Drake laughed at Jimmy’s exuberant exclamation over the impressive kitchen when he turned on the overhead lights above the massive island. His laughter stopped once it registered his brother was sitting in the back corner of the breakfast alcove. What the hell was he doing sitting there in the dark?
Jimmy was too busy checking out the inside of the huge refrigerator to notice at first. He stood up straight and turned around, once he heard the clearing of Preston’s throat.
The tension rose immediately as the two men glared at one another. Drake’s first instinct was to forego eating, but the earlier strength he’d found served him once more. It helped that Jimmy turned back to the fridge, essentially ignoring the man.
“Dot was right… there’s a lot of good stuff in here. What do you feel like, babe?”
“Them. It appears”—he pointed to a pan on the island, covered with a dish towel—“Carla made bread, because those are rolls she always makes at the same time. They’re awesome, heated up and buttered. My mouth is watering already.”
“I’m convinced. I don’t want anything too rich before we hit the sack, so they sound perfect.”
“Me neither, and they are.” Drake pulled off the towel and sighed happily. Carla made the best rolls. “You want a couple?”
“Yeah, two should be about right. What can I do?”
“Not a thing,” he answered as he put four on a plate and took them over to the microwave. He squirmed when Jimmy came up behind him and kissed his neck. It was a little unsettling how easily they fell into their roles.
The sound of a chair sliding across the black granite floor was followed by an uttered, “Oh, for God’s sake.” They had struck a nerve with Preston, and Drake had no doubt it was intentional on Jimmy’s part.
“Problem?” Drake asked as he turned around.
“Look, you got your way with Mom, but there’s no need to flaunt that stuff.”
Jimmy made a noise similar to a dog’s low, menacing growl. “That stuff? You mean my affection for your brother?”
Drake was about to tell him to go fuck himself when Jimmy spoke again.
“Do you not show any affection to your wife, Preston?”
“Of course I do, but that’s different.”
“You’re really messed up, aren’t you, for a little kiss to get you so riled.” He chuckled as he shook his head in a sign of judgement, pissing the man off even more. Drake was once again impressed, and had to resist the urge to openly smirk.
“You two are the messed up ones,” his brother said in a hiss, keeping his voice low.
Jimmy seemed unperturbed. “How so? We love each other. So what? Why do you care?”
“Because it’s sick to pick sex over having a family… having children as God intended.”
Drake was flabbergasted. “Do you really think that’s what being gay is… sex? Do you honestly believe I have a choice? That God gave me a choice. You’re even stupider than I thought.”
“Richard had one, and he was smart enough to take it.”
His brother had struck the sorest spot he could have, and he knew it. “Fuck you, Preston.”
“Well, look at you, all cocky while your big boyfriend is here. How many does this”—an upward jerk of his head indicated Jimmy as he sneered—“make in the last year?”
“Two. In two years.” Drake was still reeling, but trying not to show it.
“You are way out of line, pal,” Jimmy said while giving Drake a concerned look. “Is Cathy the only woman you’ve slept with in your life?”
“No, of course not,” Preston sputtered, eyeing Jimmy nervously as he took a step toward him.
“I’ll bet you’ve slept with way more people than your brother, but that’s okay because you’re straight, right? And your ridiculous crack about choosing sex over children means you think only straight people should have kids too, am I correct?”
“Kids need a mother and a father.”
“Oh, that’s what they need. I did not know that,” Jimmy said sarcastically. “Stupid, sex-crazed me. I thought they needed love, and support, and acceptance. But, I guess I was wrong. As long as there’s a mommy and a daddy, they can be drug addicts, alcoholics, abusers, or just plain lousy people, and that’s fine. Got it. Thanks for enlightening me.”
“You’re twisting my words.”
“Am I? Who do you think looks after all the kids in the world those straight people fuck up? Just good God-fearing Christians like yourself? How many are you looking after?”
“I have my own to provide for.”
“Provide for? Interesting phrasing from a guy who works for his daddy and drives a Lexus.” Jimmy took another step towards Preston. “Well, that pretty much says it all, doesn’t it? Kids won’t have to be my own for me to love them. See, gay people have as much love to give as anyone else, and don’t ever presume that we chose sex over having a family. That’s just too moronic for words. I haven’t met this Richard guy you just threw in your brother’s face, but I can tell you he didn’t choose not to be gay… not if he’s happy.”
“Richard walked away from that life,” Preston spat out. “And, you have no right to judge me.”
“Did he? Or did he just need some time to figure out who he was? And why can’t I judge you? You judge me when you don’t even know me. You judge your own brother, and you obviously have no idea who he really is.”
“I certainly do. I grew up with him, and you’ve known him for what… a few minutes?”
“God, you are such an ass. I’ve known Drake for a year, and he constantly amazes me. He’s the most solid, responsible, and caring man I have ever met, and we work with each other every day, so I think that qualifies as more than a few minutes.”
“You work together?” His gaze flicked briefly over to Drake and then back. “I thought you were some hotshot accountant in a big firm.”
Drake, already holding his breath as he watched the interaction between the two men, felt his stomach lurch. He’d told Callie about the other Dean’s profession. Shit! He was relieved when Jimmy didn’t miss a beat.
“I do work for a big firm, in the loyalty department, authorizing account modifications, and I do lots of accounting work, but I’m not a CPA. I have a business degree. See, you didn’t even know we work together, and I’ll bet you don’t have a clue what Drake does. Do you know anything about your brother’s life at all, or do you just assume shit?”
Drake finally stepped up beside Jimmy, facing his brother. “What do you have against me? Do you seriously think I chose to be gay? Are you really that naïve… that uninformed?”
He was surprised to see a split second of uncertainty on Preston’s face. “I believe what I believe, and you’re not going to change that.”
“Then we’re done here. All these years and you still haven’t accepted me for me.”
“You’re right… we are done here, and no, I don’t accept your choice of lifestyle.”
“And I no longer give a damn what you think.” Drake turned away and listened to his brother walk down the hall to his annex.
“Good riddance,” Jimmy said, repeating Preston’s earlier words loud enough to be heard by his intended target.
Opening the microwave, Drake gulped air as he lifted up the plate of rolls with hands shaking so much he had to set it back down. He didn’t regret anything he’d said; he’d meant it when he told Preston he didn’t care what he thought, but it still hurt. It hurt a lot.
He felt Jimmy behind him again, close but not touching. “Hey, you okay?”
“It’s maddening, is all.” His eyes filled with tears, but he wiped them away before they fell. He refused to be a crier.
“I know. Did I go too far this time?”
“No, Jimmy. You said all the things I wanted to, but couldn’t. Thank you.”
“You want a hug?”
Drake’s eyes were drawn to the bed as soon as they entered the blue room, and he inwardly groaned. He’d only managed to eat half a dinner roll, and Jimmy hadn’t done much better. “This is going to be a little weird,” slipped out before he could stop it.
“I can sleep on the floor if you want. I don’t mind.”
“What? No, that’s not happening. I’ve slept in beds with friends before… it’s no big deal. You take the bathroom first, okay?”
“No, you go ahead. I can wait.”
“Okay, I won’t be long. Is it too cool in here? There’s a control for the air conditioning if you want to change it.”
“Not for me, unless you want to?”
“No, I prefer it like this.” Feeling awkward, and knowing he sounded it, Drake grabbed what he needed from his suitcase and hurried into the en suite. Closing the door, he took a few deep breaths. What was happening here? As hard as it was to admit, Jimmy was getting to him, the same way he had back when they were dating. Flashes of what they’d done on their third date came to mind, and not for the first time. The man had been perfection... was perfection… except for that one insurmountable thing.
Sighing, he stripped and entered the room-sized shower. Pushing the pre-set, he stepped under the warm water, welcoming its touch. That feather light kiss could still be felt on the back of his neck… so could Jimmy’s embrace. Physically, the remembered sensations affected him, and he surveyed his erection with dismay. He was tempted to take care of it, but instead, willed it away. It had been a long and confusing day.
“How was it?” Jimmy was sitting on the bed when he opened the bathroom door, but stood immediately.
“Huh? Oh, the shower?”
“It was good. I don’t know what it is about a few hours in a car that makes me feel grungy. It made me sleepy, though.” Yup, still awkward. He needed to stop the inane babbling. Wearing only his robe, he headed quickly for the closet.
“Be right back,” was followed by the sound of the bathroom door closing.
It was pretty clear he wasn’t the only one feeling the strangeness of their situation. Things had become different over the course of the evening. He’d kept the man at arm’s length ever since they’d gone their separate ways, as far as a relationship was concerned, but Jimmy made no secret of the fact he hadn’t liked the resolution. It’d taken him a while to accept it, but he had, and now they were going to be sleeping in the same bed. Earlier today, that hadn’t seemed a problem—they were adults after all—but now….
Yes, something had changed, and he needed to fix it. Dressing quickly, he slid under the covers, resolved to dispel this new and uncomfortable vibe. He owed it to Jimmy. The man had been a rock for him, giving him the support he needed to say things long overdue, to both his mother and his brother. The way he’d come to Drake’s defense so fiercely was astonishing. Yeah, he owed him.
When the bathroom door opened, and Jimmy walked out, Drake lost that resolve. He was a beautiful man, and standing there in nothing but his briefs, Drake was hit with the full force of his masculinity. His eyes traveled full length before he focused on the face. “Is that all you’re wearing to bed?” he asked as Jimmy walked towards the other side of the bed.
The question made the man stop. “This is more than I usually wear, and it’s nothing you haven’t seen before. Why, what are you wearing?”
Drake flung the covers aside to show his sleeping pants and tee shirt.
“Oh. You wear all that when you sleep?”
“Not normally, but—”
“Say no more. I don’t have any of those pants, but I’ll put on a shirt.”
“That’s okay. You’re fine.”
“No, it’s not a problem. I’m suddenly feeling under-dressed.” He changed course and came back from the closet wearing a tee shirt and a grin. “Sorry about that.”
Good job of putting the man at ease and changing the vibe. “No, I’m sorry. This should be easy—”
“I get it. It’s been a tough day for you, and it’s understandable this feels weird considering our history. Let’s not worry about it, and call it a night.” He flicked off the lamp on his side and Drake did the same.
There was a good two feet of space between them once he got into bed, but Drake had trouble breathing, never mind sleeping. Where had his previous sