you want me to work with is he a stallion, too?” “He’s still a colt.” Rory answered. “What’s the difference?” “Me Da always said they were colts until they were bred and then they were stallions.” Rory explained. “Most of them we start breeding around the same time we start training, Prince won’t start ‘til next year. Some people would call him a stallion cuz he’s three, but we don’t. If’n he was to be five or six and never bred that would be different, but it’s all just words. If’n we were to castrate them, then they’d be geldings from the time we did it.” “Why do you do that?” Cam asked trying not to wince at the idea of his testicles being cut off. Rory grinned. “Some people think that stallions are too uncontrollable or unpredictable, and some are, but not all. If we’re not gonna breed them, then gelding them makes them gentler and less moody than some stallions. Then you get ones like Prince, that are calm and fine to deal with left intact.” “Ye only keep the stallions if you’re planning to breed them.” Finn added. “Most people who want to just ride or show want a gelding. Mares can be as moody as stallions sometimes. Not me Ivy, but some o’them are right bitches.” “That they can be.” Rory said, looking at the kitchen clock. “I think it’s time ye got off to bed Finn, it’ll be mornin’ before ye know it and we’ve got lots to do tomorrow.” Finn looked mildly disappointed, but a less than well-timed yawn showed his tiredness. “Alright, then.” Finn said getting up from the table. “G’night, Rory. G’night, Cameron.” “Good night.” Cam answered watching the younger boy head down the hallway to his room. “I’m gonna take a shower before bed. “ Rory announced standing up. “Ok, I’m just gonna work on some of the pictures I’ve taken the past few days.” Cam said. “My gallery is wanting some new ones, so I’ll see what I have for them.” “Are ye still plannin’ on your book?” Cam nodded. “Yes, most of the pictures I’ll keep for the book, especially the stuff around here, but some of the landscapes I did when I first got here should sell well at the gallery.” “Well then, I’ll leave ye to it.” Rory said, heading down the hallway. “G’night, Cameron.” “Good night, Rory.” Cam sat at the table and tried to work on the pictures, but he couldn’t get Rory out of his head. They had spent a little time together since the first day he arrived, but now that he was done helping his uncle he would be around much more and Cam thought about whether he should tell Rory that he was starting to have feelings for him. Rory had given no indication that he was interested in being anything other than friends in spite of the conversation Cam had had with Finn riding back from town that first day. “Maybe Finn’s wrong.” He thought to himself. “Maybe he’s not interested…maybe he’s not even gay.” He felt it wasn’t worth losing the friendship he was beginning with the brothers by bringing romance into it. He had been fine without a boyfriend this long, he could last a while longer. Meanwhile, Rory stepped into the hot shower and sighed as the water caressed his aching muscles. He ran a hand down his chest and wished, not for the first time, that it was Cam’s hand. He had been attracted to the other boy since he had first seen him at the river, but he knew that Cameron was not like him and only wanted to be friends. He reached down and slowly stroked his hardening cock all the while seeing Cam in his mind’s eye. He kept at it for a few minutes until he was swept away by the feelings of his impending orgasm. As he came down from his post-orgasmic high, he thought to himself. “Cameron’s only here for a few weeks, then he’ll be headin’ back to America, why risk angering someone who was becoming a good friend and whom Finn liked so much.” *** The next morning found Cam, Rory and Finn standing outside on the paddocks. “There he is.” Finn said motioning to a young horse that was making his way over to the three. Finn hopped the fence and the horse followed him over to where Rory and Cam stood. “He’s beautiful.” Cam said as he let the horse sniff him and then stroked its nose. The horse was spotted like his mother but a bit taller. He was heavily built, but Cam could see the kindness in his eyes, the same kindness he saw in Ivy and Prince. If he were going to learn to work with horses, this one looked like he wouldn’t do him any harm. Finn grinned as he sat on the fence. “He’s halter broken, so he’s used to being led around and worked around. He’ll stand for grooming and he’s good about his feet, doesn’t try to kick ye or anything.” “We work with most of the horses from the time they’re babies.” Rory said. “That way they are used to people and being handled. Makes training them a lot easier, most of the time.” “What about the colt you’ve been working with?” Cam asked. “He’s a bastard.” Finn answered. “I told ye, he must a been out of Uncle’s stallion cuz if he was from Aragon or another of ours, he’d be far more easy goin’.” “He just needs more work.” Rory interjected. “He’s not bad, just got a wild streak in him. Not all horse are as even tempered as this one. We’ll probably have to geld that colt to get him calmed down a bit. His hormones are takin’ over.” “You mean he’s horny?” Cam asked with smile. Finn and Rory roared with laughter. “That’s about it.” Rory replied once he caught his breath. Finn hopped down from the fence and grabbed a halter and lead off the post. “Why don’t ye take some time getting’ to know him.” He offered Cam. “If’n ye don’t be likin’ him, we can find another.” Cam took the halter and lead and climbed over the fence slowly not wanting to spook the colt. The colt looked at his as Cam slipped the halter over his nose and fastened the lead to it. He spoke quietly to the horse the whole time he as leading him around the paddock. The colt stood quietly at his shoulder and followed him like a dog. Cam smiled over to Finn and Rory. “I think if I’m going to try this, this guy will be just the ticket.” “Good boy, Cameron.” Finn called. ‘We’ll make a horseman of ye yet.”
  2. Andrew Todd

    Chapter 3

    Me, Too By Andrew Todd Chapter Three Now Jesse raced across the helipad with Ace following closely. After talking to the state police, they had one of the hands from Jesse and Dylan’s farm pick up the rig with the horses and Jesse arranged for a helicopter to get them from northern Florida to the hospital in Wellington. Jesse and Ace stepped out of the elevators and looked around the hospital floor. A man in a lab coat approached them. “Mr. Osterman?” He asked looking at Ace. “I’m Jesse Osterman.” Jesse said urgently. “Where are they? How are they?” The man started lead them to a small conference room. “I’m Dr. Valdez, let’s talk in here.” He said. Once they were inside the room he continued. “How much have they told you?” Jesse shook his head tears brimming in his eyes. He started to speak but shook his head again and looked at Ace. Ace rested his hand on Jesse’s shoulder and rubbed it as he spoke. “The State Police told us the limo was t-boned by an 18-wheeler.” He paused and inhaled as Jesse shook. “They said Trevor and Julia didn’t make it and that Dylan, Cole and Mason were here, but they didn’t know how bad their injuries were.” The doctor nodded. “Mr. and Mrs. Van Edsel were pronounced dead at the scene. They took the brunt of the impact and the police believe they were killed instantly. It appears Mr. Summers saw the truck just before impact and used his body to shield the boys. Mason has a minor concussion, some scrapes and contusions but he’s awake and will be fine. Cole suffered a broken leg and wrist and had some internal injuries. He just came out of surgery. They set his leg and wrist and removed his spleen. There was some internal damage, but they were able to patch everything up. He’s in recovery.” “Dylan?” Jesse whispered the tears now flowing freely. “Mr. Summers took the brunt of the impact when he shielded the boys.” The doctor explained. “His MRI showed his back was broken, and he suffered severe head trauma. He’s still in surgery.” Jesse grabbed onto Ace like a drowning man clutching a life raft. “Will he be ok?” Ace asked. “It’s too early to tell.” The doctor replied. “The damage was pretty extensive. He has a lot of swelling around the brain. Our neurology team is trying to relieve the pressure in surgery and also get a better idea of the extent of damage to his back.” “How long?” Jesse whispered. "Given the damage and the unknowns he’ll probably be in surgery a few more hours at least.” “Can I see my brothers?” “I’ll take you to Mason first.” The doctor said as they started down the corridor. “He’s been asking for you and his parents.” Jesse stopped short. “He doesn’t know about Trevor and Julia?” The doctor turned and shook his head. “No. We thought it best if a family member explained things to him.” He continued walking and led them into a room where Mason lay in a bed. “Jesse!” Mason exclaimed when he saw his brother come through the door. Jesse rushed over to the bed and gently hugged his brother to him. Jesse took a deep breath and looked at his brother. Mason’s head was wrapped, and his arms and face were bruised. “You’re gonna have a pretty good shiner there.” He said with a small grin. “My head hurts.” “You hit it in the accident.” Jesse explained. “You have a concussion, it’ll get better.” “Where is everyone?” Mason asked. “I haven’t seen Mom or Dad or Cole or Dylan since I got here.” Jesse inhaled deeply and felt the tears coming again. He steeled himself for his brother. “Dylan and Cole were hurt pretty bad.” Ace explained. “Cole just got out of surgery and they’re still working on Dylan.” “Dylan saved us.” Mason said stoically. “He saw the truck coming and pushed me and Cole down onto the seat.” He started to cry, “Is he going to be ok?” “We’re not sure, buddy.” Ace replied gently. “We have to wait for him to get out of surgery.” “Where are mom and dad?” Cole asked anxiously. Ace started to answer, but Jesse stopped him with a slight wave. “They didn’t make it, Mace,” He said quietly as he held his brother closer. When the reality of what Jesse was telling him hit him, Mason began to sob and hold onto his brother. Jesse held the younger boy and let him cry himself out. Ace hugged both brothers close and then said, “I’ll give you some time.” He left the room, closing the door behind him. He walked over to the nurses’ station where Dr. Valdez stood going over charts. “Excuse me, Doc.” Ace said, “Can I see Cole?” “They’re just moving him from Recovery to a room on this floor.” The doctor replied. “As soon as they have him settled into the room, I’ll have a nurse bring you to see him. He probably won’t wake up until the morning, though.” “That’s probably for the best,” Ace said, “I don’t know that Jesse can go through telling another brother they lost their parents today.” “I can’t.” Jesse said, as he walked up to Ace and the doctor. “Mason’s out. Cried himself to sleep. I don’t know how I’m going to get through telling Cole.” Ace wrapped his big arms around his friend “I’ll be right beside you and you’ll do fine.” “What if Dylan…” “Don’t even think that way.” Ace stated sternly. “Dylan will make it through this. He’s strong and he knows you and the boys need him.” Jesse sighed deeply and wiped a few tears from his eyes. “Doctor, Cole Van Edsel is in his room.” An orderly came up and addressed Dr. Valdez. The doctor nodded. “Thank you, Carl, would you show Mr. Osterman and Mr., I’m sorry…” He looked at Ace. “Evans”, Ace answered, “Adam Evans, but y’all can call me ‘Ace’.” The doctor turned back to the orderly, “Can you take Mr. Osterman and Mr. Evans to Cole’s room, please?” The orderly nodded. “Right this way.” He motioned back down the corridor he had just come from. Jesse and Ace followed the orderly down the corridor and into a dimly lit room. Jesse inhaled deeply as he walked up to Cole’s bed and saw the condition his younger brother was in. Cole’s wrist and leg were in casts and his face was a mass of stitches and bruises. He was on a ventilator. What scared Jesse the most how still his usually active brother was. “He’s so still.” He said quietly to Ace. “He’s in a medically induced coma.” A voice said from the doorway. Jesse and Ace turned to see a young nurse enter the room. “I’m Shelly,” She said as she started recording Cole’s vitals on a tablet she carried. “I’ll be Cole’s nurse this afternoon, so if you need anything or have any questions, I’ll do my best to help out.” “Why is he in a coma?” Ace asked. “Mainly for pain.” The young nurse answered. “Between the broken bones and other injuries, he’s on some major pain killers, so the doctor want to keep him under, so he doesn’t try moving or anything.” “How long will he be under?” “You’d have to ask the doctors for sure, but probably just a day or so. When he comes to, he’ll still be in a lot of pain, but the doctors will be able to manage it while he heals.” “How long will he be in the hospital?” Jesse asked, his voice barely above a whisper. “I’m not sure, but I would imagine at least a few days if not a week. Most of his internal injuries should heal with no problems, the doctors will just want to be careful of the wrist and leg. This will take some time to get better. He’ll probably be all set for football season.” Shelly replied with a gentle smile. Jesse smiled weakly. “He doesn’t play.” He said, “We live on a horse farm.” "Well, I would say it will be a little while before he’ll be up to that kind of activity.” Shelly said as she closed her tablet. “If you need anything just ring the desk and we’ll be here.” “Can you find out about my husband?” Jesse asked. “Dylan Summers.” “The man who was in the accident with Cole?” Jesse nodded. “Last I heard he was still in surgery, let me see if I can find out anything else.” “Thank you, ma’am.” Ace said. “Please, call me Shelly.” “I’m Ace and this is Jesse.” Ace grinned, “We don’t go in for much formality.” He said in his ‘awe, shucks’ drawl. Shelly smiled at the tall cowboy. “Let me just check at the desk on your husband”. she said to Jesse as she left the room. Ace turned at looked at Jesse. He was startled by the ashen look on his friend’s face. “Are you ok, Jess?” Jesse nodded and answered “Yeah. It’s just that its so eerie seeing Cole so still. Even when he had cancer, he was a never this quiet, it’s kinda scary.” Ace wrapped his arm around Jesse’s shoulder. “Well, you heard the nurse, he’s going to be ok. He’ll be awake in a day or two and back home in a week.” He said positively. “But he’ll still need a lot of time to heal.” Jesse said. “He and Dylan both.” “And they’ll get it…at home.” Ace said “Whether you bring them to their home here or your place they’ll have plenty of time to heal up. We’ll get them whatever help they need.” Jesse turned and hugged Ace tight. “Thank God, you’re here.” He sighed, “I’d never get through this alone.” "Yes, you would, if you had too.” Ace replied. “You’ve always been stronger than you think you are, both you and Dyl, but you’ll never be alone, not with the family you’ve got out there.” “Speaking of family, I wonder if I should call Trevor’s other kids.” Ace shook his head; he knew what the few encounters Jesse had ad with his older half-siblings had been like. “Just wait on that.” He said. “They pretty much deserted their dad when their parents split, and you’ve got enough on your plate without dealing with them.” “You’re right, I doubt they’d even care.” Jesse shrugged. “The few times I’ve met them over the years, they treated me, Cole and Mason like we were nothing. I can understand their dislike of me, I am the result of their father cheating on their mother, but Cole and Mason are just kids and they treat them terribly.” Ace just shook his head. “They washed their hands of their father and his family, so you shouldn’t worry about them. Let them find out on the news or whatever.” He led Jesse over to a chair next to Cole’s bed. “Why don’t you stay here with Cole and I’ll check for news on Dylan. The doc made it sound like it would be a while before he was out of surgery.” Jesse nodded as he sat down. “Thanks, Ace. I’ll be here or with Mason.” “Sounds like a plan.” Ace said as he left the room and walked back to the Nurses’ Station. Shelly was with another patient, but he found that Dylan was still in surgery and expected to be so for a while. He walked over to the nearby waiting area and pulled out his phone. He dialed a number and listened as the call rang through. “Second Chances Ranch.” A young voice said over the line. “Hey, Idge, it’s Ace, is your daddy there?” “Hey, Ace!!” The boy answered excitedly. “I thought you were with Jesse and Dylan and Cole and Mason.” “I am.” “Can I talk to Jesse?” Ace shook his head, “Not right now, Bud, He’s busy and I really need to talk to your daddy, it’s kinda urgent.” “Ok.” Idgie replied. “DADDY!!” Ace laughed as he heard the boy’s yell. The line clicked as a second phone was answered. “This is Daniel James.” “Danny, it’s Ace.” “Hey, Ace, what’s up?” “Hold on a second. Hey, Idgie, I need to talk to your dad privately, ok?” “Sure.” He heard the boy reply and then the tell-tale click of the line disconnecting. “What’s going on Ace?” “There’s been an accident.” Ace answered. “A bad one.” “Oh, God, Jesse…Dylan?” Danny sat down on his bed and listened for a reply. “Jesse’s fine, he was driving back with me.” Ace started. “But Trevor’s limousine was hit by a semi. Trevor and Julia were killed on impact.” “Oh, no!” “Mason’s ok, just a concussion and some bruises, Cole’s got a broken leg and wrist, internal injuries and lots of cuts and bruises, they have him in a coma for the pain.” "Dylan…” Ace sighed and for the first time that day he felt tears well up in his eyes. “He’s still in surgery. I guess he saw the truck coming and tried to shield Mace and Cole and got the worst of it. His back is broken, and he’s got bleeding around his brain as well as other injuries.” “Which hospital are you at?” “St. Lucia’s in Wellington.” “Ok, let me talk to CJ and I’ll be on the next flight down.” “I was hoping you’d say that.” Ace said as he exhaled loudly. “Jesse’s in a bad place and I know it would help if you were here.” “I’m on my way.” Danny said. “CJ’ll stay here with the boys. He’s got some meetings he can’t miss, and the boys would be in the way right now, but I’ll be there tonight. I’ll text you as soon as I have the flight information.” “Sounds good.” Ace replied. “Thanks, Danny.” “Don’t thank me, Ace. It’s what we do for family.” They disconnected and Ace went to back to Cole’s room. When he didn’t find Jesse there, he headed for Mason’s room. He wondered if they should see about getting both boys in the same room. So, Jesse could be with both of them. “Hey, guys.” He greeted Mason and Jesse as he walked into the room. Mason looked more settled than he had before. “Hey, Ace.” Mason replied. “They’re gonna let me go home tomorrow. “Really? That quick.” "His injuries aren’t life threatening.” Jesse explained, “So the doctors only want to keep him overnight for observations because of the concussion. If he has a good night, he gets sprung in the morning.” “Well, that’s some good news.” Ace said. “If you want, I can stay at the house with Mace and you can stay with Cole and Dylan.” “That’s what I was thinking.” Jesse replied. “I need to call Danny and CJ and let them know what’s going on.” “No need. I called and spoke to Danny and he’s on his way.” “I hope he didn’t feel like he had to uproot everything and come down here.” “No, as soon as I told him everything his first response was to get down here to help out.” Ace assured Jesse. “We still don’t know how much care Dyl will need when he starts his recovery.” “Well, the doctor said they were just finishing up the surgery and the surgeon would be in to see us soon.” Jesse declared. He looked at his watch. “I should probably call Dylan’s parents to let them know what’s going on.” “I can do that.” Ace said. “Thanks, but I’ll do it.” Jesse insisted. “I’ll call over to Trevor’s house and let Sadie know what’s happened, she’s probably worried sick if she hasn’t heard from them. She can watch over Mace and get things ready for Cole to come home. Probably fix rooms for Danny and Dyl’s parents, too.” “Well, just tell me what you want me to do.” Ace said. “Right now, you’re doing it.” Jesse replied. “You’re here, holding me up.” He hugged Ace tight. “Always, little brother.” Ace said as he hugged Jesse back. “Always.” *** “Danny’s plane gets in at 8 o’clock tomorrow morning.” Ace told Jesse an hour later as they sat by Cole’s bed. “Great.” Jesse sighed in relief. “I convinced Dylan’s parents there was nothing they could do here with Danny coming down, they agreed. They know if I get tied up, Danny can keep them in the loop.” “Excuse me, Mr. Osterman?” came a voice from the doorway. Jesse and Ace turned to see a doctor in scrubs standing there. They both rose quickly. “I’m Jesse Osterman.” “I’m Dr. Boloram,” The man said. “I just finished the surgery on your husband.” “How is he?” Jesse asked anxiously. “It was touch and go through out the procedure.” The doctor said seriously. “We lost him on the table once to cardiac arrest, but we were able to get him back. Right now, he’s comatose, but stable. We were able to relief the bleeding around his brain and take care of the internal injuries. He cracked a couple vertebrae; we won’t know the extent of the permanent damage until he wakes up.” “He died?” “He went into cardiac arrest, his heart stopped, so he was dead at that point, but we were able to get him back.” The doctor answered. “The next 24-48 hours will be critical for him. Like I said, he’s in a coma right now, we won’t know the extent of permanent damage until he wakes up and we don’t know when that will be. Right now, it’s a waiting game.” Jesse nodded. “When can I see him?” “He’s in recovery now. They should have him in the ICU within the hour, then you’ll be able to see him one at a time.” “Thank you.” Jesse said. “You’re welcome. The ICU is on the fifth floor, you can head up there when you want, and the nurses will direct you.” *** Jesse stood in the doorway to Dylan’s room. Tears welled in his eyes. The only sound in the room was of the machinery beeping and buzzing. Dylan lay still in the bed, tubes and lines running from his body to the machines. His head was fully bandaged, and his face was covered in cuts and bruises. Jesse walked into the room and up to the bed. He took Dylan’s hand gently in his. “Hey, Babe.” He whispered. “We’re all hear waiting for you to wake up. I need you Dylan, don’t leave me.” He choked back the sobs that caught in his throat and felt the tears running down his face. He knew he had to stay positive, but the thought of a life without Dylan kept creeping into the dark corners of his mind. He had never considered a life without his love. “No.” He told himself. “Don’t go there. Dylan was going to pull through this.” “Jesse.” Ace spoke quietly from the doorway. “How’re you doing?” Jesse gently laid Dylan’s hand down and turned to the door. Ace saw the distraught look on Jesse’s face and his heart broke for his friend. He stepped forward and embraced Jesse. “He’s gonna be ok.” He whispered to Jesse. “I know.” Jesse replied quietly. “It’s just hard seeing him like this, so battered and broken.” Ace nodded. “I’m gonna let you stay up here with Dylan and I’ll keep an eye on Mace and Cole. I’ll come get you if Cole wakes up and you let me know if there’s any change in Dylan.” “Ok.” Jesse answered trying to sound positive. Ace released Jesse from his hug and left the room. Jesse pulled a chair up to Dylan’s bed and sat down. He took Dylan’s hand again and held it in his. Some part of him was hoping he could send his energy into Dylan and heal him quicker. “I love you, Dylan.” He whispered realizing it was the first time he had ever said it and not heard ‘Me, too’ as a reply. He leaned back in the chair and closed his eyes. As he held Dylan’s hand, he said a silent prayer for his love and his brothers that everyone would be alright. The events of the day finally took their toll and he drifted off into a fitful sleep. *** “Jesse…” he heard as a hand gently shook his shoulder. He opened his eyes and saw the familiar face. “Hey, Danny.” He smiled. He lay Dylan’s hand down and stood up and embraced the man he thought of as his father. “I’m so glad you’re here.” “Where else would I be?” Danny replied as he returned the embrace. “How’s Dylan?” “No change.” Jesse replied. “I’ve been with him all night.” “Where’s Ace?” “He’s down on the third floor with Cole and Mason. I should head down; they’re supposed to release Mace this morning. I’m gonna take him to his house and Sadie will watch him while I’m here with Dylan and Cole.” “Do you want me to stay here or go over with you?” Jesse thought a moment. “Why don’t you come with us, we’ll take Ace, too. That way we can all get cleaned up and I can get you and Ace set up with rooms since we’re not sure how long we’ll be down here.” “Sounds good.” Danny replied. “Why don’t you go and see about Mason and I’ll meet you down there. I want to spend a few minutes with Dylan and call his parents to let them know how he is.” “Thanks.” Jesse said as he hugged Danny again, before walking out of the room and heading to the nearest elevator. When Jesse reached Mason’s room, he found the room empty except for an orderly stripping the bed. “Excuse me.” He said. “Where is the patient that was in this room?” “I’m not sure, I think he was discharged.” The orderly replied. “That’s not right.” Jesse said as he left the room and hurriedly walked to the nurse’s station. He saw Shelly standing at the station. “Shelly, excuse me, but do you know where they moved my brother Mason to?” He asked. “Let me check.” She replied typing into the computer. “It says here he was discharged about a half hour ago.” “To who?” Jesse asked worriedly. “I’m his guardian.” “It says here he was released to his legal guardian, a Michelle Carpenter.” “Shit!” Jesse exclaimed just as Danny walked up. “Jess, what’s wrong?” Danny asked. “My sister took Mason.”
  3. Andrew Todd

    Chapter 2

    Some chapters will be filling in gaps in the past to give a fuller story about how Dylan and Jesse got where they are now...and yes, I like my cliffhangers. 😉
  4. Andrew Todd

    Chapter 2

    Me, Too By Andrew Todd Chapter Two Then A few weeks before Spring Break of his Junior year at Lancaster Academy, Jesse was sitting in his & Dylan’s room finishing some homework when his phone rang. “Hello?” “Hey, Jesse.” “Hey, Trevor.” Even after almost a year, Jesse couldn’t bring himself to address his newfound father as ‘Dad’ or ‘Father’. He had come to terms with the reasons for his growing up not knowing Trevor and loved his new family, but Trevor still felt more like a family friend than a parent. “What’s up? How’re Cole and Julia?” “Everyone’s fine.” Trevor replied. “They’re both looking forward to you and Dylan coming down. I don’t know if Cole’s going to sleep before then, he’s so excited for his big brothers to visit.” Jesse laughed. “Tell him his big brothers are excited to see him too.” The boys had decided to split their break between Dylan’s family and the Second Chances gang and Jesse’s family in Florida. “The reason I called is that I was talking to a friend and he wanted me to extend an invitation to you.” “What kind of invitation?” “Well, he runs a stable in Northern England that hires out horses for film and tv.” Trevor explained. “Stunt men?” Jesse asked, intrigued. “Well, some of the guys working for him are stunt men, but mostly they provide horses and stand-ins who are better riders than the actors.” Trevor chuckled. “They also do shows all over England during the summer months.” “What kind of shows?” “Actually, they do lots of different performances. Some are stunt shows, some renaissance with jousting, some pure dressage, all sorts of different styles of riding and horsemanship.” “So…” Trevor paused. “My friend, Joe Carrington, he takes on a few, ummm, interns every summer and he asked me if you might be interested in joining them. He actually extended the invitation to you and Dylan, but I explained about Dylan wanting to do summer school. He was still very interested in having you come over.” “Wow, that sounds like fun.” Jesse thought for a moment. ‘If Dylan wasn’t staying this summer, I know we’d both jump at the chance.” “But…” “But, the idea of being apart for the summer.” “I understand it’s hard for you guys to be apart, but I thought I’d pass along the invitation” Trevor explained. “It’s a great opportunity.” “It sounds like it.” Jesse paused and thought a moment. “Can I have a few days to think about it and talk to Dylan?” “Sure. Joe needs to know by the end of next week, though.” Trevor answered. “He gets a list a mile long of applicants, but he’s holding a space for you and Dylan, if he changes his mind about summer school.” “I know he’s not going to.” Jesse sighed. “He’s determined that we graduate together next year. I keep telling him I’ll wait, but he really wants us to go together” “As long as he’s not pushing himself too hard.” “No. His grades are ridiculous considering the course load he’s carrying.” Jesse explained. “Some of the kids think he’s skating in easy classes to get through, but he’s in mostly AP courses and pulling all A’s.” “How’re your classes going?’ “Good. Mostly A’s, maybe a B-plus or two.” Jesse replied. “Dylan’s more the scholar than I am. I’m happy to just make it through.” Trevor chuckled. “You got that from me. I’d do what I had to to get through school, but I’d rather have been out riding or running around.” “That’s me, too.” Jesse felt comforted that there was something he was sharing with his father. “Well, just let Dylan know about the offer and the two of you talk it over. I’ll e-mail you the details and Joe’s contact information in case you have any questions for him.” “Ok, sounds good.” Jesse replied. “I appreciate the offer and I’ll be sure to follow up with your friend in the next couple of days.” After he got off the phone, Jesse went back to finishing his homework. About a half hour later, he received an e-mail from Trevor with the information about the farm in England and the apprenticeship offer. He briefly read it and then opened the attached video. He laughed at the antics of his six-year-old brother, Cole. No one would believe it had been less than a year since the bone marrow transplant that had sent his leukemia into remission. Instead of the pale gaunt, tired little boy he and Dylan had first met in Florida, Cole was now a rosy cheeked cherub full of energy and high spirits. “You guys need to get here SOON!!” Cole ordered grinning at the camera. “I can’t wait to see you!!” He wrote back to Trevor to thank him for the information and he recorded a video message for Cole letting him know that he and Dylan would be down in a couple of weeks and they couldn’t wait to see him either. He reviewed the e-mail a second time. It looked like a really great way to spend the summer, but he knew Dylan wouldn’t let summer school go and he didn’t want to spend the summer away from him. He picked up his phone and hit the ‘1’. Almost immediately, there was a connection on the line, and he heard a familiar voice. “What’s wrong, Jess?” “Ace, why do you assume something’s wrong?” Jesse replied. “Can’t I just be calling to say ‘hi’?” “In the middle of a Wednesday?” Ace laughed. “I don’t think so. It’s great to hear from you, but something’s up.” “How’s Kaya?” Jesse asked, trying to sound nonchalant. “Kaya’s fine. You should see Idgie just crawling all over her. He toddles all over the place and she’s right there with him. I feel badly for anyone who ever tries to hurt that kid.” Jesse chuckled. “She was like that with Seb and me, too.” He paused for a moment. “I miss her and Idgie and you guys.” He sighed. “And we miss you, every day. You know we’re always here for you, so why don’t you go ahead and SPILL IT!” Ace barked. Jesse inhaled deeply and told Ace about Trevor’s phone call and the summer in England. “Jesse, that’s so cool.” Ace said. “Maybe your scrawny ass will be in a movie.” He laughed. Jesse giggled, leave it to Ace. “I don’t think so.” “But, you’re going, right?” Silence. “Jesse, you’re going…right??” “I don’t know.” “How can you not go?” Ace asked, the exasperation in his voice obvious to Jesse. “This is a great opportunity; you can learn so much and see how another farm operates. What does Dylan have to say?” “I haven’t told him, yet.” Jesse sighed. “I just got the call and he won’t be back for another hour or so, he has his bio lab this afternoon.” “He’s still planning on summer school, isn’t he?” “Yes.” “And that’s why you’re hesitating, you don’t wanna leave him alone?” “I don’t want to be away from him all summer.” “Think of it this way, he’ll be so busy with summer school, it will give you something to do.” Ace suggested. “I know you’re not any more interested in going to school in the summer than I am.” Jesse laughed. “Nope.” “See, this would be like ‘summer school’ and ‘summer camp’ all rolled into one for you.” Ace suggested. “Plus, you know, Dylan would want you to take advantage of this.” “I guess so…” “You know so.” Ace interrupted. “So just talk to him about it.” “Yes, sir.” Jesse replied sarcastically. “Thanks, Ace. Love ya.” “And I love your scrawny ass, too, Jess.” Ace said as he disconnected the call. There was a knock on the door as Jesse put his phone down. “Come in.” “Hey, Jess.” “Hey, Nick, what’s up?” Nick and his roommate Bryant were Jesse and Dylan’s next-door neighbors and they had all become very good friends. “I was just headed over to the stables and wanted to see if you and Dyl wanted to come along.” Nick came from a wealthy family and had been excited when the new equestrian team had been started the previous fall. He was good rider but knew he was not at Dylan or Jesse’s level. The three had become the nucleus of the small team. “Well, Dylan’s in lab for another hour or so and I’ve got two papers to finish so I guess it’s just you right now.” Nick shrugged. “Ok.” He stood quietly in the doorway with an expectant look on his face. Jesse looked at his friend and grinned. “Yes, you can take out Jupe.” He laughed. “He needs the exercise.” Jupiter was Jesse and Dylan’s 18 hand Hanoverian gelding. They were very particular with whom they let ride him, but he and Nick got along famously. “Thanks.” Nick grinned as he bolted from the room. *** When Dylan came into the room after classes, Jesse was laying on the bed contemplating the conversations with Trevor and Ace. “Hey.” Dylan said quietly leaning down and kissing Jesse. “You napping?” Jesse shook his head. “No, just thinking.” “About?” Jesse sat up as Dylan crawled next to him on the bed. They had given up the ‘roommate’ pretense early on and pushed the two single beds together. Most of their friends didn’t care and already knew about them being a couple. “I got a call from Trevor.” Jesse said. “Everything all right? Cole’s not sick, again is he?” “No, he’s great.” Jesse chuckled. “We’ve been sending video messages back and forth all afternoon. He’s a little excited about us coming down next week.” “So, what did Trevor have to say?” Jesse told Dylan about the farm in England and the offer of an apprenticeship. He explained that the offer was for both, but Trevor had told his friend about Dylan’s summer school. When Jesse finished, Dylan leaned into him and hugged him tight. “Do you want to go?” “I don’t want to leave you?” Jesse replied. “I know that.” Dylan said quietly. “But, do you want to go?” Jesse was silent for a few minutes. “I don’t know.” He finally said. Dylan got up from the bed and walked over to his desk. “What’s the name of the place?” “Carrington Farms.” Dylan quickly googled the farm and then spent a few minutes looking over the website. “Jess, have you looked at this website?” He asked excitedly. Jesse shook his head. “No.” Dylan looked at him sitting quietly on the bed and shook his head. “Get over here and look.” He ordered grinning at Jesse. Jesse walked over to Dylan’s desk and sat on the half of his boyfriend’s chair that he had left. “Look at all the different breeds they work with.” Dylan said excitedly. “Look, there’s some video links.” They spent the next hour watching all the videos that were posted to the site. Most featured a handsome young man with light brown hair and warm brown eyes. Both boys were fascinated watching him work with the various horses in the video. When they finished the last video, Dylan closed the browser and turned to Jesse. “You have to go.” He instructed. He placed a finger over Jesse’s lips as he started to protest. “I’m going to be so busy here this summer. I’m carrying a big class load. You’d be bored. This is such an amazing opportunity. If our places were reversed, I’d go. I love you and I love that you want to stay, but I don’t want to be the reason you don’t go.” “Ace said you’d say that.” Jesse sighed. “He’s right.” Dylan grinned, “He’s always right. Show me the e-mail Trevor sent.” Jesse got his laptop and showed Dylan the e-mail from Trevor. “Hey, this is for the whole summer.” Dylan said excitedly. Jesse nodded. “Yah, so…” “So, summer session is only six weeks from Mid-May to the end of June.” Jesse looked at Dylan confusion in his eyes. Dylan laughed and shook his head. “We were gonna spend the second half of the summer at Second Chances.” He stated. “Why don’t I just fly over and spend it with you in England.” “That would be great, but we’d still be apart for six weeks.” “Jess, I hate the idea of being apart, but this is too great an opportunity to turn down.” Dylan said emphatically. “There’s too much you could learn and do; you’ll be bored stiff here with me. I’ll be in classes all day.” “I was gonna work with Tony in the barn while you were in class.” Jesse protested. “Tony will be fine.” Dylan countered. “He’d tell you to go.” Jesse shrugged. “ok, I’ll e-mail Trevor’s friend, if he says it’s ok for you to come halfway through then I’ll go.” *** A month and a half later, Jesse found himself disembarking a plane at Gatwick Airport. As he walked off the plane, he saw a young man holding a sign that read ‘J. Osterman’. As he got closer, he recognized the man from the videos he and Dylan had watched countless times online. “I’m Jesse Osterman”. He said as he approached the taller young man. “Welcome to England.” The man said with a bright toothy grin. “I’m William Carrington, but everyone calls me Liam.” “Nice to meet you.” Jesse said as he shook Liam’s outstretched hand. Liam was a little over six feet tall, slender with broad shoulders. He had a healthy bronze tan, medium length light brown hair and deep brown eyes. “And you.” Liam replied. “I’ve heard a great deal about you from my Dad and yours. They tell me you’re quite a horseman.” Jesse blushed. “Probably not a good as you if your videos are any indication.” He shrugged. Liam laughed. “You’ve seen those, huh?” Jesse nodded. “Yes, my boyfriend and I watched them when Trevor told me about your dad’s offer to come over for the summer.” “Then you have some idea what we do at the farm.” Liam stated as he led Jesse to the baggage claim. “Let’s get your gear and we can talk more on the way to the farm.” “Ok. How far is it from here?” “A few hours’ drive.” Liam explained. “So, we’ll have plenty of time to talk.” Once they were underway, Jesse asked “So do you mainly do work for tv and movies?” “I do some,” Liam replied. “But my main focus is dressage and liberty work. I train mostly and then we do some shows at local fairs and gatherings.” “Oh, I thought you guys supplied horses for films and stuff.” “We do, at least my father and uncle do.” Liam explained. “They started years ago and I did some stunt work and a few films when I was younger, but as I trained, I became more interested in dressage and liberty, so I train in those areas and dad focuses on the film part of the business. Sometimes we overlap, like if a project needs a ‘wild’ horse, I usually step in with one of my boys since they’re used to working at liberty and can play ‘wild’ for the camera. We’ve got about 50 or so horses right now, most are used for the stunt stuff, I have my own ‘herd’ that I train, and I’m always ‘stealing’ new ones from Dad if I see the potential.” “So, what will I be doing?” Jesse asked curiously. “You’re gonna be working with me mostly.” Liam stated. “I know you’re quite the dressage rider and your dad tells mine you’ve quite a knack with horses, so I want to teach you to work at liberty.” “Sounds like fun.” Jesse replied. “I’ve seen some performers work at liberty, but I’ve never done it myself.” “Well, now’s your chance.” Liam said. “And when your boyfriend…Dylan?” Jesse nodded. “When Dylan gets here, he’ll work with us as well, unless you want to work separately.” “No, we work good together.” Jesse said quickly. Liam laughed. “Just teasin’, ya.” He grinned. “Trevor already told me how close the two of you are and how well you work together. He even sent me some videos of you from a couple of shows, you both have a really good foundation. That’s what made me want to offer you two the chance to come over and play this summer.” “I thought it was your dad that called Trevor.” “It was, but I was the one who asked him to.” Liam explained. “You see, every summer my dad takes on some working students, but none of them ever seem to work out for me. They do ok with the basic riding, but I’m always looking for something special. A spark. And I saw it in you and Dylan. When I saw the videos of you two, it was the first time I ever asked dad to invite someone. He’s always after me to take on some students so he jumped at the chance to bring you over.” “So, it will be just Dylan and I working with you?” Liam nodded. “Yup. My dad has a couple of boys working for him this summer, though, I’m not sure they’re what he needs.” “Why not?” “He’s got a big shoot coming up and he needs some western type riders.” Liam replied. “What he’s got are a couple of hunter/jumper types who want to play at cowboy, but what he needs is the cowboy.” “What does he need the cowboy to do?” “Well, the shoot is for a new American television series. They’re shooting the pilot over here because they got a better tax deal. Dad needs a rider who can double for the star. The kid they hired can ride, but the insurance will only let him do so much, so we need someone who can ride like they were born in the American west.” Jesse’s eyes lit up. “I think I might be able to help you there.” “No offense, Jess but you’re a little too small to double for this guy.” “Not me”, Jesse laughed. “I’m not a cowboy by any stretch, but my friend Ace is, a real-life Texas raised cowboy and he rides like it too.” “Tell me more.” “Well, he just graduated High School and is getting ready for college in the fall, but I think he’d be available for the summer.” “How good a rider is he?” “The western equivalent of me and Dyl.” Jesse grinned. “He has a big black quarter horse named Bullet and he’s a cowboy through and through.” “Excellent,” Liam said excitedly, “When we get to the farm, you can give him a call, if he’s interested the quicker, we can get him here the better.” “I’m sure he’ll come. Will he be working with your dad or you?” “Actually, both.” Liam replied. “The story is about a young pony express rider who survives an Indian attack and has to make his way back to civilization. He rescues a mustang while in the wilderness. That’s where I come in. I have a buckskin gelding I’ve been training for the part. Ace would work with us and Pico, learning his tricks and getting used to him and then work with my dad and us on the set. We have another buckskin who’ll play the horse for the star, but he’s not liberty trained like Pico is.” “So, we’ll both get to work on a real movie set?” Jesse asked excitedly. Liam laughed, “You’re going to have a very full, exciting and, hopefully, educational summer, my friend.”
  5. Someone e-mailed to ask me what my inspiration was for 'Irish Summer'...





  6. Andrew Todd

    Chapter 2

    Irish Summer By Andrew Todd Chapter 2 Cam felt the heat rising in his cheeks. Rory’s voice shook him out of his trance. “Cameron can ye shut the door, it’s a wee bit chilly.” He chuckled. “Oh, God, I’m s-s-sorry…” He stammered as he backed out of the bathroom and shut the door. He quickly ran across to the kitchen washed his hands and ran back to his bedroom. He practically dove under the comforter when he reached the room and prayed that he would quickly fall asleep. A few minutes passed when he heard a light tap on the door. He tried to ignore it. “Cameron?” He heard Rory whisper on the other side of the door. “Cameron, can I speak to ye?” Cam sat up in the bed. “Come in, Rory.” He sighed. Rory came into the room and quietly shut the door behind him. Cam was relieved to see that he was at least dressed. He was wearing a t-shirt and a loose pair of pajama bottoms. “Rory, I’m so sorry.” Cam said as he felt the heat return to his face. “I’m so embarrassed.” Rory sat down on the bed. “Cameron, me friend, there is nothing to apologize for or to be embarrassed about. I told you before, Finn and me have been walkin’ in on each other since we were babes, well since he was a babe. I’m used to not locking the door, cuz the little monster has a bladder the size of a peanut and the minute I settle into a bath he’ll start to poundin’ on the door. I wanted to make sure you were ok; I could see you were uneasy, and I don’t want you to be feelin’ that way.” “I appreciate that.” Cam said. “I’ve never been one of those guys who was comfortable in the locker room.” “Locker room?” Cam shook his head. “I forgot you guys haven’t done the conventional school thing. I’m an only child, it’s been just me and my dad, so walking in on someone has never been an issue before.” “Well, hang around here and you’re bound te be seein’ everyt’ing.” Rory laughed. Cam grinned and shook his head. “Are we fine then, Cameron?” Rory asked seriously. Cam nodded. “Of course.” “Good. I’d be hatin’ te think I offended ye.” “Not at all, I was afraid I’d done the same.” Rory just shook his head. The two sat in a tense silence. “So, Rory, how did your family end up here in this valley?” Cam asked trying to change the subject and break the tension. Rory grinned at knowingly. “That, me friend, is a long story.” He said laying back on the bed next to Cam. Cam wiggled over towards the edge of the bed to give Rory some room. “Me granddad was a Traveler.” Rory began. “Traveler?” Cam asked. “You used that word before.” “Travelers are what many people call gypsies in other areas.” Rory explained. “They move from place to place. They often have a bad reputation as thieves or con artists, though that is most often not the case. Granddad was raised a Traveler, he thought that would be his life, until the day he met me Gran. “She was from a very wealthy Dublin family. When they met, at a fair, he was seventeen and she was only sixteen. They both said it was love at first sight. But her father was not excited by the thought of his only daughter marrying a boy like my granddad. He forbid them to wed. They snuck around together for a year. Gran’s father kept trying to set her up with suitor after suitor and she would find ways to turn them away. Finally, on her eighteenth birthday, grandad snuck into her window and swept her away. They ran to the nearest Justice of the Peace and were married. “When they returned to tell Gran’s parents about the wedding, her father was livid. He immediately disowned her and told them both to leave and he stormed out of the room. Me grandparents expected that, and they turned to leave, but Gran’s mother stopped them. She told them to sit down. She explained to them, that although she could not go against her husband as far as disowning and disinheriting my Gran, she had resources of her own and she wanted her daughter to at least have a chance. “She pulled a deed from a drawer and signed it over to my Gran. It was for the land we are on now. My Great Grandmother’s father had left it to her when he died, and she had held onto it. She told my grandparents that they would have to work hard to make a go of the land, but if they loved each other and worked hard, it would be a beautiful place to settle down and raise a family. “She also gave them enough money to get them from Dublin to the Valley and get a start. They left that night and arrived in the valley a few days later. Me granddad knew he wanted to raise horses, but first they needed a house. It was spring, so they set about clearing trees and me granddad built them a little house in one corner of the valley. He built a barn and fenced in some fields for paddocks. By the time, the first fairs were rolling in he was ready. “When the first fair came to town, he headed out to find the stock for his new farm. He came home with a stallion and three mares. They were just the beginning. Me granddad had been around horses all his life. He had a magic touch when it came to finding the right mix of temperament and ability. Within a few years, folks were seeking him out to buy his horses, rather than him having to go to the fairs. “As he became more successful, Grandad was able to build Gran a huge house. He would always surprise her with new trinkets and treasures, his way of trying to replace what she had given up to be with him, but to Gran she hadn’t sacrificed anything. She had wanted to be with the man she loved and that made her happy. “They had three boys, Me Uncles Liam and Donald and me Da. Donald died in an accident when he was our age. When the other two came of age, my Granddad gave them each a parcel of land and four horses to start their own farm. “Uncle Liam was always the serious brother, the hard worker. By the time granddad retired, he was able to absorb the original farm and all. It’s huge now.” “What about your father and this farm?” Cam asked. “Me da was always the dreamer.” Rory explained. “There was always one new plan after another. Like buying the Prince and breeding him. Most of those ideas cost more than they brought in. Gran always had a soft spot for him so she would help him when things got bad. After me grandparents passed, Uncle Liam would make sure we had enough to get by. He bought up some of the land that me Granddad had left Da. Then when Da and Ma passed, I told Uncle that Finn and I wanted to make a go of turning this place around. He’s been helping us as much as he can. But Finn and I want to do it ourselves.” “So, you guys want to make it as big as your Uncle’s?” “I don’t know about as big.” Rory shrugged. “Just successful. Uncle Liam has a couple hundred head and he has so many hands working for him. He’s successful, but a lot of his horses are average. I’d rather have a smaller concern and be known for breeding the best of the best.” Cam nodded. “So how are you doing so far?” “Right now, we’re just keepin’ afloat.” Rory sighed. “Been settlin’ Da’s debts and such. We’re finally out from under that and we can start to focus on moving forward. It’s gonna be hard work though.” “What would happen if you didn’t want to do it?” “What’d’ya mean?” “What would you do if you decided that you didn’t want the farm or to work this life?” “I don’t know.” Rory said wistfully. “I’ve never known any life other than this. I love the land and the horses. I’m not as smart as Finn, so I don’t miss the schoolin’. I do wish I could send Finn to a more formal school.” “Why can’t you?” “T’would cost too much money.” Rory replied. “Gettin’ him from here to there and back. And then we’d have to be payin’ someone to be doin’ his work. Oi, it’s getting’ late.” He said as he jumped off the bed. “The sun’ll be risin’ before we know it.” He turned when he reached the door. “G’night, me friend.” He smiled as he left the room. “’Night, Rory.” Cam said quietly, the smile lingering on his lips as he drifted off to sleep. *** Cam woke up to bright sunshine streaming into the small room. There was no clock, but he could tell it was later than he expected to wake up. He looked around and noticed some clothes had been laid out on the edge of the bed. He got out of bed, gathered up the clothes and walked down the hall to the bathroom. He saw no sign of the brothers. He quickly washed up and got dressed and made his way out into the yard. It seemed deserted. He ran back into the house and grabbed his camera and phone from his room. The clock on his phone said that it was after ten. He walked briskly over to the barn. He heard whistling from the back of the barn. “Hello?” He called. “Oi!!” Finn called back as he popped out of one of the rear stalls. “About time you pulled your lazy arse outta bed!” The younger boy teased. Cam grinned sheepishly. “You could have woken me, you know.” “I wanted to.” Finn said. “But Rory told me he’d bust me butt if I did.” “Where is Rory?” “He took the colt over to Uncle’s.” Finn explained. “The little monster needs the work and Uncle wants to go over some business with Rory. He’ll be gone for a bit. He told me when you got up that I was to take you back to the village so that we could get your clothes and such.” “How are we going to do that?” “Ride o’course.” Finn laughed. Cam absently rubbed his butt. “I was afraid you were gonna say that.” Finn laughed so hard he shook. “C’mon. The more you do it, the less sore ye’ll be.” He said as he led Cam to the paddock closest to the barn. “’Sides, Ivy has a soft spot for ye, so she’ll be taking care of ye.” “You’re gonna let me ride Ivy?” “Sure.” Finn nodded. “She’s taken to ye and ye to her. She’s gentle and a good match for a beginner.” “Are you taking Prince?” “Oi, are ye daft? I’ve just started his training. He’s a good boy, but I’m not takin’ him that far, not yet. He be needin’ a lot more work.” Finn replied. “I’ll be takin’ Westie.” He said pointing to a huge painted horse standing in the next pasture. “My god that’s one big horse!!” “He’s a drum.” Finn explained. “Same as the cobs, just bigger. Funny thing with drafts, for the most part, the bigger they are the gentler they are. Westie is a big baby. Aren’t ye, me son?” He called as the big horse lumbered over to fence closest the barn. Finn handed Cam a halter for Ivy and went to get Westie. Once they had led both horses to the barn, Finn spent the next few minutes teaching Cam how to groom the horses. “Be right back.” Finn said and then he reappeared carrying a saddle and bridle which he placed on a rail next to Ivy. “Let me just grab Westie’s and I’ll show you how to tack up.” Cam looked at the saddle. “Wait a second.” He said to Finn, who turned back. “I thought you didn’t use saddles.” Finn looked at Cam curiously and then burst into laughter. “What are you laughing at?” “Rory made you ride all the way here bareback?” Finn asked, barely getting the question out between giggles. Cam nodded. “That’s why you’re so sore. You’ll be far more comfortable ridin’ in that saddle.” “But Rory made me think that you guys never rode with saddles.” Finn shook his head. “Well, I think he was havin’ a bit a fun with ye and more than likely testin’ ye at the same time.” He said. “We ride bareback quite often. It’s a sign of a true horseman around these parts, but it’s not often that we would be makin’ a beginner ride that way. He musta been wantin’ to see what you were made of and seein’ as yer still here, ye musta passed the test.” He grinned. Cam smiled weakly and shook his head. Finn quickly showed him how to saddle and bridle the horses. Soon the two were mounted and on their way across the valley floor. Cam, feeling more secure with his feet in the stirrups, gave Ivy her head and spent a good part of the ride snapping as many pictures as he could. While he took his usual high number of scenic shots, he couldn’t help but take a number of shots of Finn and the large horse he was riding. Cam marveled at the ease with which the boy handled the big horse and the gentle nature the horses seemed to bring out of him. Finn looked over to see Cam smiling at him. “What are ye smiling at?” He asked. “Oh, I was just thinking about when I first saw you yesterday.” Cam explained. “I figured you for a little hothead. You had that head full of steam and you were pissed. And now I see the real you. Carefree, happy, content.” Finn shook his head. “I’m not a hot head.” He grinned. “I’m Irish. Sometimes the two be confused.” Both boys laughed. The boys continued in silence as the horse climbed out of the Valley and headed towards the village. When they reached the inn, Finn stayed with the horses, while Cam went in to pick up his stuff. He was glad that he traveled lightly. He hurriedly packed up his duffel and stopped at the desk to let them know that he was checking out. When he came out of the inn, Finn took the duffel and threw it behind his saddle. The boys mounted up and headed back towards the valley. As they were riding through the woods towards the valley, Finn turned to Cam. “Can I ask ye something Cameron?” “Sure.” “Do ye like me brother?” Cam pulled lightly on the reins to bring Ivy to a stop and looked at Finn. He thought maybe the younger boy was playing with him again, but Finn had a serious, almost grim look on his face. “Of course, I like him.” Cam said. “I like both you guys, you’re great.” “I think ye know that’s not what I mean.” Finn said his green eyes staring right through Cam. Cam looked away. “Why?” he asked quietly. “Cameron, look at me.” The younger boy pleaded. Cam looked at Finn. His eyes were wide and wet. “Me brother is all I have in this world.” He said quietly. “And as big a pain in the arse as he is, I don’t want him to get hurt. I see the way he looks at you. I seen it since the first time, and I seen the way you look at him.” “Finn…” “Don’t ye be Finn’n me, Cameron. I know me brother. I know who he is and what he is.” Finn said with a grim look on his face. “And I’ll kick the arse of the first person who hurts him because of it.” “Finn, like I said, I like you and Rory. You guys are great.” Cam said. “If you’re asking me if I’m gay, then the answer is yes, I am. I’ve never hidden that. If you’re asking me if I’m attracted to your brother, then I think you need to look at him.” He laughed. Finn smiled and rolled his eyes. “But as far as anything more.” Cam continued. “I don’t know. I’m a loner, I always have been. I’ve spent the last few years just focused on getting out of High School and getting through college. I’ve never given much thought to a relationship. As far as starting anything with Rory, it wouldn’t be fair to either of us.” “How do ya figure that?” “I’m only here for a few weeks, maybe a few months at the longest.” Cam answered. “Rory belongs here. He deserves something more than a brief fling.” “He deserves ta be happy.” Finn said defiantly. “I know.” Cam agreed. “That’s what I’m saying.” “So do ye, Cameron, me boyo.” Finn replied. “Are you sure you’re the younger brother?” “Did Rory tell you about me Da?” “He told me some about him and your grandparents last night.” “Well, Da was a dreamer. He wasn’t much of a father.” Finn said, not trying to disguise his disdain. “He wasn’t a horrible man or a monster, but he was more interested in his dreams then in providing for us. Ma was our parent, Da wanted to be a friend. Ma was sick when she got pregnant with me and she never really recovered after I was born, so Rory took care of me from the time I was a babe. I guess there’s some that think that I should be the one who missed Da and Rory should be the one who resented him, but it’s just the opposite. Rory loved him and always made excuses for him, I hated him. I don’t miss him at all.” “You can’t mean that.” “Oh, yes, I can.” Finn replied defiantly. “Rory has been more of a father to me than me Da ever was. Me Ma had a reason, she was never well, and I blame my Da for that too, he never should have let her get pregnant with me.” Cam considered the smaller boy for a moment. “Think of it this way”, he said. “If she hadn’t had you Rory would be all alone in the world. I can see how much you both love each other and how much you admire him.” “I guess yer right.” Finn nodded. “I do love him, even if he is a pain in my arse. That’s also why I don’t want to see him hurt.” “Hurting him or anyone would be the farthest thing from my mind.” Cam replied. Finn looked at the older teen curiously and nodded his head. The two rode in silence most of the way back to the O’Leary farm. Cam let Ivy have her head and spun around to snap as many pictures of the lush, fertile land as he could. He also took more than a few pictures of Finn on his big Drum horse. The way the small boy wordlessly communicated with the large Drum horse was almost magical to Cam. When they came to the river where Cam had first met the brothers, Finn rode Westie right into the water. “What are you doing?” Cam asked making sure Ivy wasn’t going to follow. “The horses love the water.” Finn replied. “If’n we had time, we could swim with them, but at least let them get their feet wet.” Cam looked at his hesitantly. Finn smiled and laughed “Trust me, Cameron. Ivy swims like a fish if you let her, but right now she’ll just plod along in the shallows.” Cam shrugged and let his horse follow Finn’s into the river. “Do you really swim with them?” He asked. Finn nodded. “All the time when the weather is good. Not far from here there be a horse fair next month. Buyers and sellers from all over come to horse trade. Each morn, the boys (and some girls) that be selling the horses will take them to the river to wash them. Folks come from all over to see it, they think it’s quite a sight.” “I never realized horses were such a big deal over here.” “Well, they are.” Finn boasted. “Many folks’ll judge a farm by the stock they produce rather than the state of the buildings or the land. Rory and I take care of what we have, but it’s the horses that keep us fed and clothed.” “Where I live it always seems that horses are for the rich and mainly the girls.” “Aye, we’ve aa bit o’that over here, too.” Finn grinned. “The show ponies and racing stock. You won’t see any cobs or drums racing at the Irish National or jumpin’ fences, lest it’s Aragon trying to go on one of his jaunts. But we’ve had a more than a few who’ve won at the local fairs and gotten a fair price for them afterwards. One of the few things I’d agree with my Da about is he’d always rather be happy than rich.” *** When they arrived back at the farm, Rory was in the yard waiting for them. “Survived a ride into the village, then?” Cam dismounted and scowled at Rory. “Yes, Finn was nice enough to give me saddle so my ass isn’t so sore this time.” Finn laughed as he dismounted and took Ivy’s reins from Cam. “’Twas a bit mean to make the poor laddie think we only rode bareback, brother.” Rory turned a bit red. “Sorry, Cameron, but for the little bit of a ride we took, I usually do ride without a saddle.” Cam couldn’t stay mad at the beautiful Irishman. “It’s ok, Finn explained it to me, and my ass is still sore from the ride saddle or no saddle.” Finn pulled Cam’s bag from Westie’s back and handed it to Cam. “Here’s your stuff, Cameron, I’ll take care of the horses if you want to be getting’ settled in the house.” “Thanks, Finn, and thanks for taking me, it was fun.” “You’re welcome.” The red-headed boy replied as he led the horses into the barn. “So, your friends now?” Rory asked as he watched his little brother walk away. Cam smiled. “Seeing him in his element was enlightening. I thought he was a little hot-head but seeing him with the horses and talking to him, I saw the real Finn and he’s a good kid.” Rory rolled his eyes. “Aye, he is, but don’t be letting him hear you say it, or his head’ll be getting big.” Cam laughed, “I can see that.” Cam took his duffle and his camera and headed towards the house. “I’m gonna stow this stuff and then help Finn if that’s ok.” “Finn’ll be done before you are.” Rory said. “He can untack and groom those two faster than either of us and he’ll have’em in the field before you can get unpacked.” “In that case, I’ll just stay in and go through the pics I’ve taken so far.” He stopped and snapped his fingers. “That reminds me, I still need the releases for you and Finn.” “DO you have them with ya?” “In my computer bag.” “Then I’ll come with you and we can take care of that.” Rory stated as he walked alongside Cam. “I don’t know why ye be wanting pictures of me and Finn though.” “IF some of the ones I have of Finn are even half as good as I think, they’ll be hanging in a gallery by the end of next week.” “I thought you were staying here for a bit.” Cam chuckled. “I’ll stay as long as I’m welcome, I sent the pictures to America digitally. There’s a company that will print and matte them and then send them to the gallery where they will be framed and hung.” Rory shook his head. “Do ye think someone will want to buy them?” “Oh, yeah!” Cam nodded. “I’m sure thye will, but I want to save the best ones for later.” “What’s ‘later’?” “I’ve been wanting to do a book for the longest time and I finally found a subject that I think will work out great.” “And what’s that?” “You and Finn, the farm, the horses, the countryside and Ireland.” Cam answered. “It’s so beautiful here, I just hope I can do it justice.” “A book about Ireland, I can see, but I don’t see how me and Finn belong in it.” “You two represent a culture with your farm and horses that goes back for generations.” Cam explained. “I’d love to go to some of the fairs Finn described and look at other farms, but the focus will be on you and your farm.” “You should see Uncle’s farm, that’s a big concern and deserving a’ye attention, not our little farm here.” “I’d love to see your Uncle’s place, but it won’t change my mind, the focus of the book will be here, unless you don’t want me to use it.” “No, if’n ye think folks will buy a book about me and the monster then be me guest.” Rory said as they entered the house. “Does this mean you’ll be staying more than a few days?” he asked trying to disguise the hope in his voice. “If you don’t mind.” Cam answered. “I’ll call my dad and let him know I’ve settled in with you and then hang around for a few weeks, if that’s alright.” “You’re welcome to be stayin’ as long as you want.” “Great” Cam grinned.
  7. Andrew Todd

    Me, Too

    A new story following the lives of Dylan and Jesse from my 'Riding Lessons' series
  8. Andrew Todd

    Chapter 1

    Me, Too By Andrew Todd Chapter One Now Jesse walked through the quiet barn enjoying a few minutes of peace before the chaos of the day’s events began. He inhaled deeply, taking in the comforting smells of the barn. After traveling the last few years, the familiar scents of the horses and barns always helped him find his center. Early morning in the barn was his favorite time. When he was home at his farm, he would make the rounds and greet each of the horses. It always reminded him how fortunate he was to be able to make a life doing what he loved and being with the ones he loved. He was shaken from his thoughts by a pair of strong and familiar arms wrapping around him. “I knew I’d find you in here.” Jesse smiled at the whispered declaration and turned to gaze into his husband’s beautiful green eyes hidden behind his wire-rimmed glasses and shaggy brown hair. He still laughed when kids saw Dylan and thought he had married Harry Potter. “I was trying to let you sleep in.” Jesse grinned as he tilted his head up to kiss his love. In the ten years since they first met, Dylan had grown to just under 6’2”, while Jesse barely topped out at 5’10”. Dylan rolled his eyes as he returned the kiss. “Like I got any sleep last night.” He sighed. “Maybe once today is over, we’ll both get some rest.” “You might tonight, but I won’t get much until we get back home.” Jesse replied. He stopped in front of a stall and looked in. He shook his head, then turned and grabbed Dylan’s arm. “Dyl, look.” He whispered. Dylan looked past the bars on the stall door and smiled at the sight. “Wow, even here?” He laughed. “I can’t believe he did it here.” Dylan shrugged. “He probably snuck out after Cole fell asleep.” “And then he crossed the street from the hotel and snuck in here.” Jesse shook his head. “I can’t believe he’d be so reckless.” Dylan laughed as he pulled out his phone and took a couple of pics of the scene. Jesse’s six-year-old Andalusian stallion, Shadow, lay on the floor of the stall peacefully, while Jesse’s eight-year old brother, Mason lay fast asleep across Shadow’s back. “Are you saying you wouldn’t have done it at his age?” Dylan asked wryly. Jesse rolled his eyes. “I would, and I did.” He replied. “Actually, I walked a lot farther and scared the hell out of my mother more than once.” “See,” Dylan chuckled “He’s just like you.” “Well, with four brothers, you’d think at least one of them would like horses.” “Cole likes horses.” Dylan argued “He’s just not obsessed like you and me and Mace.” “True.” “I want to know how he can sleep like that.” Dylan wondered. Mason was laying on the horse lengthwise, his arms falling on either side of Shadow’s withers, his head resting on Shadow’s neck and mane and his legs and torso stretched out along the stallion’s back. Jesse shook his head. “I don’t know if he even knows. He’s been doing it forever, most kids have a plushie and a security blanket, my brother has a ‘security horse’.” He quietly slid the stall door open. Shadow looked up and Jesse grinned. “You are a co-conspirator, you know.” He whispered, wagging his finger. “If you were a ‘normal’, unruly stallion then Mace wouldn’t sneak into your stall all the time.” “So much for all stallions being dangerous.” Dylan barked. It was an argument they had had with many ‘experts’ over the years. Having lived with several friends who had stallions of different breeds that were more mellow than most people expected, they were of the mind that the horse’s person had a huge effect on their personality and demeanor. Jesse kneeled and caressed Shadow’s cheek. “Yup, you’re just too damn lovable.” He reached over and gently rubbed the little boy’s back. “Mace.” He whispered. “Time to get up.” “Nooo,” Mason mumbled as, forgetting where he was, he tried to roll away from Jesse’s touch and instead rolled off Shadow’s back and landed in a pile of shavings. “Oh, shit!” He exclaimed. “Mason!” Jesse stood up and looked over at his disheveled brother. “You’d better not let your mother hear you.” The little boy crawled to his knees and gently climbed back onto his friend. He leaned down, and hugged Shadow’s neck, whispering to him and the horse slowly rose to his feet. Jesse turned back towards the sound of Dylan laughing. “Stop encouraging him!” He ordered. “You taught him that, not me.” Dylan replied. Jesse rolled his eyes. “Can you call Julia and Trevor and let them know where the little miscreant is?” He asked as Dylan walked away laughing and nodding. “Hey!” Mason glared at his brother. He tapped Shadow’s shoulder and the horse kneeled, so Mason could slide off his back. “I’m not a m’scrant.” He pouted. Jesse pulled his brother to him and hugged him tight. “Yes, little brother, you are.” He laughed and walked Mason out of the stall. “One of these days you’re going to get us both in trouble. It’s one thing to do this at home, but another to do it in a strange barn. You don’t know the people around here.” He lectured Mason as he closed and bolted the stall door. “Shadow wouldn’t let anything happen to me.” Mason countered stubbornly. “Shadow would protect you if he could.” Jesse explained. “But what if you didn’t even make it to the barn? What if someone grabbed you outside?” “Why are you yelling at me?” Mason asked as his eyes filled with tears. Jesse took his hand and led him to a bench that stood against the wall. He sat down, pulling his brother up onto his lap. “Mace.” He sighed. “Listen, I’m not yelling at you. I just get scared when I think of anything happening to you or Cole. It took me sixteen years to get little brothers and I don’t want to lose them.” “I’m sorry.” Mason sniffled as he buried his face in his brother’s neck. “I won’t do it again.” Jesse chuckled. “Yes, you will, you’ve been doing it since you were four.” He stated as he hugged Mason tight. “Just not here and never someplace you don’t know. Ok?” “Ok.” Mason nodded. “But you’re going to your place after this and I won’t get to see him anymore.” “Of course, you will. Are you saying you’re never going to come to Ocala to visit me and Dylan?” “Can I?” “No.” Jesse replied sarcastically. “Dylan and I spent time and money having rooms done for you and Cole cuz we never wanted you to come and visit us.” “Cool!!” Mason jumped off Jesse’s lap, “When can I come?” Jesse laughed. “That’s up to your mom and dad, but you have all summer when school lets out.” Mason’s green eyes lit up. “I can stay all summer?!?” he exclaimed. Jesse laughed hard. “Umm, I meant you had all summer to find some time to visit.” Mason gave Jesse an exaggerated frown. “You don’t want me to stay all summer?” he pouted. “You can stay as long as your parents will let you.” Jesse grinned. “But you have to share MY horse with me.” “But you said when you were done with the shows, I could have him.” Mason objected. “Ah, no, I said you could work with Shadow AND me.” Jesse clarified. “He can teach you a lot, but you’ll be more rounded if we get you working with a few different horses.” “But I love Shadow.” “I know, and he loves you.” Jesse nodded, “But, that can be a problem.” “How?” “Mace, you’re a really good rider and you’re on your way to becoming a great horseman, but at some point, you need horses that will challenge you.” Jesse replied. “Shadow will always look after you and protect you, but he’s young like you.” “He’s younger than me.” Mason interjected. Jesse grinned. “Yes, and you’re both learning and growing still. You can ride him, and we’ll work with him, but he’s not going to perform anymore after today.” “Why?’ Mason asked, not for the first time. “You know why.” Jesse replied. “I made a promise to him, that after we finished with this tour, he’d get to retire. He’ll have lots of fun at the farm, make babies for us and for Mattie and Diego and you can ride him anytime you’re at the farm, but we’ll find you a new horse if you want to start showing or competing and I’ll find new horses to train.” “Ones like Shadow?” Mason asked hopefully. “An Anderlushan?” “Andalusian.” Jesse corrected him gently. “I think what we’ll do is wait and see what type of showing you want to do and then we’ll find you the best horse for that. You may find you don’t even want to show. But, if an Andalusian is the best horse for the job, then we’ll get Mattie right on it for you.” He shook his head, knowing that he would have this same conversation with Mason many more times before all was said and done. “Let’s go give Shadow his breakfast,” Jesse said rising from the bench and taking Mason’s hand. “Then we need to find Dylan and get some ourselves. We’ve got a long day ahead.” *** A little more than a year after Jesse discovered his family, his father, Trevor, step-mother, Julia and five-year-old brother, Cole, he answered his phone to hear an excited Cole shouting “We’re getting a brother!!” He was excited for Cole, who was still recovering from a bone marrow transplant to treat his leukemia. He was gaining strength every day and was thrilled to be finally getting a baby brother. Jesse was just as thrilled. He considered Idgie, the son of his foster fathers Danny and CJ, a real brother, and he also thought of all the boys he lived with at Second Chances Ranch and Horse Rescue as brothers as well but was happy to be getting another new brother after years of it being only his mother and him. When his mother passed away, he thought he would be alone forever, then he met Danny and CJ and moved from Florida to live with them. The day he arrived at Second Chances was the day that he met Dylan and his life changed forever. Finding out his biological father wanted to know him and that he had a little brother completed his family, now the baby would make it even better. It worked out that Julia was due during Jesse and Dylan’s spring break of their senior year at The Lancaster Academy, the private school they attended in New Hampshire. They spent the week off at Trevor’s farm in Wellington, Florida. Since Julia had to have a cesarean, they were able to schedule Mason’s debut for a time when the whole family could be there. Jesse felt an immediate connection to his baby brother the first time Julia placed the tightly wrapped bundle in his arms. Mason was only a few hours old and Jesse felt an aura of love wash over him. Other than the love he felt for Dylan, he had never felt so strongly for another person, not even Sebastian, his childhood best friend and first love. He didn’t know if it was the blood connection or something deeper, but as much as he loved Idgie from the first time he held him, his bond with Mason was unlike anything he had ever felt. It was like there was a string between his and the baby’s hearts and no matter how far apart they were it was always there. It always amazed Jesse that even before Mace could talk, he always seemed to know what the boy wanted. Whether it was food, changing or simply to be held. Sometimes he felt guilty that he was the only person who could always get Mace to stop crying when he was a baby. It was as if he felt the connection as strongly as Jesse did. When he mentioned his concerns to Dylan that summer at Trevor’s, Dylan just laughed. “That’s just like you,” He said smiling, “To feel guilty about something so special.” “But I feel like I’m hurting Julia when he stops crying for me and not her.” Jesse protested. Dylan wrapped his arms around his love and looked him in the eyes. “Babe, I guarantee you, Julia does not feel anything but love for you. You don’t see her, when you and the baby are lost in your own little world. She sees how much you love him, and it makes her and your dad so happy.” “It’s not like it’s any different than with Cole.” Jesse said, not even believing it himself. Dylan chuckled. “I know you love Cole, but you are always going to be closer to Mason, just like I’m always going to be close to Cole, because of what we share.” “He makes me laugh when he calls you his ‘blood brother.’ Jesse said as he kissed Dylan. “We are though,” Dylan replied. “You and he and Mason are brothers by blood, but Cole and I actually share blood after the marrow transplant. I kinda get what you feel with Mace. I always wanted a little brother and now I have one, two actually.” “You wanna recount there?” Jesse chuckled. “Cole, Mason, Idgie, Max, Tyler, Benny. We’ve got a few little brothers.” “I know, but Max and Tyler are Zak’s little men and probably Benny, too. Hell, we’ve only seen him a couple times.” Dylan stated. “Idgie is definitely your brother and mine, but he’s got Zak, Dusty, Mattie, Spin and the rest of them around all the time. Cole and Mason only have us. That’s special.” “Did you think just a couple years ago that we’d be this lucky?” Jesse asked. “I got lucky the day I met you.” Dylan said with a slight catch in his throat. “Everything since then has been a bonus.” He hugged Jesse tight. “I love you.” Jesse whispered in Dylan’s ear. “Me, too.” *** “Where is he?” Cole huffed as he ran up to the barn entrance. “Cole, stop.” Dylan ordered stepping in front of the blond 14-year-old before he could get into the barn. “He’s with Jesse, it’s all cool.” “Cool?!?” Cole shouted. “Dylan, he snuck out of bed in the middle of the night and came over here alone, that’s NOT cool.” Dylan put his hand on Cole’s shoulder. “Bud, stop. He’s fine, you know he’s used to doing this and he hasn’t seen Jesse or Shadow in a couple of months, so he probably didn’t think anything of it. Jesse’s talked to him and he understands what he did was wrong and that he’s lucky nothing bad happened to him.” Cole spun around and kicked at the dirt. “Someone needs to warn you when you’re younger and wishing for a little brother, that years after, you’re gonna want to sell him.” Dylan laughed. “You know you’d miss him if he wasn’t around.” Cole rolled his eyes “Maybe some days, but today I’d take that chance.” “If you didn’t love him, you wouldn’t be so upset.” Dylan countered. “I just talked to your parents and they’re fine, so I know they weren’t giving you any grief.” “If something happened to him it would be my fault.” Cole said quietly. Dylan pulled Cole into a hug and whispered in his ear. “Wrong. We all know Mace’s habit of sneaking into Shadow’s stall and we should have talked to him, but none of us thought he’d sneak out here. When he does it at your place or our farm, he’s insulated on the property, he just didn’t realize that he could be in danger. He does now.” Jesse and Mason walked out of the barn chatting and holding hands. When he looked up and saw his brother’s bright red face and flashing blue eyes, Mason moved to hide behind Jesse. “Too late, Squirt.” Cole frowned. “Already saw you.” He reached around Jesse and picked up his little brother holding him up, so they were eye to eye. “What were you thinking?” “I missed Shadow and I wanted to spend the night with him.” Mason explained, looking down at the ground. “And now you know you can’t do that anywhere but at your farm or Dylan and mine, right?” Jesse added. Mason nodded his head furiously. “Uh huh. Honest, Cole, I’ll never do it again.” Cole tossed the little boy up into the air and caught him and hugged him tight. “You’d better not,” he said, “I don’t have the energy to break in a new baby brother.” “I’m not a baby.” Mason argued as he hugged his brother back. Dylan took Mason from Cole and threw the younger boy over his shoulder. “You’re our baby brother, shrimp.” He laughed as he carried the squealing boy towards his car. Jesse put his arm around Cole’s shoulders, noting that in the few months since he had last seen his brother Cole had grown another couple of inches and would soon be taller than him. “You good?” Cole nodded slightly. “He just scared me.” He answered quietly. “Mom and Dad knocked on the room door and when I got up and realized Mace wasn’t there for a second, I was scared that something had happened to him. He’s a pain in the ass, but he’s my pain in the ass.” “Our pain in the ass.” Jesse laughed, as they slowly followed Dylan and Mason to the car. Dylan had seated Mason on the hood of his car and was tickling him mercilessly. “He misses you; you know.” Cole said solemnly. “We both do.” “I miss both of you.” Jesse replied. “But after today, Dylan and I will be done traveling and we’ll be able to settle in Ocala.” “Is that really what you want?” Jesse stopped and turned to face his brother. “Yes. The last couple years have been fun and very successful but traveling gets boring. We’ve seen some amazing places and met great people and learned so much, but it’s time to put all that experience to use at the farm. Dylan and I just need some lazy time to be married and enjoy it.” “Maybe have a baby?” Cole teased. Jesse smiled warmly. “We’d both love that someday.” He answered. “Whether we have a surrogate or adopt or become foster parents, we haven’t decided yet. But, whatever we do, you and Mace are always welcome, and we’ll always be there for you.” “You always have been.” Cole said, a few tears brimming in his eyes. “Since the day I met you at that hotel at Disney, you and Dylan have been there. Sometimes I’m jealous of that thing you and Mace have, but most of the time I’m just happy that he’s had you in his life since day one.” Jesse pulls Cole to him and the brothers hug tight a few tears falling from both. *** After breakfast, the quartet returned to the barn and were greeted by Trevor and Julia. "Ace is waiting for you at Shadow’s stall.” Trevor said. Jesse rolled his eyes. “The best part of today being over and done with is my best friend will stop acting like an employee.” “Well, you did hire him to be on the tour with us.” Dylan reminded him. “We both did”, Jesse retorted, “It’s been great having him along, but I wish he’d relax some.” “I’ll relax when this circus is finally folded up.” Jesse turned and looked up Ace’s grinning face. “You needed someone to keep you in line and things running smoothly and that’s what I’m here for.” Ace laughed as he wrapped his muscled arm around Jesse’s neck. Jesse leaned into the big blonde’s hug and then slipped from his grasp. “We asked you to come along to enjoy the traveling and the tour.” Jesse shrugged. “And I have enjoyed it.” Ace replied, ‘But you and Dyl are busy with the bookings and such and it makes me feel useful to take care of Shadow and the other horses.” “What are you doing after the tour ends?” Cole asked. “Well, after Jess & I get done driving the trailer back to Ocala, I’ll probably stick around for a bit to help these two get things settled at the farm.” “A bit…” Dylan snorted. “If you were only going to hang around ‘a bit’, why did I pay that contractor to convert the barn loft into an apartment for you?” Ace laughed, “Well, then, I guess I’ll just have to stick around a bit longer.” The three friends laughed as they walked through the barn. Ace had been like a big brother to both the younger men since they had met years earlier at the Second Chances Ranch, where Ace’s father, Sarge, was still the Ranch Manager and Head of Security. Ace had spent a few years after college working at a boys’ ranch out west that dealt with homeless and abused boys. As loving and outgoing as he was, Jesse and Dylan could both see the toll the work was taking on their friend and they asked him to accompany them on this tour as barn manager looking after the horses and making sure things ran smoothly. Ace had jumped at the chance to spend some time with his brothers. A month before the end of the tour, Jesse and Dylan had offered Ace a place at their farm in Ocala, Florida, not as an employee they both stated emphatically, but as a partner. Ace accepted the invitation of a place to live and work but insisted that the farm was Jesse and Dylan’s. It had been willed to them by Abigail, who had been like a grandmother to Jesse, when she passed away a few years ago. He would be the Barn Manager if they liked but would not be a ‘co-owner’. Jesse and Dylan acquiesced to Ace’s terms as they loved and trusted him and knew that being around the horses and people would be the best thing for him. "Maybe you can convince Dev to come and visit for a bit.” Dylan suggested. Ace nodded. “That’d be great, but he’s so caught up in his work right now, I don’t know if he’d take a break.” Devon had been Ace’s best friend since first grade and was another ‘big brother’ to Jesse and Dylan. His partner, TJ, had been killed during their senior year of college and Devon had spent the years since burying himself in his artwork. Jesse, Dylan and especially Ace had reached out to him many times, but Devon had become almost a recluse since losing TJ. “We’ll just make sure he knows he has a standing invitation to come and stay.” Jesse said. “Abigail would have wanted us to open the farm to our family and friends and Devon wouldn’t have as many memories there as he does at Second Chances.” “I’ll try.” Ace sighed. “But, we might all have to face that Devon’s just gonna be Devon. Except for me, he didn’t have many friends when we were kids and when I moved from Texas to California, he stayed pretty much to himself, since losing TJ, he’s been alone, not for lack of any of us trying, but he wants to be alone. It might not be healthy, but we can’t force him out of it.” “But we can let him know we’re all here for him.” Jesse replied. “He knows.” Ace said quietly. “I remind him as much as I can. I think the hurt is still too raw for him. I know it’s been almost five years, but…” “We understand.” Dylan said. “I know if anything happened to Jesse, I don’t know if I’d ever get over it.” “Same.” Jesse said quietly. “Enough.” Ace said forcefully. “Dev knows we’re here for him, but right now we have a show to get ready for.” With that the three friends, with Cole and Mason tagging along, went about prepping the horses and getting ready for the show. *** “Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you for joining us here at the Kentucky Horse Park.” Dylan’s voice came over the loudspeaker as he stood in the middle of the arena. “Let’s hear one more round of applause for my husband, Jesse Osterman and his Andalusian stallion Sebastian’s Shadow.” As the crowd cheered from the stands, Jesse and Shadow made several trips around the arena. Jesse waved with both hands as Shadow cantered. “Jesse and I would like to thank everyone for coming out today to help us celebrate our final show of the tour.” Dylan continued. Jesse rode up beside Dylan and signaled Shadow. The dark gray horse reared up onto his hind legs and Jesse waved to the crowd. As Shadow came down, Jesse slipped from his back and wrapped his arm around Dylan’s waist. “Dylan and I and the horses, will be here in the arena for a bit if you’d like pictures.” Jesse announced into the microphone Dylan was holding. “We ask that everyone stay outside of the arena to be safe.” As Jesse finished his remarks, Ace opened the gate at the end of the arena and three more horses came thundering through the gate and stopped right at Dylan and Jesse’s sides. “Thank you again.” Dylan said as the sold-out crowd rose to its feet and cheered. *** Jesse yawned and stretched as he woke. "Nice of you to join us.” Ace laughed from the driver’s seat. “Almost time for you to take over.” “Where are we?” Jesse asked as he rubbed his eyes. “Just crossed the Florida border, we should be in Ocala by the end of the day.” "Great. Can’t wait to see the place.” "You mean you can’t wait to see Dyl.” Ace laughed Jesse grinned. “You’ve been picking on us for almost ten years, Ace.” “Never.” Ace said seriously. “We’ve all been jealous of you two since the day you met. Never been two people who were more suited to each other than you and Dyl.” “I don’t know about that, but I miss him when we’re apart.” “It’s only been two days.” Ace laughed. “Made more sense for him to finish things in Kentucky and fly back with the family while we drove the horses.” “I know, he should be in Ocala, by the time we get there.” Ace was about to reply when he was interrupted by Jesse’s phone. Jesse pulled the phone from his pocket and looked at the number. "No idea who this is.” He said shaking his head. “Hello.” “Jesse Osterman, please?” “This is Jesse.” “Mr. Osterman, this is Lieutenant Diaz of the Florida Highway Patrol.” Jesse sat up straight in his seat, “What’s this about?” he asked nervously. “Sir, I’m afraid there’s been an accident.”
  9. Andrew Todd

    Irish Summer

    A young American finds family and love on the Emerald Isle.
  10. Andrew Todd

    Chapter 1

    Authors note: My first work in a few years, spurred on by ‘social distancing’ and boredom. Curious to see what you think. As usual, if you have any issues with same sex relationships, this is not the story for you. Irish Summer By Andrew Todd Chapter 1 Cam sat on the bank of the river, wiggling his toes in the lush green grass. The Irish countryside was even more gorgeous then he had ever expected. When his father announced that he had been offered a chance to be a guest lecturer at a small college in Dublin, Cam was excited by the opportunity to spend six months in Ireland. Growing up in a small New England college town wasn’t exactly the most stimulating experience. It was the end of his junior year of High School. Actually, he could have graduated already if he had wanted to. He had all the credits he needed and then some, but he didn’t see the need to rush into college. Much to his father’s chagrin, Cam could have easily skipped the whole college experience. He had found his calling at the age of fourteen when he had bought his first camera. He spent all his time running around town taking pictures of everything he could and then using various programs on his computer to manipulate and enhance the images. Eventually, he became interested in photographing people and convinced a number of his classmates to pose. The really good looking ones usually thought they were too popular to waste their time helping him. So he would convince them that money could be made as a model and they should let him help them with their portfolios. Cam would do a session with them and help them set up a page on a local modeling website. He found working with models to be more of a hassle than it was worth. He had to have a signed release for every model and people had far too many opinions about what was ‘best’. He, the photographer’ was the artist and he would make all the decisions about the composition of the photographs. Instead, he turned his focus to landscape and architecture. He still carried around a stack of model release forms in case someone made their way into his shots, but he did not go out of his way to work with live models. The editor of the local paper was a friend of his father’s and he used a couple of pictures he had taken of some building in a Sunday feature article about a fundraiser the local historical society was doing. The owner of a gallery in Soho who happened to be visiting some friends that weekend saw the pictures and called the paper to get the name of the photographer. He was floored to find out that Cam was all of fifteen years old. But all the same he asked to meet with him and see his portfolio. After seeing a collection of Cam’s work, the gallery owner offered to sell Cam’s work in his gallery. Now at seventeen, Cam was one of the most popular photographers in the gallery. His dad was the only one who knew how successful he had become and how much money he had managed to bank in the last three years. The only reason he knew, is that since Cam was a minor, he had to sign off on all the contracts and agreements with the gallery. There were a few high end clients of the gallery who had hired him for private commissions, usually estate photos or landscapes. He had no desire to shoot in a studio setting and had turned down several requests to do formal portraits. Cam’s goal after college was to travel the world with his camera. He would just as soon skip college, but since his dad was a tenured professor that was not an option. He had decided that he would be an English major so that someday he could publish books of his work and write the text himself. He also felt that if he had to go to college, he might as well enjoy what he had to study and in addition to photography he loved to read. It had been just Cam and his father for as long as he could remember. His mother had passed away when he was just five, his grandparents, on both sides, had passed before he was born and both his parents had been only children. He always flew solo. He had a few acquaintances in school, but never any close friends. Apparently, academia runs in the blood because he never had to study or spend too much time on his classes and he was always at the top of his class in school. So when his father came home one night in late February to tell him about the opportunity he had been offered, Cam was ready to pack and leave then. He didn’t have any friends to worry about leaving behind and he was so far ahead in his school work that he would be fine. The job wouldn’t start until the first of May. Cam would miss the last month and a half of school, but would still be at the top of his class heading into his senior year. Cam being the Valedictorian was very important to his father, but not so much for himself. They would return to the states in early December and Cam would graduate with his class. They had been in Ireland for a couple of weeks. The university had supplied them with a small cottage just off campus. Since he was free from school Cam decided to use his time exploring the Irish countryside. His dad knew he was mature enough to handle traveling on his own, he only asked that Cam check in with him every few day if he was away overnight. He started off just taking a few day trips through the local villages. His father had been given use of a small car, but since they lived close to campus he was letting Cam use it to get around. He toured the local towns and countryside taking as many pictures as his discs could hold. Every few days, he would take a day off and spend it locked in his room with his laptop. Cam would cull the pictures down and work on enhancing them. The ones he thought were sellable, he would forward to the gallery owner, Samuel. Before he sent them out, he would watermark them. It wasn’t that Cam didn’t trust Samuel, quite the contrary; he felt he owed Samuel a great deal in making his work marketable and encouraging him, but the pictures were his work and he always wanted to protect himself. Usually, Cam would send Samuel the prints, but there was no way for him to bring his printer to Ireland. One of the first purchases Cam made when he started selling his photographs was a state of the art digital printer. It set him back quite a bit, but the quality of the prints was amazing and he could get more for them in the gallery. Samuel and Cam had agreed that Cam would send him a steady stream of files and Samuel would pick the ones he wanted to display. Cam had found a company in the US where he could send the files and they would create the prints and matte them as well. They would then send the prints Federal Express to the gallery where Samuel would handle the framing. Samuel was over the moon for the new shots. He had always admired Cam’s eye and the unique way he captured his subjects. He had a few editors from small publishers who had mentioned maybe publishing a book of Cam’s work. He thought the time in Ireland would produce enough material for Cam’s first book. The shots Cam would send to Samuel were fairly generic, but showed Cam’s taste and eye very well. He tried hard to keep the more special shots for himself to include in the book. One of the students Cam had met at the university had told him about a small village about fifty kilometers from Dublin. She said that it was very quaint and that the river that ran to the east of the village would be an amazing setting for pictures. She also told him about a small inn that he could stay at. Cam had taken a bus from Dublin to the village yesterday. He didn’t want to strand his father without a car and enjoyed walking around the Irish countryside. He checked in at the inn and spent the afternoon touring the small village. He took many pictures of the buildings and landscapes. He had awoken early this morning and decided to walk to the river and take some more pictures. He left the inn just after dawn. When he reached the river there was a fine mist rising from it. It was eerie and beautiful at the same time. He walked down the bank of the river taking pictures of the mist, the river, the trees and the surroundings. He stopped at one point to slip his sneakers and socks off so that he could step into the water to get some pictures of the opposite bank. He rolled up the legs of his jeans and waded into the water to get some shots he wanted. He had walked about a mile and a half down the river before he turned and started to walk back. He walked slowly, the sun was now completely up and the day was warming. He found a grassy spot along the bank and decided to rest for a bit. The river was rather narrow at this spot and he thought that after he rested he would cross and explore the meadow on the other side. He sat down on the embankment and stretched his legs out. The cool lush grass tickled his feet as he stretched. He fished a granola bar and water bottle out of his backpack and had a snack while he rested. Cam lay back on the cool grass and closed his eyes. He enjoyed the cool breeze blowing through the meadow and soon fell asleep. He was awoken by a nudge to his side. He slowly opened his eyes and found himself looking at the most beautiful black and white horse. The horse was not the tallest that Cam had ever seen but he was thickly muscled and heavily built. The horse had a full mane that hung almost to his knee. He had an equally luxurious tail that brushed the ground. His feet were the size of platters and they were covered in black and white fur that ran from his knees. The horse must have belonged to someone as he had a leather halter on his head. Cam had seen pictures of these horses, but he had never been this close to one. “Hey, where did you come from?” Cam said to the horse as he slowly sat up. The horse looked at him briefly and then went back to grazing on the grass. Cam slowly rose to his feet and grabbed his camera. He moved carefully trying not to startle the horse. He took a few steps back and started snapping pictures. He walked around the horse getting as many shots as he could from every angle. He quickly filled the disk in his camera. He stopped taking pictures and knelt down to by his backpack. He rummaged around for a new disk. He popped out the old disk and put it into the small zipped bag he kept the full ones in and slipped the new disk in. He stood up and was about to start taking new pictures when he saw movement out of the corner of his eye. He looked to the meadow and saw a small boy of about ten or eleven racing towards them. The boy had strawberry blond hair that flew in the wind, when he was closer to Cam; he noticed the boy’s huge green eyes and bright red cheeks. He was probably about five feet tall or so and solidly built. “Aragon!!” The boy yelled as he ran up to the horse. “Bloody horse!! Where the bloody hell haf ya been?” Cam couldn’t help but laugh as the boy yelled at the horse. The boy hadn’t even noticed Cam who was still taking pictures as fast as he could. The horse didn’t even look up, just kept munching away on the grass. The boy had a leather lead looped around his neck; he pulled it loose and snapped it onto the horse’s halter. “C’mon, you foolish brute.” The boy said as he pulled on the lead. Cam laughed out loud at the horse continued to ignore the boy. The boy turned and looked at Cam, his face was bright red with rage. “And what the bloody hell are you laughin’ at?!?” The more the little boy raged at him the harder it was for Cam to stop laughing. The little boy stomped towards him. “Stop your fuckin’ laughin’!!” The boy yelled. “Finnegan O’Leary!!” Came a booming voice from behind them. The boy stopped short and turned a new shade of crimson. “Now you’ve done it.” The boy whispered to Cam. Cam stopped laughing and turned in the direction the voice had come from. Walking down the hill towards them was another boy; this one was about Cam’s age. As he got closer and Cam could see his features, his heart stopped. He was a larger copy of the boy in front of him with the same wavy strawberry blonde hair that hung to just above his shoulders and emerald green eyes that sparkled in the sun. He was about six feet tall. He had broad shoulders and what appeared to be a well-muscled chest, long and lean. He was wearing a white sleeveless shirt and jeans. To Cam, the boy was the most beautiful sight he had ever seen. “Finn, what are you doin’ cursin’ at this man?” “T’wasn’t me fault, Rory.” The boy whined. “He was laughin’ at me!” Rory looked at Finn very seriously. “You need to apologize for speakin’ to him like that.” Finn turned an even brighter shade of red. “I’m sorry, Sir.” Cam looked at the chastised boy. “It’s ok, Finn, is it?” Finn nodded. “I’m sorry I was laughing at you. I’m not used to seeing someone your size wrestling with a horse that big.” “You should na be lettin’ the little monster off.” Rory said. “His mouth be gettin’ him into too much trouble lately. And I hope the horse wasn’t bothering you.” Cam shook his head. “No, not at all. I’ve been walking along the river since dawn and just stopped to rest. I must have fallen asleep and woke up to find your horse nudging me off his grazing area.” Rory walked over to the horse and patted his side. “Bloody foolish horse.” He laughed. “He’s the only one that wanders off all the time.” Rory took the lead from Finn’s hand and pulled on it until the horse’s head was raised. “Ok, you foolish thing, the ladies be waitin’ on ya. Go on with Finn now.” He said calmly as he handed the lead back to Finn who lead the horse off. “So, do you live around here?” Cam asked. Rory turned back to him as if he had forgotten the other boy was there. “Aye, we have a small piece of land over the hill there.” He pointed to the east. “I have a strange request…” Cam stuttered. “I was taking pictures of your horse, I’m a photographer, and your brother came charging in. I’m sure he is probably in some of them and on the off chance that I want to use any of them I need a model’s release signed by a parent or guardian.” Rory looked at Cam like he was completely lost. “I’m sorry.” Cam chuckled. “Sometimes, when I’m at work, I get carried away.” He offered his hand to the larger boy. “First things first, my name’s Cameron Sharp, everyone just calls me Cam.” Rory took Cam’s hand in his. “Rory O’Leary. Pleased to meet you, Cameron.” “You as well.” Cam grinned. “So as I was saying, I’m a photographer. Usually, I just take landscapes and scenery pictures. That’s why I’m here, my father is a visiting professor in Dublin and one of the students told me about this village and I came to take some photos. I was taking some pictures of your horse, when Finn came running up. I’m sure he’s in quite a few of them and the only way I can use those pictures is to have a model’s release on file.” “And what do you mean by ‘use’.” “Oh, I mean, publish, post, present, show, basically any type of public use.” Cam answered. “He would get credit and if I sold or used the pictures he would get compensated as well.” “You mean you would pay the little heathen to show his picture.” Cam laughed and nodded. “That’s what I mean.” “I’m not sure that’s a good idea, that might go to his head and it’s already a might thick as it is.” “Well, most of my stuff hangs in a gallery and gets bought by collectors or printed in magazines.” Cam said. “My friend who owns the gallery is after me to do a book, but I can’t seem to decide on a subject for the book.” “Can I see some of these pictures?” Rory asked. “Sure, I can show your parents as well since they would have to sign off on the release.” “Me Ma and Me Da passed on last winter, ‘tis only me and Rory. I’m his guardian.” “I’m sorry.” Cam said solemly. “How old are you?” “I just turned eighteen a month ago.” Rory answered. “The bit of land we’re on was left to us by our parents, me Uncle is next door, he was our guardian until I came of age and now I take care of Finn and myself.” “What do you do for work?” Rory grinned. “You saw him.” “The horse?” “Aye. We breed, raise, train and sell them.” Rory answered. “Aragon is our best stud. He’s gotta bit of a wandering eye, but the ladies will keep him busy for the next few weeks.” “You mean you have more of those horses?” Cam asked excitedly. Rory laughed. “Aye, about fifty head.” “Can I see them?” “If I can see your pictures, you can see me horses.” Rory grinned. “Deal.” Cam smiled back. “I just have to run back to the Inn to grab my laptop.” “I should go check on Finn and Aragon as well.” Rory said. “Why don’t I meet you back here around one? Then I can show the way to the farm.” Cam nodded frantically. “Sure, sounds good.” “I will meet you here then.” Rory said as he headed back towards the hills. “I’ll be here.” Cam started to walk back and realized he was still barefooted. He blushed and turned back. Luckliy, Rory was halfway to the hills. He quickly pulled his socks and sneakers on and grabbed his backpack. He walked quickly back to the village. Once he arrived at the Inn, he practically ran to his second floor room. He pulled out some clean clothes and stripped down. He ran down to the bathroom, which luckily was empty and took a quick shower. He dried off quickly and scurried back to his room to get dressed. He pulled on a clean pair of jeans and a blue t-shirt which he hoped would bring out the blue in his eyes. He stopped. He looked at himself in the mirror. “What the hell am I doing?” He muttered to himself. This wasn’t a date. A nice local boy had offered to show him his farm nothing more and he was acting like a giddy school girl. No one had ever made him act like this before. He finished getting dressed. He pulled a black hoodie on over his t-shirt and ran a brush through his unruly black hair. His father was always after him to get a haircut, but he liked it long, as he thought it make him look more like an artist. He grabbed his backpack and made sure he had plenty of fresh discs and batteries as well as all of his lenses and equipment. He also checked his laptop bag. It was charged and he had two extra batteries. He looked at his watch. He still had plenty of time before he was supposed to meet Rory. He could start his walk over and take more pictures along the way. That would beat sitting around here waiting. He forced himself to walk slowly through the village and back along the river. He stopped occasionally to snap a few shots. Normally, the architecture and the atmosphere of this village and its surroundings would have had him shooting non-stop, but the only image that filled his thoughts today was of a tall, handsome Irish lad. When he arrived at their rendezvous spot he was still about a half an hour early. He sat down on the grass and let his thoughts drift. This was the first time he had felt this way about another person. There had never been a question about whether or not he was gay. It was a non-issue to him and his father. He had never even ‘come out’. Why come out, if you were never in in the first place? It was silly for him to think about Rory that way. Rory was all boy, muscular, athletic, strong, gorgeous, while Cam wasn’t. He knew he wasn’t a troll. Several girls at school at pursued him over the years. He was thin, but not skinny. He used to run, so he had some muscles, but he was not athletic by any stretch. His black hair was thick and long and often unruly. His crystal blue eyes and clear pale complexion were his most attractive features. Of course, both were muddied by the thick wire rimmed glasses he wore. He had tried contacts in the past, but they bothered his eyes something fierce, so he had stuck with the glasses. He was brought out of his reverie by the ringing of his cell phone. “Hello.” “Hey, Cam.” “Hey, Dad.” “Everything alright? You sound distracted.” “Everything’s cool. You know how I get when I’m snapping pics.” “Uh huh. Any idea when you’ll be back?” “Not really sure, there’s lots to explore up here and I met a family that’s showing me around as well.” “Ok, just keep in touch and stay out of trouble.” “Will do.” Cam disconnected the phone and put it back in his pocket. He lay back on the grass and watched the clouds float across the blue sky. He reached over and grabbed his camera and started snapping pictures of the clouds as they went by. “And people be payin’ ye to take pictures of the sky?” Cam almost dropped his camera and bolted upright. Rory was grinning down at him from atop a large black and white horse. “Sorry, I dinna mean to startle ye.” He laughed as he slid off the horse’s back. “That’s ok.” Cam replied. “And yes, so people pay me quite a bit for pictures of the sky.” He said with a smirk. Rory laughed heartily at Cam’s reply. “Are ye ready to go then, Cameron, me friend?” “Sure.” Cam then noticed a second horse beside Rory’s. “Wait. You want me to ride?” “Aye.” “A horse?!?” “I don’t be seein’ anything else around here.” “But, umm, I’ve, uhh, never ridden a horse before.” “I thought as much.” Rory grinned. “That’s why I brought sweet Ivy here.” He petted the second horse. “She’s as gentle as can be, she be used to new riders and she’ll take good care of ye.” Cam stepped cautiously towards the mare who was a bit smaller than the horse that Rory had been riding. He gently stroked her nose. Ivy nipped playfully at his fingers. “She likes you.” Rory laughed. “Of course, she likes everyone. She thinks of us all as her foals.” Ivy playfully shook her head at Cam causing him to step back and bump into the other horse, who nipped at him. “Oww!” Cam cried as he grabbed his shoulder where the horse had bit him. “Oi, ye beast!! Mind ye manners!!” Rory shouted at the horse. “I apologize, Cam. This one is just starting his training and he’s still feeling a bit full o’ hisself.” “It’s ok, I think he just surprised me more than anything.” “Good lad.” Rory grinned at him. “Let’s get along, shall we.” “Where’s the saddle?” Rory laughed. “Don’t often use one.” Cam shook his head. He had never ridden, but he had friends that did and he knew that saddles and bits and bridles where generally used. These horses had none of those things, only halters with pieces of ropes tied to them. “They don’t have bits either?” Rory shook his head. “Don’t need them.” He said sternly. “Bits is for people, not horses. Most people think they need a bit to control the horse and that is simply not the case. A horse that is trained properly will yield to pressure. Bits in the wrong hands can cause the horse pain and that’s not needed.” “We’re gonna go slow, right?” Cam asked nervously. Rory grinned. “Trust me, me friend. I’ll not let anything happen to you.” He led Cam over to Ivy’s side. “Here put your hands on her back, here and here.” He took Cam’s hands in his and placed them on Ivy’s back. Cam thought he would pass out at the closeness of the strong boy. “Bend yer leg and I’ll give ye a leg up.” Cam did as he was told and Rory hoisted him up onto Ivy’s back. Cam landed gently on the big mare’s back and settled himself in. He watched in awe as Rory leapt onto his colt’s back and dug his heels into the horse’s side. The colt reared and spun and then took off at a fast trot. Cam broke out in a cold sweat thinking that Ivy would follow suit. Sensing her rider’s hesitation, Ivy followed at a brisk walk. Cam clutched a handful of mane and the rope reins that Rory had handed him. He gave the mare her head figuring she knew the way better than he. Several times, Rory would bring his colt to a stop and wait for Cam and Ivy to catch up. The colt would dance in place as if unable to simply stand still. Cam was fascinated by the animal and it’s energy and impressed by Rory’s patience and gentle way with the horse. Rory waited for him at the top of the hill. When they stopped, Cam’s breath caught in his throat. He was looking down on the most beautiful valley he had ever seen. “Welcome to me home.” Rory said warmly. Cam stared down into the valley. It was lush and green. He could easily see how Ireland earned its nickname as the ‘Emerald Isle’. It was amazing. “Beautiful, isn’t it?” “It’s incredible.” Rory chuckled. “I’m glad you approve, me friend.” Cam turned and grinned. “Approve?! Are you kidding? This is heaven!” “Well, come then, and I’ll show you me and Finn’s little corner of Heaven then.” Rory called as he started his colt down a gravel path on the side of the hill. Cam gripped Ivy’s mane tight as they started their decent. The hill was steep and the path narrow, but the horse, in spite of her size, was nimble and sure footed. Cam finally just closed his eyes and trusted in the mare to get them safely down the hill. When they finally stopped, Cam heard a laugh. “Ye can open yer eyes now, Cameron.” Rory laughed. Cam peered out one eye and saw that they were on level ground. He shrugged at Rory. “Ivy knew her way, so I decided to just let her go.” Cam said. “Aye, a fine decision too.” Rory agreed. “She’ll always take care of ye.” “So how much further?” Cam asked. “Not too far now.” Rory replied. “Why, are ye gettin’ sore?” “A little.” Cam grimaced. “It’ll be worse when we stop.” Rory said. “Great.” Cam muttered. “How do you be getting’ around to take all these pictures then?” “I drive mostly, sometimes walk a bit.” “In these parts, you’ll be walking a lot.” Rory declared. “Or riding a horse. Not too many cars amongst the people here. At least, not new or speedy ones.” “Why not?” “Don’t have much use for ‘em.” Rory replied. “A horse and cart was good for me grandparents and it’s good for me and mine. We have an old truck for going into the village for supplies, but more often than not, we simply hitch a team up to the wagon and drive them in.” “So you like to stick with tradition?” “Aye, tradition. “ “I like that.” Trusting the mare knew where she was going and finding his balance, Cam took out his camera and began to snap pictures of the valley and the trail that they were following. While he usually avoided pictures of people, he couldn’t help but take multiple pictures of Rory. “Here we are.” Rory finally announced as both horses came to a stop. Cam took it all in. The view was breathtaking. The farm was tucked into a small corner of the valley. A small farm house sat in one corner of the plot of land it was simple, but nicely kept. There was a large barn next to it and several fenced in paddocks and fields around. There were horses in all the fields and paddocks. Most of the horses were the same painted ones that Cam and Rory were riding, but a few were solid black or grey. To Cam it was a beautiful sight. “Wow.” Cam exhaled as he slid from Ivy’s back. “You and Finn take care of all of this by yourselves?” Rory flipped his leg over the colts back and slid off. “Aye, but it’s not all that hard. We’ve both been doing it since we was born. Me cousins Ryan and Michael help out if we need a few extra pairs of hands. We have plenty of land and grass, so the horses are fed. I handle most of the training and Finn is good at working with the little ones.” “Still, it seems like a lot for just two people.” Cam said, as he took it all in. “You said your Uncle was nearby, where’s his place?” “Most of this section of the valley belongs to him.” Rory answered. “But his house and farm are about five kilometers or so down the way.” “That’s a bit of a distance.” “Aye, but it gives me and Finn our privacy. Let’s take care of these two and have a bit of lunch and then you can show me your pictures.” “Sure.” Cam agreed as he took Ivy’s lead and followed Rory and the colt towards the barn. Rory showed Cam how to brush the horses down and make sure they were cool and fed and watered. He then led Cam across the yard and into the house. The house was small, but very cozy. They entered into a small kitchen. Finn was seated at the table finishing his lunch. He looked up as they walked up. “Oi! What’s he doin’ here?” He said with a scowl. “Finnegan!! Ye be keepin’ a civil tongue in yer head!!” Rory reprimanded his brother. “This is Cameron, and he is our guest, ye be showin’ him some respect.” Cam smiled at the boy and offered his hand. “What say we start over Finn? I’m Cameron, but my friends call me Cam. I’m really sorry we got off to a bad start. Rory was nice enough to ask me back here to show me your farm and your horses, it really is amazing. I’d like it if we were friends and you and Rory would show me everything so I could get some really good pictures.” Finn eyed Cam suspiciously. He took Cam’s hand and shook it and nodded. Rory invited Cam to sit down. Finn had made sandwiches and Rory offered one to Cam and then took one for himself. “So how did you get down here?” Finn asked. “I took the colt and Cam rode Ivy.” “You rode me Ivy?” Finn asked Cam. “Is she yours? Rory didn’t tell me that, he only told me that she would take good care of a novice like me and she did. I actually had my eyes shut all the way down the hill into the valley cuz I just trusted that she would get us down here safe. She’s a great horse.” Finn smiled for the first time since Cam had met him. A bright smile that lit up his whole face. “That she is.” He nodded. “She was my first. Me Da give her to me when I was but three. I learnt to ride on her and she’s been mine ever since. There’s not a mean bone in her body. Unlike that colt of Rory’s.” Rory laughed. “He’s not mean.” He protested. “He’s just a baby; he needs to learn some manners.” “I’ve never seen a bloody beast as ill-tempered as that one.” Finn said. “I still don’t think he’s Aragon’s. I think that blasted stallion a Uncle’s got to the Empress.” Rory nodded. “Could be. The way Aragon wanders off, The Lion could have gotten to the Empress.” Cam shook his head. “’The Lion’…’The Empress’…I’m confused.” Rory and Finn both laughed. “The Empress is one of our prized mares.” Rory explained. “We have several that we breed every year. We usually breed her to Aragon, he’s very even tempered and his issue are well sought after for their strength and temperament. My Uncle has a stallion that is a bit on the mean side he calls The Lion. He tends to wander just like Aragon and there is a chance that he got in with the Empress and is the colt’s sire.” “I thought you said your Uncle’s place was miles away.” “’Tis, but we have miles and miles of field which the horses graze and breed in and they run up against me uncle’s fields, so it wouldn’t not be outside the realm of possibility for the Lion to have gotten into the field, especially as Aragon so often gets out.” “So basically, you could have a few offspring from your uncle’s stallion and he could have a few from yours.” Rory laughed and nodded. “Aye.” “So Finn, how old are you?” Cam asked. “Twelve. I’ll be thirteen in the fall.” “Do you go to school around here?” Finn shook his head. “Me Da was teaching me, but since he past, Rory’s been doing it. Too much to do here to worry about making it to school every day, ‘sides I’m gonna be workin’ here all me life so that’s all I need to know.” The talked more as they ate. “So how’s about showing us some of your photos then, Cameron?” Rory asked when they had finished eating. “Sure.” Cam said. He walked over to where he had left his laptop bag. Cam brought his laptop over to the table and powered it up. He could tell by their fascination that the brothers hadn’t had too much interaction with computers. He pulled up a slideshow of pictures he had taken during the last major snow storm at home. Over the next hour, he had shown his new friends almost all of the pictures he had on his laptop and the portable hard drive he had with him. “You really are quite good, Cameron.” Rory said as Cam collected his gear and put it away. “Thanks. My dream is travel the world just taking pictures, maybe publish a couple of books.” “Aye, you should do well at that.” “You don’t take many pictures of people.” Finn said bluntly. Cam grinned and nodded. “No. When I first started, I used to con my classmates into letting me use them as models. I’d help them set up websites and portfolios so they could try to get modeling jobs, which rarely happened. But, I didn’t enjoy it as much as landscapes and architecture. There’s something about history and life that grabs me more than just a static model. Like this morning, I started shooting pictures of your horse and then you came storming in and I kept shooting. I haven’t looked at the pictures yet, but I’ll bet there are some good ones.” “Why?” “Because your mood was all over your face, you were very animated and you didn’t know I was shooting so it was all real, you weren’t posing. Spontaneity is the best.” “Can I see those pictures?” “Like I said, I haven’t even gone through them yet. Usually what I do is shoot a couple hundred and out of those I’ll delete between half and three quarters then I’ll go through what I kept and pick out the very best ones and I’ll use a couple computer programs to enhance them, bring out the colors or smooth out any blemishes and make them perfect. But once I’ve done that, sure, I can show you.” Finn smiled. Cam grinned. “What are ye grinning at?” Finn asked his face turning red. “Finnegan…” Rory warned. Cam laughed. “It’s ok, Rory. Sorry, Finn. I was just thinking how expressive your face is. I noticed it this morning when I was taking pictures, but when you smiled just now, I saw it again.” “Are ye hittin’ on me, Cameron?” Finn asked mischievously. “No.” Cam chuckled. “You are a very handsome young man, but you’re definitely too young for me.” A furtive glance went between the brothers and a sly grin appeared on Finn’s lips. Rory’s eyes flashed a warning at his brother. “What I meant to say is that you have a face that would photograph very well.” Cam explained. “When you smile it lights up your whole face, just like when you were angry and frustrated this morning.” Cam looked at his watch. “Oh, hell, it’s getting late and I still want a chance to look around and get some pictures and see the horses.” “Why don’t ye spend the night?” Finn said. “Oh, I don’t want to impose.” “Seein’ as how ye’ve won over the monster here, I don’t think it would be an imposition.” Rory said. “If I bring you back now, it would be close to dark by the time I get back and as much as I trust Ivy, I’m not sure I trust the colt that much yet.” “I didn’t bring any extra clothes.” Cam argued. “I’m sure we can dig up something for you to wear.” Rory countered. Cam eyed the big Irish lad. “Rory, you’ve got about four inches and twenty pounds of muscle, at least, on me, so unless Finn has some extra big clothes.” Rory roared with laughter. “You’ll be fine for one night, me friend. Tomorrow, we’ll ride back to the village and collect your belongings and you can spend a few days here with us and see what life on the farm is really like.” Cam grinned. “Really?” “Sure.” “Awesome. I’d like that.” “Then, it’s done.” Rory said. “Now, little brother, let’s give our friend a quick tour and get the afternoon chores done.” Finn jumped up from the table. “C’mon, then. I’ll give you the grand tour.” He said with a smirk. Cam stood up and Finn looked down at his sneakers. Finn shook his head. “Oi, you need a pair of wellies.” “Wellies?” “C’mon.” Cam followed Finn into the mudroom. There was a row of boots by the door. Finn grabbed a muddy pair and placed them off to the side. He looked at Cam’s feet and then looked through the boots that were there. He grabbed an old pair of green ones and handed them to Cam. “These were my Da’s.” He said. “They should fit you. It gets mucky out there; you’ll ruin your shoes if you wear them.” “Thanks.” Cam said, as he pulled off his sneakers and pulled on the rubber boots. “Hey, Finn, what was that business between you and Rory before?” “What business?” “When you asked if I was hitting on you?” Finn looked up and grinned. “Oh, no, me friend, I get enough grief on me own, I’ll not be buying more trouble.” He laughed. “You can ask Rory yourself.” “Ask Rory what?” Rory asked as he came out of the house. “Nothing important.” Cam answered quickly. Finn grinned. “Well then, let’s get to it.” He said as he led Cam out of the house and into the yard. Cam followed Finn across the yard to the large barn. The younger boy’s energy was infectious. It was obvious that Finn loved the farm and the outdoors. Cam checked his camera to make sure he had an empty disc loaded. Even though the discs could hold thousands of pictures he filled them quickly. He started shooting as soon as they stepped into the yard. It was like walking into another world. Even growing up in a small New England town that dated back to Colonial times didn’t prepare him for this. “Oi!!” Finn hollered. “Over here!!” Cam laughed and chased after the boy who was waving from the doorway of the barn. It was a large cavernous structure with many stalls lining the sides. There were a few horses in the stalls but most were empty. “Where are all the horses?” Cam asked. “Out in the fields.” Finn replied. “We don’t keep too many in here this time of year. Mostly if we’re training or working them or if they are sick. In the back of the barn there are some stalls we use for the mares who might be expecting a difficult birth. Most of ‘em are used to giving birth in the fields.” Cam was shooting pictures of the barn. He was pointing towards the ceiling trying to get some shots of the beams and the structure. He stepped back and felt something tug at his hoodie. “Hey!!” He exclaimed when he almost dropped his camera. He turned and was face to face with a coal black horse. Finn chuckled and walked over and petted the horse. “Aye, this is The Prince.” “The Prince?” “Aye, he be a pure bred Friesian colt.” Finn explained. “Me Da bought a stallion and a mare a few years back and wanted to breed them. The mare died giving birth to this one, so Rory and I named him ‘The Prince’. He’s almost three, so we’re just starting his training. He’s a better temper than that other colt, he’s much more playful.” He scratched the colt’s chin. “Isn’t that right, me son?” “So why did your father breed a horse so different from what you usually raise?” Cam asked. Finn shrugged. “Something different, I guess.” “He wanted something unique.” Rory said from the back of the barn. He walked towards Cam and Finn. “Da had always wanted to try his hand at breeding a line that was a bit different something special. This was a first step for him. The Prince was to be the foundation of that line. Da’s goal was to cross him with a mare and create a new line.” “What breed of mare?” Rory laughed. “I don’t know that Da ever even knew that. He was a bit of a dreamer. It comes from being the baby of the family.” He said as he ruffled Finn’s hair. Finn shot his brother a withering look. “Tomorrow, after you get back from the village, you can watch me work with him, Cameron.” Finn said. “He’s the first horse I’ve trained on me own.” “Really? I’m impressed; he’s a pretty big boy.” “Most of the horses we have here are pretty big as far as weight, but not too tall.” Rory explained. “Our cobs are a small draft horse they can do heavy work like pulling carriages as well as riding, some folks will even use them for eventing. We also have some that are called Drum horses; they are just like the Cobs only larger. You’ll see the difference. These horses were bred by our people for years, but weren’t recognized as a breed until just recently. Now people come from all over the world to see them and buy them to breed their own lines, that’s made ours all the more valuable.” “I think in America they call them Gypsy horses or Gypsy Vanners.” Cam said thinking back to some of the research he had done on Ireland. “Aye.” Rory nodded. “Since the breed was developed by our people who were Travelers which most refer to as Gypsies. If’n you want to make friends around here, you won’t be usin’ that word.” Cam nodded. “It’s getting late.” Rory said. “Finn, you start on the chores and I’ll go see to supper.” “What can I do?” Cam asked. “You can help Finn with feedin’ if ye’d like.” “Sure.” Finn smiled, welcoming the help. “Ok, then, c’mon.” Finn said walking to the back of the barn. Cam was impressed at the strength and stamina of the younger boy. They worked at feeding the horses and other animals for almost two hours. He was barely able to stand when they walked towards the house while Finn was still a bundle of energy. “Oi! Don’t be tellin’ me yer tired already.” Finn teased. “Tired? I’m exhausted. That’s the most I’ve done in ages.” “We’ll have ta get ye in shape boy, if yer gonna be stayin’ here.” Cam put his arm around Finn’s shoulder and leaned on the smaller boy. “Be nice to your elders.” He said. Finn laughed and wrapped an arm around Cam’s waist. Cam was surprised by how strong the boy was. He felt as if Finn was almost carrying him across the barnyard. “Boy, you must eat your Wheaties.” “What in the hell are Wheaties?” Cam laughed. “Never mind, I’ll explain it later.” They walked into the house and Cam followed Finn’s lead in pulling off his boots and leaving them in the entryway. They entered the kitchen where Rory had set the table and was laying out a simple meal of stew and bread. While it wasn’t an elaborate meal, after the work he had done, it was a banquet to Cam. They ate and talked. When they finished Cam looked at his watch. “It’s only 5:30?!” Rory smiled. “Aye, We’ll be up before the sun to start the day.” “Do you guys turn in this early?” “No. Usually by seven or so, as we are usually up around four and we work pretty hard. I’m thinking after the bit a work you did this afternoon, ye’ll be wanting some sleep too.” “I imagine I will.” Cam agreed. “Probably be the earliest I’ve gone to bed since I was a little kid.” “Around here, the sun dictates what we do.” “You don’t have a television or anything?” “Sure we do, we just don’t use it much.” “So what do you do in the evenings?” “Finn works on his schooling. I help if he needs it. I work on the books, read a bit, check on the animals.” “I feel like I’ve stepped back in time.” Cam said. "Is that a bad thing?” Rory asked. “No, not at all. It’s just so different. Everything here is beautiful. The farm, the animals, the buildings and the land, it’s all amazing and the way you guys live. It’s so simple…that almost seems like the wrong word.” Cam thought a moment. “At home, everyone is in a hurry. Our lives are dictated by electronics and computers. As much as I love my photography, even my camera relies on a computer. Everything here is just stripped down. You guys work hard. When I say things are simple, I don’t mean easy, I mean stripped down all the extraneous stuff is gone all the BS. I’ve only been here a day and I already think I’m starting to fall in love with it.” “I’ll bet ye’ll be missin’ yer conveniences soon enough.” Finn laughed. Cam laughed and nodded. “I’m sure I will.” He said. “But honestly, there is something about this life that appeals to me. I can see why you guys love it and stay here.” “Well, we stay here because it’s our home.” Rory said. “Finn, you need to be gettin‘ to yer books.” “Alright, ye tyrant.” Finn laughed as he got up from the table. Rory began clearing the table and Cam helped. After they had finished washing the dishes and putting everything away, Rory showed Cam to the small bedroom that he would be using. “We share the bathroom down the hall.” Rory explained. “Finn and I are used to bustin’ in on each other, so if’n yer a shy one; make sure ye lock the door.” “Ok.” Cam grinned. “Is it alright if I take a walk around?” “Sure. We don’t lock the doors or anything, me uncle and his family are the only ones around.” Rory replied. “Just be careful, ye don’t get lost.” “I’ll make sure I keep sight of the house. I just want to get some sunset pictures.” “Have fun then, I’m gonna work on the books for a bit. If ye need anything, me room’s across the hall and Finn’s is next door.” “Ok, thanks.” Cam moved his belongings into the bedroom. He grabbed his camera and went back through the kitchen to the entryway. He pulled on the boots Finn had lent him and went out into the barnyard. It was still light out as it was just six o’clock. Cam walked around taking more shots of the barn and the house. He climbed one of the fences and walked into the field. He pulled out his iPhone and turned on the compass. He made sure he was heading west so that he could get some sunset pictures. He walked for a few minutes stopping occasionally to snap a picture of a tree or the horizon. There was a small herd of horses in the field. He counted four of them moving towards him. He recognized the one in front as Ivy, the mare he had ridden down from the river. She had a unique white mark on her forehead. “Hey, girl.” He said quietly as she came up to him. He gently stroked her neck and rubbed under her mane. The other horses became curious and came up to him as well. “Hey, guys.” He laughed as they started to nudge him for attention. When the others were too close, Ivy turned and whinnied at them. Cam knew her intent was apparent, she was telling them that Cam was ‘her’ person. “So am I yours girl?” Ivy bobbed her head up and down as if nodding. Cam laughed. “Well, I’m not sure Finn will agree with that, but thanks.” He said as kissed the horse on her nose. The sun was starting to set, so he moved to a position where he could get the best shot of the horizon and the sunset and spent the next half an hour shooting a constant stream of photos of the sunset. He knew he had probably shot over a thousand pictures, but the more raw material he had to work with the better chance he had to make the best final product. When he had finished it was darker than he had thought it would be. He turned around and could just make out a light in one of the windows of the house. He walked towards in the direction of the light. He laughed to himself when he realized that Ivy was walking by his side as if to ensure he made it home safely. He reached out and rested his hand on the mare’s back. “Making sure I get back in one piece, Ivy?” He heard the horse neigh in the darkness. “Well, thank you.” He laughed. He could just make out the fence in front of him. He turned to give Ivy one last pat and kiss on the nose and then climbed the fence and crossed the yard back to the house. He stopped in the entryway to pull off his boots and quietly entered the kitchen. Someone had kindly left a light on for him in the kitchen, but it was silent in the house. He walked through the kitchen, turning off the light and went down the hall to his bedroom. The same someone had turned a light on in the bedroom for him as well. He closed the bedroom door and started to strip. He remembered he had no extra clothes tonight, but figured he’d be ok sleeping in his boxer briefs for the night. It was a bit chilly in the room, but there were several comforters on the bed and it looked nice and warm. As he was pulling off his jeans and socks, he realized he should run down to the bathroom and wash his hands. He had been petting Ivy and the other horses and they were quite grubby. Figuring Rory and Finn were long since asleep, he slipped down the hall to the bathroom. He opened the door and almost passed out at the sight. Rory stood there with his back to his drying himself off from a shower. Drops of water slid down the tight muscles of his back. Cam’s eyes went to the tight white mounds of Rory’s buttocks. Rory turned and Cam inhaled deeply. Rory’s chest was more than he had dreamed. His pecs were big, round and smooth topped with two quarter sized nipples, a tight trail of reddish hair ran through his six pack, down beneath his navel and ended in an unruly bush that topped a large uncut penis that Cam could not stop staring at. Rory laughed. “In or out, me friend, the draft’s gonna freeze me bits.”
  11. After several years away from Word, isolation has loosened up the writer's block and I'm looking for a new editor and maybe a beta or two to take a look at a couple chapters I've written. The new story is a continuation of my 'Riding Lessons' story.
  12. Never knew this dreck started as 'fan fiction' until this week. I have no interest in seeing it. I'm not surprised that the movie is supposed to be better than the source material as Sam Taylor-Johnson is a respectable director, but reading the stories about all the clashes she had with the 'author' of the books make me cringe. I could see the studio giving power to an established or even good author, but to give this hack so much power over the film is insane. If the director had cast her hot husband (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) in the lead I might have seen it, but neither of the leads has the looks or charisma to make me suffer through the story. Honestly, if I want to watch porn, then I'll go to one of the hundreds of sites that offer far better material.
  13. 'Riding Lessons' is now available as an e-book or a paperback on Amazon, under the title 'Riding High'.

  14. Chapter 12 of 'The Chosen has posted

  15. 'Riding Lessons' is now available as an e-book or a paperback on Amazon, under the title 'Riding High'.

  16. 'Riding Lessons' is now available as an e-book or a paperback on Amazon, under the title 'Riding High' http://www.amazon.com/Riding-High-Hot-Romance-Erotica-ebook/dp/B00ND98GQK

  17. Andrew Todd

    Chapter 12

    The Chosen By Andrew Todd Chapter 12 Kris heard the sirens in the distance and knew he didn’t have much time. He ran from the stall and went to the nearest tack room. He grabbed several large blankets and headed back to the scene of the fire. Along the way he saw a fire extinguisher and he grabbed that as well. He opened the door of the feed room and gasped when he saw the damage. He took the fire extinguisher and emptied the contents all over the room, trying to hit any area that looked burned, which was easy as the whole room was a black mess. When the extinguisher was empty he dropped it outside the door and ran back to the stall with the blankets. He held the blankets in his hands and concentrated. He felt his hands start to get warmer and watched as sections of the blankets started to smoke. He stopped when he thought the blankets looked ‘used’ enough. He knew there was nothing he could do about his clothes, so he hoped it didn’t look too bad. He heard vehicles stop outside the barn followed by doors slamming and voices. He stepped out of the stall and towards the barn door. “Kris?!?” he heard Jesse call. A wave of relief washed over Kris when he saw Jesse enter the building followed by a couple of firemen. Jesse reached him first. “What the hell happened?” Jesse asked excitedly as he looked Kris up and down. “I’d like to know that too,” said the fireman who appeared to be in charge. “Well, I had finished grooming Samson after you left, Jess, and then I was just sitting around thinking about what we had been talking about when I smelt smoke,” Kris explained. “I ran through the barn trying to see if it was coming from in here. When I got to the feed room over there,” he pointed to the room, “there was smoke coming out from under the door. I didn’t know how bad it was, so the first thing I did was get Samson out and then I came back for Sabre. By then the fire had spread to the wall next to Sabre’s stall. He started to spook, so I used my shirt to cover his eyes. We were almost out of the stall when the shirt slipped and he bolted and pushed me to the floor. I got up and ran to see if I could find something to put the fire out. I grabbed the extinguisher and some blankets and I guess it wasn’t as bad as I thought, cuz I was able to put it out.” The Chief nodded as Kris told his story. “Are you hurt? Burned?” he asked. “I don’t think so,” Kris replied. “Well, I want to have one of the paramedics take a look at you. You probably took in some smoke.” Kris wanted to argue, but he didn’t have the energy. “Ok.” The Chief turned to Jesse. “Why don’t you go with him?” he instructed. “We need to take a look at the damage and see if we can find a cause for the school’s insurance company.” Jesse nodded and followed Kris and the paramedic who had taken him by the elbow and led him from the barn. While the paramedic examined Kris, Jesse called Dylan to let him know what had happened. “Kris’s alright, though?” Dylan asked anxiously. “He seems fine,” Jesse assured him. “In fact, if his breeches weren’t dark in spots from the smoke, you’d never guess he was near a fire.” “Ok, well, just keep an eye on him.” “He’s being checked out by the paramedics; if he has to go to the hospital, I’ll go with him.” “Just let me know.” “I will.” “Love you.” “Me, too,” Jesse answered and then he disconnected the call. He walked over to the ambulance where Kris sat while the paramedic took his blood pressure. “How is he?” Jesse asked the medic. “I’m fine,” Jesse insisted. Jesse nodded. “I’ll take the professional’s opinion,” he grinned. The paramedic nodded. “He’s good,” he said. “His lungs are clear, blood pressure is fine and he’s got no burns. We could take him to the hospital for further evaluation, but I don’t think it’s necessary.” Kris looked pleadingly at Jesse, knowing that as a faculty member he could insist that Kris be taken to the hospital. “If he doesn’t go to the hospital is there anything he shouldn’t do or that we should watch for.” “Like I said, his lungs are clear, so I’m not seeing any obvious signs of smoke inhalation. But just watch for any difficulty breathing; you might also watch for any signs of delayed shock,” the paramedic explained as he turned from Jesse to Kris. “If you feel dizzy or nauseous or have difficulty catching your breath, let someone know and go right to the infirmary.” Kris nodded. “I will.” “My room’s right next door to his, so I’ll check in on him,” Jesse assured the paramedic. The paramedic nodded. “Uhh…is there any reason I should stay in or…” Kris stammered. Jesse smiled. “We’re going on a weekend camping trip tomorrow. I think he wants to make sure he can still go.” The paramedic smiled and nodded at Kris. “As long as you don’t have any of those symptoms between now and then, you should be good to go.” “Thanks.” Kris grinned. “Kris, why don’t you go wait in my car,” Jesse instructed. “I just want to check with the Chief so see if they’ve found anything.” Kris nodded and took Jesse’s keys. Jesse ran back over to the barn and found the Chief just coming out. “Did you find anything?” Jesse asked anxiously. The Chief nodded. “It looks like it was started by a cigarette,” he explained. “It looks like someone dropped or threw it near a bag of grain. There was probably some loose hay or something flammable on the floor that led the fire to the bag and from there, given what’s stored in there it wouldn’t take much time for the fire to get out of control.” “I’ll have Jason, the head riding instructor, talk to the kids who volunteer here as stable hands. I don’t know of any that smoke, but someone may have been experimenting.” “What about the boy that was here?” “Kris? I know he doesn’t smoke and he cares too much about the horses to do anything to endanger them,” Jesse declared. The Chief looked at Jesse skeptically. “Alright…but, something about his story doesn’t add up.” “What do you mean?” “From the burn patterns and the damage done, he shouldn’t have been able to put that fire out with that little extinguisher,” the Chief explained. “And if he was close enough to put it out, he should have suffered some sort of smoke inhalation.” Jesse shrugged. “I guess he was just lucky,” he offered. “I trust him; maybe in the excitement of everything, he wasn’t clear on what happened, but I know he didn’t have anything to do with causing the fire.” “Well, like I said, it’s suspicious, but you know your students,” the Chief replied. “There’s nothing to indicate anything more than an accident, so I’ll file my report and send a copy to the school and their insurance provider.” “Thank you,” Jesse said as he shook the Chief’s hand and then went to take Kris back to the dorm. Jesse drove Kris back to the dorm. “If you need anything, either you or Charlie come and get me or Dylan right away,” Jesse instructed Kris after he got him settled into his and Charlie’s room. “Jess, I’ll be fine,” Kris replied. “Charlie should be here any minute and after dinner, we’re gonna pack so we can leave as soon as classes end tomorrow.” Jesse nodded. “Ok, just take it easy; the paramedic said you could still feel some side effects.” “I will, don’t worry.” “I always worry about my friends,” Jesse said with slight grin. “Can’t help it. I’ll be right next door if you need anything before Charlie gets back.” “’K, thanks,” Kris said as Jesse left the room. Kris pulled off his boots and half-chaps and stripped off his breeches and underwear. He grabbed a clean pair of briefs from his dresser drawer and pulled them on. He knew he should probably run and take a shower, but his head was spinning with the events of the afternoon. He lay down on his bed and drifted off to a restless sleep. *** When Kris opened his eyes, the room was dark. He let his vision come into focus. The only light was coming from the small lamp on Charlie’s desk. He watched for a few moments as Charlie quietly worked on what he assumed was homework. He rolled over on his side making the bed springs squeak and Charlie turned. Charlie smiled warmly. “Welcome back, sleeping beauty.” “Hey,” Kris replied quietly. “How are you feeling?” Kris laid his head back on his pillow. “Ok, I guess. What time is it anyways?” “A little past nine.” “Shit!” Kris swore, sitting up quickly. “Why did you let me sleep that long?” “When I got back from practice, Jesse stopped me and told me what happened at the barn. When I came in you were sound asleep and I figured that would be the best thing for you,” Charlie explained. He nodded at a tray on his bed. “I brought you a sandwich from the dining hall, if you’re hungry.” “Thanks,” Kris said as he walked over to Charlie’s bed and picked up the tray. He walked back to his bed, sat down and started to half-heartedly eat the sandwich and chips that Charlie had brought. Charlie watched Kris as he ate. “Are you ok?” he asked. “You seem, I don’t know, a little out of it. Or are you still freaked out by me?” he queried shyly. Kris looked up at Charlie and their eyes met. He put the put the tray on the floor and patted a spot on the bed next to him. Charlie slowly walked over and sat next to Kris. Kris wrapped his arm around Charlie’s shoulder. “I’m sorry if I was a jerk yesterday,” he said. “You weren’t,” Charlie replied. “You were just so quiet; I thought I freaked you out so much that you wouldn’t want me anymore.” Kris leaned in and lightly kissed Charlie on the lips. “I could never not want you,” he said quietly. “I was a bit freaked by what happened, but I think I’m over that.” “Then what’s wrong? I know it’s more than just the fire. Something is off with you.” Kris sighed. “It might be your turn to freak out.” Charlie shook his head. “I don’t know how. The only thing that would bother me was if you set the fire and I know you didn’t. So I don’t think there’s anything you could tell me that would be freakier than what’s happening to me.” “Well, I didn’t set it,” Kris said slowly. “For a minute, I wasn’t sure, but the Fire Captain found evidence that it was a cigarette that started it and I’ve never even touched one.” “Why weren’t you sure?” Charlie asked. “You would know if you did it or not.” Kris stood up and walked over to his desk. He picked up the small metal trash can and placed it on the floor about 2 feet from his bed. There were only a few scraps of paper in the bottom of the can. Kris looked at Charlie somberly. He held his hands out in front of himself and concentrated. He felt the warmth flow through his and saw a small flame dance in the palm of his hand. Charlie’s eyes bulged at the sight of the flame. Kris turned his hand over and the flames drifted down into the can like a small downy feather. The paper in the can ignited. Charlie stood up and walked over to the can. He could see the small fire burning away. “Shit,” he said under his breath. Fearful that the room’s smoke alarm might go off, Charlie looked around the room. He saw an open bottle of water on his desk. He stared at the bottle and his eyes turned black. A jet of water jumped from the bottle into the trash can and Kris’s fire was doused. Charlie stepped back and flopped down on Kris’s bed. Kris looked at him. “I told you,” he said. “It’s your turn to freak out.” Charlie looked up at Kris and shook his head. “That’s not what’s freaking me out,” he declared. “Well, in a way it is, but not what you can do, but why is either of us able to do these things. It’s crazy; I mean, I never did any of this stuff before and now we both have these strange powers.” “That’s not entirely true,” Kris said as he sat next to Charlie. “Huh?” Kris took Charlie’s hand in his. “You’ve been a good swimmer all your life. You told me you were always like a ‘fish’ in the water.” “Kris, that’s just a saying.” “But, it’s true. You’ve always had an affinity for the water and I’ve always had problem with my temper. Maybe somehow, us being together brought out these abilities.” “I still don’t get it.” “Well, you have an effect on me,” Kris explained. Charlie looked at him with raised eyebrows. Kris laughed. “Not that affect you perv,” he chuckled. “You calm me down.” “I do?” Kris nodded. “I noticed it the first time you shook my hand the day we met. Whenever you would touch me or when you were close, I would feel this almost cool calm come over me. I thought it was just the fact that you were so easygoing and you were rubbing off on me, but maybe it’s more. Maybe we’re yin and yang for each other. Fire and water are opposites; if my abilities are triggered by my temper, then it would make sense to have someone who could counter those emotions near me.” “Checks and balances,” Charlie muttered. “But where did they come from and why us?” Kris shook his head. “I have no ideas about that one. I wonder if we’re the only ones.” “Wouldn’t make sense,” Charlie said. “Why on the whole planet would you and I be the only ones with powers like this?” “I know, but it’s not like we can go around asking people.” “We could talk to Dylan and Jesse,” Charlie suggested. “NO!” Kris exclaimed. Charlie jumped at Kris’s sudden outburst. “Sorry,” Kris said as he pulled Charlie closer to him. “This is the first time in my life that I’m not being judged by people over who my father is. I have friends and I’m having fun. I don’t want anyone looking at me as some kind of freak.” “Do you think they’d think we were freaks?” “I don’t know, but I don’t want to take that chance,” Kris said. “Ok, but how much control do you have?” Charlie asked. Kris shrugged. “I don’t know,” he reflected. “I don’t think I’m gonna set anything on fire accidentally. When I was in the barn, everything happened by reflex. Samson knocked me into the wall that was fully on fire. I thought I was a goner, but I just felt a little warm. It’s like you said yesterday, it was like a switch flipped in my head and I knew that I wasn’t going to get burned. I was able to pull all the flames to me and absorb them. Don’t ask me how, I have no clue and I don’t know what else I can do.” “Well, if we’re not going to say anything to anyone else, at least for now, we need to watch out for each other and probably find someplace that you can practice. I mean I can use the pool, but where would you be able to go?” “The pool might not be a bad place.” “Huh?” “Well, if something got out of hand, there’s plenty of water for you to douse me with,” Kris laughed. Charlie smirked at his roommate. “I’m being serious,” he said. “I know, but I don’t want to think about it right now,” Kris replied. “I want to just pack up for this weekend and then snuggle up with you and sleep, ok?” Charlie reached up and stroked Kris’s cheek. “Ok.” He smiled before he tilted his head up and kissed Kris. Kris eagerly returned the kiss wrapping his arms around Charlie’s torso. It never failed to impress him how firm and taut Charlie’s body was. When you looked at him fully clothed, you would assume he was just another slight, skinny boy, but when you touched him, you could feel the tight, hard elongated muscles of someone who spent hours exercising. Kris knew Charlie’s body was the result of the years he spent swimming and diving. For that reason he was far more impressed and excited by Charlie’s build than he was his own. He knew his muscles came from genetics and not so much from any hard work or diligent exercise. He had always thought that it was the one gift his ‘sperm donor’ had left him, since the man he called ‘Father’ was short in stature and leaned toward the heavy side. Now he wondered if the physical gifts he and Charlie both possessed had any relation to the new powers they had stumbled upon. Before he could ruminate on that any further, he felt Charlie’s body push against his and found himself lying on the bed with Charlie wriggling on top of him. He felt Charlie’s cool hands go down his neck and shoulders and finally stop at his pecs. Charlie lightly played with his nipples and they continued to kiss. Kris started to feel himself get swept away. It was only when he felt Charlie’s hand rub against the front of this briefs, that he shook himself out of his passion-induced reverie. He grabbed Charlie’s wrist and pulled it away from his crotch. “Hold up,” Kris instructed as he tried to sit up. He moved Charlie over so he was sitting on the bed, which made sitting up easier for him. Charlie looked confused and sad. “What’s the matter? You don’t want to…” Kris shook his head and looked into Charlie’s black eyes. “No, I want to in the worst way,” he explained. “But, I want my first time with you to be special. I don’t want it to be because we’re both freaked out by all this stuff going on.” Charlie shrugged. “Anytime with you is going to be special,” he mumbled. Kris grinned. “Look, we’re both virgins. I want to look back on our first time and remember ever moment about it. I don’t want that memory to be me smelling of smoke and us trying to figure out why we have these powers.” “But…” “I know, me too,” Kris chuckled. “Hopefully, we’ll have two tents out there; it would be so much more romantic to remember our first time in the woods, under the stars…” Charlie smiled and kissed Kris’s cheek. “You’re just a closet romantic, aren’t you?” “Only when I’m around you,” Kris replied pulling Charlie close. *** “Dave, are you just about ready?” Dyson asked, poking his head into the cave. “I will be in about five more minutes,” Dave replied, not looking up from his monitors. Dyson chuckled. “I’ve got four really anxious guys out here waiting on you,” he said. “Stevie says if you don’t move your ass and quick, he’s coming to get you and I get the feeling he won’t be as nice as me.” “Ok, ok, I get the message,” Dave nodded. “Tell them I’ll be out in two seconds, I just need to power everything down.” “’K, and I was also told to remind you, no laptops, smartphones or tablets allowed,” Dyson said as he left the room. Dave shrugged. He knew that everyone, especially Stevie, wanted an ‘electronics’ free weekend. He had protested, but had been outvoted. It was probably not a bad idea to get away from all this for a few days, but he always felt like if he was away or not online he would miss that important piece of information they were looking for. As he reached to power off his computers, he heard the e-mail chime go off. He opened it quickly. It was news of another suspicious fire, this one was in New Hampshire. He moved it to his ‘Check Later’ folder and powered everything off. As he was closing the door to the cave, he turned and saw Stevie walking towards him. “I’m ready,” Dave said. Stevie grinned. “Good, you just saved yourself a world of pain.” The two walked out of the playhouse hand in hand and over to where the others were waiting. “All set?” Alex asked. “Ready,” Stevie answered. “Then let’s get going.” Benji and Oliver were already sitting in the F-350 they had borrowed from Dale; hitched to it was the ranch’s trailer loaded with six horses, as well as feed and tack. Alex would be driving the others in Benji’s truck. All of their gear was loaded in the back. They had agreed that Benji and Alex would be the only ones to have their phones on them. Mainly, to keep the vehicles in contact and in case of an emergency. With Dale’s help, Benji had found a campground about three hours up the coast. It was situated on the ocean and had stabling facilities for the horses. They had called ahead and booked the stalls for the horses as well as two adjoining campsites for themselves. It was about two o’clock when they left. If they avoided the heaviest of traffic they should get there with enough light to set up camp and get the horses settled. “We’ll see you guys Monday night,” Damon called to the convoy as he and Kai waved to them. “Seeya,” Alex called back. *** Director Black punched the twelve-digit code into the keypad and waited impatiently for the doors to slide open. He entered the room and looked at the banks of monitors on the far wall. “Anything, yet?” he asked of the young man who sat at a desk facing the monitors. The young man turned. “Nothing, yet, sir,” he replied. “I’ve run facial recognition software on all the major airport surveillance tapes we could our hands on and there’s no sign of him.” “Well, it’s been over a month, Casey, he must have gotten wherever he was running to bypassing the major hubs. We need to pull our focus from finding the Chambers boy and focus on locating the other boys.” “But, sir, wouldn’t finding Dyson Chambers help there?” “Initially, but now, I’m assuming he’s already contacted at least one of them. Whichever family he and his father were watching. If he’s already got one or more of the boys together, it’s imperative that we find the others before they do. Whatever happens, we have to make sure the five of them never come together. That would be dangerous for us all.” *** “Holy…” Kris muttered as he saw the large log cabin come into view. It was two stories and stood on a large lot. Next to it was a small barn. Jesse and Dylan laughed in the front seat of the truck. “I thought we were roughing it,” Charlie said. Jesse looked back at the two younger boys. “I never said anything about ‘roughing it’. I said we’d get away for a few days in the mountains. You both assumed we’d be in tents and sleeping bags.” “Whose place is this?” Kris asked as they all exited the truck. “It’s ours,” Dylan replied. “You’re kidding.” Jesse grinned. “It was a graduation present from my father--well, my biological father,” he explained. “He knew how much we had come to love the area and he tends to overcompensate a bit.” Kris and Charlie stood staring at the cabin. “Guys,” Jesse laughed. “We need to get the horses taken care of and all of our stuff inside before it gets too dark. Kris, why don’t you and I take care of the horses and Charlie can help Dylan get the other stuff inside.” “Ok,” Kris replied as he followed Jesse to the trailer. He helped Jesse unload the horses and get them settled into the six-stall barn. They had brought Jesse and Dylan’s horses: Jupiter, Grey Wind, Val and Dodger. Kris would have loved to have brought Samson, thinking the gelding would love the open trails they would be riding on over the next couple of days, but as he belonged to the school, Jesse explained there was too much liability involved and it would be simpler to bring their own horses. Once they had the horses bedded down and fed and all the supplies and tack they had brought was put away, Kris looked around the barn. It was compact, but very modern and well-appointed. “Your father gave you all this for a graduation gift?” Kris asked incredulously. “From high school?” Jesse nodded. “My natural father, Trevor,” he replied. “Like I said he tends to overcompensate. He’s the one who gave us Jupe and Grey.” “You called him your ‘natural’ father just now and before you called him your ‘biological’ father. Were you adopted?” “It’s a little more complicated than that,” Jesse explained. “I was raised by my mother; I never knew who my father was growing up. When I was fifteen my mother died of cancer.” “Shit, I’m sorry.” Jesse smiled solemnly. “Thanks. It was a rough few days; my best friend was killed while he was on a trip and I had just come from his funeral when my stepfather told me that my mom had been brought to the hospital and wouldn’t be coming out. She hadn’t been married to him too long, but he had made my life miserable. That day he came after me and I was so upset and angry, I fought back. I clocked him with a trophy and ran like hell. I took my friend Seb’s dog, Kaya, and ran away.” “What happened?” “We were on our own for a couple months. Eventually, I ended up making it from Wellington where I had lived to Ocala. I was camping in the woods near a horse farm. Once day I was exploring and I saw a beautiful blood bay gelding running around a paddock by himself. It was like he was being quarantined from the other horses. He was alone like I was. I went over and talked to him and eventually, I hopped on him and rode him around. I saw a man walking towards us and I slid down and ran off. “The next day, that man found me and Kaya in the woods. Instead of having me arrested or turned into the authorities, he and his partner took me in. Danny and CJ became my foster dads and brought me home with them. The horse that I had stumbled on that day was Val and the lady who owned the farm gave him to me when I left. When we got to ‘Second Chances’, Danny and CJ’s ranch, I met Dylan and we’ve been together ever since.” “Wow…so how did you meet your real dad?” “Well, first thing, I consider Danny and CJ my real dads,” Jesse answered. “They were there for me when I needed someone. Trevor, my biological father, is a really nice guy, but I only met him when I was sixteen. We’ve developed a good relationship, but we are more like friends than father and son.” “He never wanted you?” “Again, it’s more complicated than that. He was married and had kids, he was young, there are lots of reasons. When my mom died, he looked for me, but since he wasn’t on my birth certificate he wasn’t legally my father and couldn’t get the information. Eventually, he hired a PI to find me.” “Did he try to take you away from your dads?” “We thought he was going to, but he needed me because my little brother, Cole, had leukemia and needed a bone-marrow transplant.” “Did you do it?” “I would have, but I wasn’t a match, Dylan was--which was crazy because he’s not a blood relative, but we figured that was Seb watching out for us from heaven. Trevor was the one who got Dylan and I invited to Lancaster. He’s spent the last couple years trying to be a dad, but like I said we work better as friends. I see him every so often, but I try to get Cole up here or to meet at the ranch as often as I can.” Jesse saw the forlorn look on Kris’s face. “Hey, what’s the matter?” he asked patting the younger boy’s shoulder. “I was just thinking how lucky you are,” Kris said, tears rolling down his cheeks. “You have three dads who want and love you and I don’t have any.” “C’mere,” Jesse said quietly leading Kris to a couple of bales sitting against a wall. He sat Kris down and took a place next to him. “Kris, I don’t know what the deal is with your father, but not being a good dad to you is his problem, it’s not something that you caused.” “It’s because he’s not my real dad.” “Is that why you asked if I was adopted, cuz you are?” “I’m not adopted, my mom had sex with someone to get pregnant cuz my dad wanted a son.” “And you don’t know who your real dad is?” “I doubt he even knows I exist.” “Let me tell you something I have learned over the last couple of years. Your real family is created by love, not blood,” Jesse said squeezing Kris’s hand. “Danny and CJ, their son Idgie, my brothers at the ranch, Dylan and his parents as well as Trevor and his wife and my brother, Cole--they are my family. If Trevor had never tried to find me and I never knew him, I wouldn’t be missing anything, because I have people who love me and you do too.” Jesse caught the cynical look on Kris’s face. “You have Charlie--I know he loves you--and you have Dylan and I,” Jesse said. “And as time passes on and you start to make your way through the world, your family will grow.” “It’s hard sometimes,” Kris said quietly. “I know, I’ve been there,” Jesse replied. “My mom loved me, but she was a single mother and she was a bit older than most of the other moms when I was born. I was on my own a lot. I was small and I got bullied and picked on all the time, until Seb came along. He was my protector from the day we met, my best friend--I loved him so much.” “Were you like brothers?” Jesse blushed. “For a long time, we were. Then the night before he left on his trip, we realized that we were in love with each other. We kissed and held each other that night. Neither of us wanted to move too fast and we thought we had our whole lives ahead of us. When he left the next morning it was the last time I ever saw him.” “Shit…” Kris exhaled. “Do you regret that you didn’t…you know?” Jesse’s green eyes met Kris’s blue ones. “No, I don’t. At first there was a part of me that regretted that I hadn’t shared that with him, but then I met Dylan and I knew he was my soul mate. I fell for him hard and fast. Even though we knew we were in it for the long haul, we waited a long time before we made love. We both wanted to make sure the other was 100% ok with it before we took that step.” “You don’t have to tell me the details,” Kris said shyly. “But was it special? I mean was it something you’ll remember?” Jesse grinned. “Oh, yeah,” he replied. “It wasn’t like some kids who have sex so built up in their heads that they are disappointed cuz nothing can match that fantasy. I was completely in love with Dylan and he felt the same. Just being with him was amazing to me. The first time we made love it was like we were just putting a cherry on it, so to speak.” Kris blushed. “What?” Jesse asked curiously. “Charlie and I almost did it the other night,” Kris confessed. “I don’t know what ‘it’ would have been, but I made him stop.” “Why?” “I guess because after all the shit I’ve gone through in my life, I want to start making good memories,” Kris explained. “I don’t want to think back on the first time I had sex and remember it as us fumbling around on my little dormitory bed and me smelling of smoke.” “Kris, that’s sweet, but I’ll let you in on a little secret.” “What?” “If you’re with the person you truly love, the only thing you’re going to remember is how he made you feel that first time and how much you love him.” “Hey, Kris!!” Kris and Jesse looked up to see an excited Charlie run into the barn followed by Dylan. “There you are!” he exclaimed as he ran towards Kris and Jesse. Charlie stopped when he saw Kris’s expression and red-rimmed eyes. “Are you ok?” he asked, the concern in his voice apparent. “What’s going on?” Kris stood up and embraced Charlie. “I’m fine,” he replied. “We were just talking, but it’s all good.” “Cool,” Charlie said hugging his boyfriend. He turned to Jesse. “Man, Jesse you weren’t kidding about your father ‘over-compensating’. This place is ridiculous.” “It’s just a cabin,” Jesse protested. “’Just a cabin’, my ass,” Charlie barked. “It’s a damn log mansion.” He grabbed Kris’s hand. “C’mon, you’ve got to see this place.” Kris stood his ground as Charlie tried to pull him in the direction of the barn door. “I will in a minute, I just want to help Jesse with the trailer,” he said quietly. “Kris, go ahead,” Jesse offered. “Dylan and I can take care of the trailer.” “Are you sure?” “Yup, you better go before Charlie explodes,” Dylan laughed. Charlie pulled on Kris’s hand harder and Dylan and Jesse laughed as they watched Charlie pull his roommate, who was six inches taller and at least sixty pounds heavier, out of the barn. “Is he alright?” Dylan asked Jesse when the two younger boys were out of earshot. “He’s getting there,” Jesse replied. “I think he has a lot of ‘daddy’ issues to work through. We just need to keep letting him know that there are people who are here for him and they aren’t going to let him down or disappear on him.” “Sometimes he reminds me of Ace,” Dylan said. “The muscles and the size make you think they’re invincible, but they’re really sensitive inside.” “I can see the similarities,” Jesse replied. “But Ace was always confident and sure of himself, he just wore his heart on his sleeve; Kris is a little boy in a man’s body. He needs to be reassured that he is deserving of love, hopefully, Charlie can make him see that.” “Can you believe this place?” Charlie asked excitedly as he pulled Kris through the front door of the cabin. Kris was blown out of his funk by the sight before him. The first floor of the cabin was wide open. There was a huge kitchen filled with the most modern appliances in the right rear corner; in front of it was a dining room with a table that would comfortably seat ten. The corner of the room opposite the kitchen was lined with book shelves. There were several throw rugs covering the hardwood floors. Near the book shelves there were several overstuffed chairs and floor lamps. The sight that really took Kris’s breath away was the center of the room which was obviously a living/family room. The vaulted ceiling over this area was lined with skylights which let the sun shine into the room. There were more area carpets covering the floors. Several couches and recliners were scattered around the room. Some formed a semi-circle around an entertainment center which boasted a 70-inch flat-screen television. Several more were facing the back wall of the room which was lined with windows through which a breathtaking view of the White Mountains could be enjoyed. “Look up there,” Charlie said excitedly as he pointed to the second floor landing on either side of the great room. “Dylan says they were designed like lofts. There’re separate staircases on each side leading to them. Dylan and Jesse have a master suite on that side,” he pointed to the right of them, “and there are two more suites on that side. Dyl said we could each have one or just share. What do you think?” He grinned. Kris smiled warmly at the boy who had captured his heart. “I think I can manage to share with you,” he said as he leaned down and kissed Charlie.
  18. Andrew Todd

    Chapter 8

    I usually 'fly without a net' dropping plot points for me to figure out later, but this one I've known how it works and who it works for from the beginning. Just haven't had to use it yet...should be coming up though...
  19. Andrew Todd

    Chapter 6

    Right now, no plans for more RL characters, but since I rarely plan too far in advance, who knows...
  20. Andrew Todd

    Chapter 5

    Actually, it wasn't my intent when I started to include those characters. When I decided to place Charlie and Kris in a Eastern boarding school, I figured a 'cameo' from my favorite RL boys would be fun...they've stayed longer than I had planned.
  21. Andrew Todd

    The Chosen

    Thanks. One of my goals with Chapter 11, besides moving the time forward, was to give each of the boys a bit of spotlight.
  22. Andrew Todd

    Chapter 11

    I do have plans for the camping trip, but I'm not sure it's what some are going to expect. Kris's powers are still 'developing' in my head. He and Charlie were the hardest, cuz I didn't want to re-create Aquaman and The Human Torch.
  23. Andrew Todd

    Chapter 11

    Thanks. This was probably the hardest and easiest chapter to write. I'm glad the vast majority of my readers are understanding and supportive.
  24. Andrew Todd

    Chapter 11

    The Chosen By Andrew Todd Chapter 11 Stevie sat in the studio tinkering on the piano. It had been almost a month since Labor Day and since then things had been a whirlwind. He still had a hard time processing it all. One minute he was getting ready to enjoy a day at the beach with Dave and their new friends and the next minute he was in the middle of a science fiction film. When Benji first spoke to them telepathically, Stevie almost passed out. He was a country boy at heart and was never much for the supernatural or paranormal. He loved his horses and his music; his life was that simple and that was the way he had wanted it. Benji, Alex and Dyson had briefly explained about Benji’s, Alex’s and Oliver’s abilities and the prophecy. After listening to the incredible story, it became apparent that a day at the beach was not happening. All six boys piled into their cars and drove back to the twins’ house. Once there, Damon and Kai spoke to Dave and Stevie at length, assuring them that everything they had been told was true and that the four boys had taken a risk confiding in their new friends. It was obvious to Kai that Stevie was having difficulties with what was happening. He pulled Stevie aside and asked him to join Kai in the studio. When they reached the studio, Kai brought Stevie into his office and relayed his history with Damon. “I know what you’re feeling,” Kai had said. “It’s a little overwhelming.” Stevie laughed. “It’s very overwhelming,” he countered. “Agreed.” Kai smiled. “Look, I understand if you’re freaked out by all this and we’ll understand if you don’t want to be involved.” “I don’t think I have a choice there,” Stevie lamented. “Maybe that’s what’s bothering me the most. Dave’s gonna do this whether I want to or not. Even if it wasn’t the whole paranormal thing, which is right up his alley, he’s in it for the hacking challenge and I’m sure he’s getting all excited about the paranormal or whatever-it-is stuff. I just don’t know where I fit in.” “That’s easy,” Kai said quietly. “You ‘fit in’ as their friend. That’s really all the guys are looking for, people they can trust. Sure they’re interested in Dave’s computer skills, but if they hadn’t liked and trusted you they never would have revealed any of this to you. Look, I know how you’re feeling--kinda like the odd man out?” Stevie nodded. “I’ve felt that way for the last nine years,” Kai laughed. Stevie looked at him quizzically. “But, you’re their dad,” he objected. “Right, but all this stuff with the powers, that comes from Damon’s family,” Kai explained. “I was there when Damon had his powers and when he lost them, but I freaked when we found out the twins had powers. That’s why I started teaching them music: it was something we could do together and it helped them learn concentration and discipline. You have things to offer. You’re a fantastic musician, you enjoy the outdoors and riding, so I know Benji and Oliver will want you to join them at the barn.” “How do we explain Dave and me suddenly coming out here all the time?” “It’s not a big deal. If anyone was to ask, tell them the truth: you met us when Dave and you came out and we became friends,” Kai suggested. “You can also tell them you’re coming here to work with your mentor.” “Mentor?” Stevie asked looking at Kai. Kai nodded. “Before the boys even mentioned letting you and Dave in on the family secrets, I had already decided that I wanted you to come and do an internship with me. You have a great deal of talent and I’d love to work with you to nurture it and get you set up.” “You’d do that for me?” Stevie asked sincerely. Kai grinned. “Of course; I’d be an idiot not to. This industry is tough and I’ve seen too many talented people get eaten up and spit out. When I started, what helped me was having a mentor, someone who guided me through the mine field and got me safely to the other side. I made a promise to myself that if I ever became successful that I would help out the next generation. Honestly, you’re the first person I’ve come across with the talent and the drive to make it. I’ve met plenty of people with some level of talent, but they don’t want to work to get anywhere, they want it handed to them; and I’ve met those who have all the drive and determination, but unfortunately, not enough talent.” “Oh, wow,” Stevie stammered. “I don’t know what to say. I mean, I know you’ve seen some of what I can do, but…” “It’s not just about what you can do, it’s about you as a person,” Kai explained. “The determination you’ve shown in your life and your relationship with Dave. You both come from backgrounds where you could have easily given up, but you fought and worked to move past the troubles and make a life for yourselves. That tells me what kind of person you are and what kind of drive you have.” Kai had been true to his word. He had Stevie working in the studio almost every day after his classes. In just a month, Stevie felt as if he had learned more than in his first year in college. Some days he would jam with the twins and Oliver, but most days he simply acted as Kai’s intern. He figured as an intern he would simply fetch coffee and answer phones, but instead Kai involved him in production meetings, recording sessions and anything else that went on in the studio. He loved everything about working with Kai in the studio, but his favorite times were spent playing, whether by himself or with the other boys. Benji and Alex had always ‘jammed,’ as they called their improvisational sessions, and Stevie liked the freedom and the fun of it, but he was also directing them more towards developing their own style by re-working established songs and putting their own spin on them. He was thrilled to find out that all three boys had the same eclectic taste in music that he had. They would play for hours moving from classic country to current pop to jazz and everything in between. Once the initial shock had worn off, he started to realize that the twins and Oliver were simply normal boys with a little something extra. He was still a little unnerved when one of the twins called him telepathically or moved something without touching it, but he was getting better. He was more relaxed with Oliver as his gifts worked with animals and Stevie loved watching him with the horses when he would go to the ranch with Benji and Oliver. They had managed to get Alex, Dyson and Dave out a few times so they would be prepared for the Columbus Day weekend trip, but most visits were just the three horsemen. Stevie turned his focus back to the task at hand. He was working on some new arrangements to try with the twins and Oliver when they got home from school. Tonight was their last ‘jam session’ for the week as they would be leaving tomorrow afternoon for their long weekend trip. *** Dyson sat in the back of the classroom listening to the teacher drone on about the Civil War. Even after a month, he was still not used to being in a classroom. He understood the need for him to be there--Kai and Damon would have a hard time explaining a sixteen year-old who wasn’t in school--but having already earned a Bachelor’s Degree it was beyond boring to be in high school classes. This was his least favorite class, not just because the teacher was at least ten years past retirement age and dry as dust, but it was also the only period he and Alex did not share a class. He and Dave had spent a few hours on Labor Day creating his new identity as ‘Dyson Martin’. They had covered all the bases, deceased parents, medical and school records, identification, etc. When Kai had brought Dyson to school that first day, they had requested that he be placed in Alex’s classes. Dyson chuckled to himself at Alex’s hurt expression when Dyson told Dave to make the grades on his transcripts ‘average’ so he would be placed in the right classes. “I’m not stupid, you know,” Alex had pouted. “No, you’re just lazy,” Benji laughed. Ms. Briggs, the guidance counselor, had been able to get Dyson in all of Alex’s classes except for the final period of the day. Alex’s American History class was full, so she put Dyson in a different one. At least when Alex was around, Dyson had someone to ‘talk’ to. Since Alex wasn’t one for paying attention in class anyways, the two spent most of their classes deep in telepathic conversation. As he and Alex became closer, the telepathic connection between them was becoming stronger. Dyson’s training made him more attuned to Alex’s, and Benji’s powers, but his emotional connection to Alex created a bond between the two. He had been trained by his father how to guard his thoughts and Alex was more than a little shocked when he found Dyson was capable of shutting him out. Dyson laughed at the memory. It was the first night after Dyson had started classes and he was going through the motions of completing his homework. He was sitting at the kitchen table with Alex and they were both working on some geometry problems. Dyson had sensed Alex trying to read him. “Hey!” Alex exclaimed. “How did you do that?” he asked when he sensed Dyson’s mind shut him out. Dyson looked up and grinned. “My father trained me to sense a telepath reading me and how to defend myself. So no cheating.” Alex glared at Dyson. “What’s the point of having a boyfriend who graduated college if he’s not willing to help me out?” “I’m more than willing to ‘help’ you, Alex, I’m just not gonna do your homework for you,” Dyson replied as he went back to his work. After a moment, Dyson looked back up. “What do you mean ‘boyfriend’?” he asked. Alex looked at him and grinned. “Well, you are, aren’t you?” Dyson blinked. “I-I-I hadn’t really thought about it,” he stammered. Alex walked around the Dyson’s chair and placed his hands on his shoulder. “Calm down, Dice, I’m not proposing marriage or anything,” he said quietly as he rubbed Dyson’s shoulders. “I like you and I thought you liked me.” “I do,” Dyson said reaching back and placing his hand on Alex’s. “But this is all new to me; I’ve been kind of sheltered.” Alex leaned down on kissed Dyson gently on the cheek. Dyson turned towards Alex and their lips met. “I know,” Alex said quietly when they broke the kiss. “I haven’t been sheltered, but I’ve never called anyone my boyfriend, or girlfriend, before.” He kneeled down next to Dyson’s chair still holding his hand. “Dice, I’m not a virgin--not by any stretch of the imagination, you know that; but what I feel for you is so different from anything I’ve ever felt. I know it’s only been a few days, but I feel like you’re the one I’ve been waiting for. I don’t want to rush you into anything. We can go as slow as you want. This isn’t about sex or a conquest for me.” Dyson looked deeply into Alex’s warm brown eyes. Even without Alex’s gifts, he could sense Alex’s sincerity. “I’m not ready for anything physical, but I would be happy to be your ‘boyfriend’.” Alex’s eyes widened as he grinned. “How did you do that?” “We’re connected. The same way that Benji and Oliver are or that your dads were.” “Cool.” Alex leaned in and kissed Dyson passionately. Dyson discretely reached down to adjust himself as the memory of Alex was making him hard. Alex had been true to his word and had never tried to pressure Dyson into going further than he felt comfortable. They hadn’t done much more than kissing and jacking each other off. Dyson had pretty much moved into Alex’s room with no objection from Damon or Kai. Dyson was surprised that he was looking forward to the camping trip this weekend. He had gone riding at the ranch a few times and had enjoyed it, so he was looking forward to some fun days riding in the hills and along the beach. But, more than that, he was looking forward to the nights when he and Alex would be sharing a tent. He knew he felt the same pull to Alex that Alex had felt towards him and he was ready to take the next step in their relationship. *** Oliver lay in bed as another wave of nausea passed over him. He hated missing school, or more to the point, he hated not seeing Benji. The two had been practically inseparable since they had met. This was the first school day they had not seen each other. He heard footsteps coming up the stairs and quickly closed his eyes and made his breathing as even as possible. He heard someone enter the room and caught a whiff of his mother’s floral perfume. He fought the bile that started its way from his stomach. He felt his mother’s cool hand touch his forehead. “Tsk, tsk. Poor baby,” she said as she placed a cool cloth on his forehead. He heard her place something on the nightstand and then she left the room quietly closing the door. He opened his eyes and looked over to the nightstand where she had left a glass of ginger ale for him. He shook his head. The change in his mother since Benji had ‘cured’ her depression and alcoholism had been dramatic to say the least. Oliver had gone from feeling like an orphan to being smothered with love and attention. “She’s driving me around the bloody bend,” he had lamented to Benji a week after she had been ‘cured’. They were in Benji’s truck driving to the ranch. “Have you ever heard the old saying, ‘Be careful what you wish for’?” Benji asked sympathetically. “I know and I’m thrilled that she’s not depressed and not drinking and being a mom again--well, actually more than she’s ever been--but she’s gone from one extreme to the other. Some days I feel like she’s not even going to let me out of her sight,” Oliver sighed. “She’s started talking about driving me to school. I explained that it’s no trouble for you to pick me up and drop me off, but she’s insisting.” “She’s probably just overcompensating. If she’s finally seeing things clearly, she’s probably got some guilt going about not being there for you for so long.” “I’ve talked to her and father about that,” Oliver replied. “I told her I love her and I’m just happy that she’s better now. I’m just happy to have a mum, I don’t need a ‘Supermum’.” “How did she react when you and your dad told her about your powers last night?” Oliver shrugged. “She took it quite well. I know your dads talking to mine sure helped. He’s done some family research, but it’s been quite fruitless so far. Mum was more interested in your powers than mine. We explained what you had done to her and that it wasn’t intentional.” “Was she mad?” “No, quite the opposite, she was in tears,” Oliver answered. “She wanted to call you right away to thank you, but I told her she could talk to you in person when you dropped me off. She said she should have suspected something since she felt so great all of the sudden, but she was just happy to be free of the black cloud.” “I’m just glad she’s not pissed at me.” “No, I think she wants to adopt you,” Oliver quipped. “Too late,” Benji laughed. He reached over and took Oliver’s hand. “She’ll just have to settle for ‘son-in-law’.” “She’s cool with that.” “Good, cuz I’m not letting you go,” Benji replied as he raised Oliver’s hand to his lips and kissed it. “You know, there are all sorts of committees and clubs at school that are always looking for parent volunteers, maybe we could aim your mom at a couple of those.” “It’s worth a try,” Oliver sighed. Oliver shook his head and sipped his ginger ale. They had suggested a couple of committees to his mother and she had joined them, but it didn’t take up as much of her time as he would have liked. He prayed that his illness was just a 24-hour flu and he was alright in the morning, because he needed to get away on their trip this weekend. Already his mother had made him stay home most nights this week to offset his being away for three nights. The first week, he and Benji had been together at Benji’s house, but when his mother started getting clingy they had taken to alternating. Neither of his parents minded if Benji stayed over. He had talked to his father, who knew that at their age, if the two were going to be sexually active there was nothing he could do to stop it. Oliver assured him that he and Benji were taking things slowly and neither one was in any hurry to jump into sex. *** Charlie sat on the ten meter board and looked down at the calm water in the pool. Practice had been over for almost an hour and he was enjoying the quiet and the solitude. He had endured stares and glares from Hunter and his friends for the last month, but none of them had said anything to the coach. They didn’t have to, the coach was aware that something was up with Charlie. He didn’t know what was happening to him or why he could do these things now, but he found himself trying desperately to keep his newfound abilities a secret. In doing so, he was forcing himself to swim slower and he was messing up his racing times as well as his diving. When the coach had asked him if anything was wrong, he made up some story about family issues distracting him. The coach looked at him sympathetically, but Charlie knew his sympathy was only going to last until the first meet of the season which was the first weekend in November. He and Kris had spent several late nights and early mornings at the pool trying to figure out how these new abilities worked. Last night they had tried again. “How long was I under that time?” Charlie asked once he caught his breath. “A little under a minute,” Kris replied. He was seated on the edge of the pool, his feet dangling in the water. “Nothing ‘clicked’, huh?” Charlie shook his head as he bobbed on the surface. “Nothing. Other than the time you tried to drown me and when I was hiding from Hunter, nothing’s happened.” Kris grinned and slipped into the pool. He slowly swam towards Charlie. “Well, I could dunk you again,” he offered with a laugh. Charlie shook his head. “Don’t you dare!” he ordered. “Last time I almost shot you out of the pool.” Kris stopped, his feet kicking to keep him floating. He was inches from Charlie. “Don’t worry,” he said reassuringly. “We’ll figure something out.” He reached out and grabbed Charlie’s forearm and pulled the smaller boy to him. He wrapped his arms around Charlie’s waist and kissed him deeply. Both boys closed their eyes as they enjoyed the kiss. Charlie moved his hand behind Kris’s head and pulled him closer. “Ow!” Kris cried breaking the kiss. He felt the back of his neck. “Did you scratch me?” “Oh, shit!” Charlie exclaimed looking at his hands. “It’s back.” His hands were again webbed and his fingers and nails were considerable longer than they usually were. Kris moved his arms to give Charlie some space. “See what you can do,” he suggested. “Charlie did a shallow jackknife and headed to the bottom of the pool. When he flipped, Kris noticed that his feet were webbed and longer than before as well. Kris swam over to the side of pool and pulled himself out. He watched as Charlie stood at the bottom of the pool. “Can you hear me?” he asked in a normal voice. He grinned as he saw Charlie give him a thumbs up. “How about see me?” Charlie gave him two thumbs up. “Cool. See if you can make the length of the pool without coming up.” Charlie walked across the bottom of the pool until he reached the wall and then he took off for the other end. Kris timed him on his phone. He was shocked when Charlie touched back at the wall he had started at. “Shit, Charlie, you did 100 meters in under fifteen seconds,” he said excitedly. “I wonder how fast you’d be if you went straight out with no walls. We need to get to a lake or the ocean and see what you can do.” He saw Charlie hold up his index finger and watched stunned as Charlie rose to the surface being pushed by a column of water. The column stopped rising when Charlie was completely out of the water and then it slid across the surface of the pool until Charlie could step onto the pool deck. Once Charlie was standing next to a shocked Kris, the column returned to its liquid form. “How did…what was…what the…” Kris stammered. Charlie grinned. “I don’t know. It’s like something ‘unlocked’ inside of me. I don’t understand how, but somehow I can control the water.” “Control?” “Yah, watch this.” Charlie closed his eyes and concentrated. When he opened them, Kris saw that again his eyes were completely black. Kris watched slack-jawed as the water in the pool began ripple. To Kris, it looked like the wind blowing across a lake. The ripples became bigger and bigger until small waves were washing over the boys’ feet as they stood. “How are you doing this?” “I can’t explain it,” Charlie said. “It’s like I suddenly understood what I could do. I just think about it and it happens.” He took Kris’s hand in his and led him to the edge of the deck. “Watch.” Charlie held his empty hand over the water. Kris noticed that Charlie’s hand was normal again. He watched mesmerized as the water grew still at their feet. Charlie tugged at Kris’s hand. “C’mon,” he said with a grin. Kris stepped forward, but instead of plunging into the pool like he expected, he found himself standing on the water. He couldn’t describe the feeling. It was cool, wet and solid, but not frozen like ice. Suddenly they started to move. The spot they stood on moved silently over the top of the pool until they were on the other side. Kris almost jumped onto the deck. Charlie was smiling as he followed his roommate. “Neat, huh?” Kris nodded nervously. Charlie stood up on the diving platform and watched the water below. Kris had barely spoken to him since. Physically, he was there, but emotionally he was pulling away. Charlie figured Kris must be scared of him now that Charlie had embraced these new abilities. He and Kris had become so close over the past weeks. Tomorrow, they were supposed to go camping for the long weekend with Dylan and Jesse. He hoped that Kris was still planning to go and that he would come to realize that Charlie was the same as he always was. *** Dave sat in the room in the playhouse that he and Dyson had procured for their computer setup. They had jokingly named it ‘The Cave’, as it was a room with no windows and both tended to keep it relatively dark when they were working. As much as he loved the give and take of ideas that often flowed between Dyson and him when they worked together, he relished the times when he was able to work by himself. He often found himself slipping into the ‘zone’ as Stevie called it. When he was in the ‘zone’ time the outside world ceased to exist. He could sit at his computer and work on a problem for hours without realizing that even a moment had passed. He looked at the small clock in the corner of his computer screen and realized he had done it again. He had been working on breaking into the records of a large adoption agency for almost three hours. It had been almost a week since he had been able to work alone like this. The last time he had been shaken from his trance by Damon’s arrival into the ‘cave’. “Sorry, Dave,” Damon said apologetically. “I didn’t realize you were in here. I was looking for the boys.” “No, problem,” Dave replied. “I think I’m the only one around here. Dyson drove into the city to look for a few things we needed in here and I think Alex went with him; and Benji and Oliver were heading out to the ranch, so of course, Stevie tagged along with them.” “Ok,” Damon said. “Just as long as I know where they are. I tend to get a little anxious these days.” Dave nodded. “I can understand that. It must all be a little overwhelming.” “I keep thinking I should be the most adjusted to all this, since I grew up with it,” Damon lamented. “And I was, until it went beyond my sons. Now the gravity of the whole thing is always weighing on me.” “Well, there is safety in numbers,” Dave offered. “On the positive side, you and Kai know that Benji and Alex aren’t alone anymore.” “I do try to think of it that way, but I still worry--a father’s prerogative I guess,” Damon shrugged. “Anyways, how is your work coming in here? Any luck finding the other boys?” Dave shook his head. “I think that Dyson thought this would be simpler than it is.” “How so?” “Well, he figured we’d be hacking into adoption records and looking for boys who were adopted and have the same birthdate as Alex, Benji and Oliver.” “No luck with that?” “We’ve had some luck in finding boys with that birthday who are adopted, but we keep ruling them out for one reason or another,” Dave replied. “I think we need to broaden the search. After all, not every adoption is legal, plus there are circumstances where a family member may take an orphaned child in and not consider him ‘adopted’.” “I never thought of that and I’ll bet Dyson didn’t either.” “The whole thing with adoption is guesswork anyways,” Dave stated. “I’ve been going through all the historical records that Dyson transcribed to disc and there is nothing in them about it. It only speaks of ‘The Chosen’ being five individuals who will be brought together and gain ‘great power’. We’re all assuming because the twins and Oliver were all adopted that the other two are adopted as well. It’s an educated guess, but it’s still a guess.” “So how are we going to find them?” “Well, I’m still mainly working on adoption agencies and hospital records, but I’ve also got some keyword searches going on in the background.” “Searches for what?” “Incidents that can’t be explained--paranormal activity, that sort of thing.” “Are you searching news outlets?” Dave laughed and nodded. “I am, but I’m also searching a lot of more ‘fringe’ type blogs and webpages. Of course, 99% of what they post is B.S., but I still slog through as much as I can.” “Wow, I didn’t realize you were doing that much work on this. I hope it’s not interfering with your schoolwork or your personal life.” “Not really. All this hacking and research is good practice for me and it’s fun. As far as personal life, it’s actually never been better. Since Stevie is here almost as much as I am, we’re together now more than we were before when we were only seeing each other at night and in passing.” “What about your job at the computer store?” “Oh, I quit,” Dave stated. “It was never a money thing for me, since I have a full scholarship and the apartment is paid for by Stevie’s ‘grandfather’; I was working for the experience and this is far better experience than I was getting there.” “I just don’t want you guys to feel like we’re taking advantage of you,” Damon said. “Advantage?!” Dave shook his head emphatically. “Damon, neither of us has been this happy in a long time. You guys have treated us like family. We’re doing things we love. I’ve never seen Stevie so excited, between his work with Kai and getting to spend time at the ranch. For the longest time, we’ve both felt like it was us against the world; before that we were both alone and now we feel like we have a family.” Dave smiled at the memory. ‘Family’ wasn’t a word that brought positive feelings for him until now. He was shaken out of his reverie by a flash on one of the computer screens. He turned to the screen and read the blog that had popped up. “Mysterious Fire Destroys Prep School Classroom,” the headline read. Dave skimmed the story. It was yet another story about an ‘unexplained’ incident, this time a fire. There were no signs of arson and investigators could not find a direct cause. He put the link in a ‘favorites’ folder marked ‘Maybe’ to follow-up on later. *** Alex swerved between cars on his motorcycle. He had dropped Dyson at home after school and was on his way to the mall to run a few errands for his dads. He grinned to himself when he thought about how great the last few weeks had been. Finding Dyson was like finding a missing piece of himself. He knew that Benji was feeling the same way about Oliver which made him even happier. He had at least had a social life, but Benji had always been more of a loner until he met Oliver. A few days earlier he had been riding on the trail with Oliver, while Benji had stayed behind to help Dyson. “I have to thank you, Oliver,” Alex said. “For what?” Oliver asked, surprised by Alex’s serious tone. Alex grinned. “For making my baby brother so happy these last few weeks.” Oliver relaxed and laughed. “Well, I wouldn’t let him hear you call him your ‘baby brother’, but you don’t have to thank me. I’m thankful every day that I found him.” “He is my baby brother,” Alex replied. “He may only be a few minutes younger and a lot more mature than I am, but I’ve always felt I had to protect him.” “From what?” “I don’t know; from himself, I guess.” “I don’t follow.” “Benji’s always been the sensitive one, the quiet one,” Alex offered. “Well, not always I guess--when we were little we were probably both holy terrors; but I was the leader most of the time. After we discovered our powers he changed.” “How so?” “He became more introverted. In a way, I think the first powers we got reflected our personalities or even amplified them,” Alex explained. “My powers were more physical--the telekinesis: I could move things, throw things, and I was always loud and outgoing. The telepathy made B more introverted. He could talk to me and our dads, but he had to keep it a secret from everyone else. Plus, I know it was hard for him to block people out. I never realized just how hard until my telepathy kicked in. I’m sixteen and I’ve had to struggle to block out the noise; he was seven and even though he had my dad to help him, he still found it easier to hide in himself than to be around a lot of people.” “I guess I never thought of that,” Oliver said. “Benji’s always seemed so happy and open to me.” “That’s what I mean when I say ‘thanks’,” Alex said. “He’s able to be himself with you. You’re really the first person outside of the family who’s seen him like that and because of the effect you’ve had on him, he’s been able to open up with Stevie and Dave and people at school. I’ve had more than a few friends ask me about him and the way he’s changed.” “Well, if I was able to help him, then I’m glad,” Oliver said. “He’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me and what he did for my mother has been so great for her and my family.” “You love him, don’t you?” Alex asked. Oliver blushed. “Isn’t it obvious?” Alex nodded and grinned. “A person doesn’t have to be a mind reader to see it.” “What about Dyson?” “Do I love him?” Alex thought for a moment. “I think so. I’ve never felt for anyone what I feel when I’m around him. I told Benji he makes me feel like a virgin.” “Don’t you think in a way you are?” “Huh?” “Benji told me about your ‘social life’,” Oliver replied. “But, he also said he thought that most of that was recreational not romantic.” “He’s right.” “So for the first time you have met someone you have feelings for, you are listening to your heart and not your cock. You’re going through the same thing as Benji and I are.” The blaring horn from a sports car stopped behind him shook Alex from his thoughts. He revved his bike and zipped down the street. Oliver had been right: everything about his relationship with Dyson was new to him. He wasn’t pursuing a conquest or looking for sex. He realized he was putting Dyson’s feelings and needs ahead of his own. *** Benji turned his truck down the ranch driveway. He sighed audibly. This was the first time he had come here alone since he had met Oliver. Before Oliver, he would have relished being alone with Arya and spending a long afternoon on the trails. Now he was almost melancholy. He pulled into his usual spot next to the barn and cut the engine. He thought back to the other day when he had been trying to work with Dyson on his riding. Dyson rode around the pen on a palomino quarter horse named Buzz. Buzz was a good beginner horse who had been there and seen that. “Dice, loosen your wrists and unlock your elbows,” Benji instructed from the center of the round pen. “Let your wrists move with his head, don’t pull the reins so tight. Keep your heels down and that will make your butt stick to the saddle. Grip with your thighs. Use your weight to turn him, not the reins, they’re not handlebars.” Dyson brought the gelding to stop in front of Benji. “This is fun for you?” he asked. Benji laughed. “Yes, it’s a lot of fun,” he answered. “You just need to relax. Riding is a partnership between you and the horse. You’re communicating with him through your legs, your seat and your hands.” “I thought you used these things to turn him,” Dyson said holding the reins up. “That’s what most people think,” Benji explained. “And it’s what most people do, but they do it too hard. It’s easier to turn him using your weight. In Buzz’s case, he neck reins, so if you gently lay the reins on his neck in the direction you want to go, he’ll turn. In your case, you’re using them like a lot of new riders do: you’re using them to balance yourself.” “No, I’m not,” Dyson argued. Benji grinned. “Yes, you are. Here, hop down and I’ll show you.” Dyson dismounted and handed the reins to Benji. Benji took them and mounted. “Stand in the middle and just watch me,” Benji instructed as he moved Buzz into a walk around the pen. “You’re doing this.” He raised his hands with the reins and moved them all over in lots of directions. “This makes you think you are balanced and confuses the horse. In all honesty, you don’t even need the reins.” He looped the reins around the saddle horn and squeezed his calves to move the horse into a canter. Dyson watched as horse and rider cantered around the pen. Benji was relaxed and his body moved with the horse. He never touched the reins or the saddle horn as he rode. After a few laps, Benji picked up the reins and brought the horse to a stop. “I hope I don’t have to do that,” Dyson said shaking his head. Benji slipped off the horse and grinned. “No, I was just trying to show you that you don’t need the reins. In some disciplines you would actually need them--like in dressage, you make sure the horse is on the bit, so you need your hands and the reins; but for this horse and the way we’re riding, you really don’t.” “I don’t think I’ll ever get this.” “Sure you will,” Benji replied. “You’re doing better after just a few times than Alex did. I’ve been dragging him out here for years and he still is pretty much a novice.” “He doesn’t like it?” Benji shrugged. “I think for the longest time he just came out to keep me company. Most of the time I was fine by myself, but he would worry about me being alone and feel guilty and then come out here with me.” “I can’t imagine Alex feeling guilty,” Dyson said. “I don’t know if ‘guilty’ is the right word. I would just pick up feelings from him. He would always be worried about me and think he had to take care of me,” Benji explained. “It was him being the ‘big brother’.” “You would read him?” Benji shook his head. “Not on purpose, but when I first found my powers, it was hard to turn off, especially when it came to Alex. Not only is he my twin, so we’re connected that way, but he’s so outgoing he almost radiates his feelings. That was one of the hardest things to control. Learning to block out the noise was hard, but feelings and emotions are harder to block out.” “So Alex was your protector?” Dyson asked. “You know Alex, he’s such an extrovert, he can’t imagine anyone choosing to be by themselves. He would think I was hiding from the world and maybe sometimes I was. The peace and quiet out here was something I yearned for, especially after spending eight hours at school blocking everything out. Most days he’d let me come alone, cuz he had lacrosse or soccer practice or something with friends, but then I’d get that vibe from him, that he was feeling like he was neglecting me and he’d volunteer to come with me.” “What about his ‘dates’?” Dyson queried. Benji grinned and shook his head. “Nope. I’m not telling tales on my brother.” Dyson laughed. “Don’t worry; he’s been quite honest with me about his past activities. I was just curious what your take was.” Benji nodded. “Like I said, he’s always been very outgoing, always been the center of attention. I don’t think it’s something he tries for, it just happens. He has a strong personality. I think at first the sex thing was a challenge, like most boys our age.” “But not you?” Benji shook his head. “Not me. But for Alex, I’ve always thought a big part of it was him trying to find a connection. There was never an emotional component to it, at least as far as I could tell. At least until you came along.” Dyson shrugged. “What’s the matter?” Benji asked quietly. “Are you afraid that it’s not real?” “No, I know it’s real. I guess I’m just a little nervous,” Dyson answered. “I never even thought about a relationship until I met Alex. I mean, I knew I was gay, but I never thought about it, I was too busy working with my father and studying. I guess this is just one area that I feel completely inadequate.” “Why? Because A’s a walking hormone?” Benji chuckled. Dyson grinned. “In a way. He’s so experienced and I’m decidedly not. He’s been great about taking things slow, but I get this feeling that I won’t measure up.” Benji put his hand on Dyson’s shoulder. “Dice, just the fact that Alex wasn’t trying to jump you on day one should tell you something. I can tell you, honestly, Alex loves you. I don’t know if he even realizes how much at this point, but like I said, I am keyed into his emotions and I can feel it coming off him in waves. Remember, the relationship thing is new for him, too.” “I know you’re right,” Dyson shrugged. “I just have to trust in it I guess.” “That you do,” Benji said as he handed Dyson Buzz’s reins. “Now get back up there. We only have a few days before the camping trip.” Benji jumped when someone tapped on his truck window. He turned to see Dale standing there smiling at him. *** Kris sat on a bale of hay in the corner of the barn. He had just finished a lesson with Jesse and it hadn’t gone well. “Kris, where is your head at today?” Jesse sighed as Kris came to a stop in front of him. “You’re too tense. He’s not on the bit; when you were cantering you were on the wrong lead twice, your circles were more like ovals and you’re rushing through your pirouettes.” Kris was riding Samson, one of two black Arabians that had been donated to the school a few days after Kris arrived. Samson and Sabre, his half-brother, were both dressage trained, so Jesse had asked Kris to work with them, since he was the only student Jesse had with the appropriate training. “I’m sorry, Jess,” Kris said as he dismounted. “I’m just too distracted right now.” “What’s up?” “It’s…” Kris hesitated as he too off his helmet and gloves. “Charlie?” Kris nodded. “Did you guys have a fight?” “No, nothing like that,” Kris shrugged. “It probably would have been easier if we had, then I would know how to act.” “It can’t be that bad,” Jesse assured him. “Can you talk about it?” “Uhh..something happened,” Kris said hesitantly. “Nothing that was Charlie’s fault. It just caught me by surprise and I think I probably reacted wrong.” “Did you say something you shouldn’t have?” “No, actually, I didn’t say anything at all.” “And you haven’t talked about it since?” Kris shook his head. “No, it was last night and we haven’t had a chance to talk about it.” “You’re afraid you hurt his feelings?” “I’m not sure what I’m afraid of,” Kris answered. “I don’t want to hurt him or for him to think I don’t care. It’s just complicated.” “Maybe it’s not.” Jesse grinned. “Maybe you’re just making it more complicated than it needs to be.” Kris shook his head glumly and turned to re-mount Samson. Jesse reached up and placed his hand on Kris’s shoulder and turned him back around. “Look, Kris, I know we’ve only known each other for a few weeks, but I know you’re a good guy with a good heart,” Jesse said sincerely. “Charlie, I’ve known longer and I’ve never known him to hold a grudge or be angry. I also know that he really likes you and I kinda think you feel the same way.” Kris nodded shyly. “I do.” “Then just talk to him, be honest about what you’re feeling. That’s the only thing that can help any relationship.” “But, what if…” Jesse shook his head. “No. Don’t start the ‘what if’ game. Your mind can create a million different outcomes and none of them will be right. You can sit here and think up every negative possibility and I can counter with a positive one. Until you talk to him, neither of us will know.” Kris leaned back against the barn wall. He knew Jesse was right, Charlie was the sweetest person he had ever met and he would never hold a grudge, but it killed him to think that he might have scared or hurt Charlie with his reaction at the pool last night. He closed his eyes and tried to push the negative thoughts out of his head. Everything had been going so well since he came to Lancaster and Charlie was the best of it all. He sighed and inhaled deeply. A sharp smell hit his nose. He sat up and his eyes snapped open. He inhaled deeply a second time. He knew it; he was smelling smoke and it was close. He stood up and walked quickly down the aisle between the stalls. He looked all over for any signs of smoke or fire. The farther along he went the stronger the smell got. When he reached Sabre’s and Samson’s stalls the two geldings were loud and moving about nervously. Then he saw the smoke coming out from under the door of the feed room next to the two new horses’ stalls. “Shit! Fire! Fire!” he called, hoping that someone else was around. He ran to open Samson’s stall. He slipped a halter on the black and led him out of the barn and put him in the nearest paddock. He pulled out his cell phone and called 911. When he returned to get Sabre he saw that one wall of gelding’s stall was burning. The terrified horse was standing on the other side of the stall. “Sabre, it’s ok,” Kris said as calmly as he could. He saw the flames going up the wall and saw the panic in the horse’s eyes. Not thinking of his own safety, Kris grabbed a halter and pulled open the stall door. “Shh, that’s a good boy,” he cooed as he approached the horse. “It’s gonna be fine.” He calmly stroked the horse’s neck and spoke softly to him. He slipped the halter on the horse and tried to lead him out of the stall. Sabre reared at the sight of the flames and pulled away from Kris. Kris stripped off his shirt and slowly approached the horse again. He took hold of the halter and draped his shirt over Sabre’s eyes. He slowly led the horse across the stall. They were almost to the stall door when the shirt slipped and the horse bolted pushing Kris against the burning wall. Unable to stop himself, Kris braced for the searing heat. Instead, when his body hit the wall, he felt only gentle warmth. The flames licked his bare back and arms, but he felt no pain. Kris felt a pull as the flames engulfed him. His breeches and chaps were smoldering. His mind whirled as he realized his skin was not burning. He stepped away from the wall and like metal shavings to a magnet, the flames followed him until the only thing alight was Kris. Suddenly he knew what he could do. He concentrated on the flames and watched as they slowly extinguished themselves. He stood in the smoky and blackened stall, his flesh red from the heat of the flames. Patches of his breeches and chaps were charred and burned through. He held his hands out in front of himself and closed his eyes. He concentrated and when he opened his eyes there were flames dancing in the palms of his hands. “What the hell is happening to me?” he thought.
  • Create New...

Important Information

Our Privacy Policy can be found here. We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue..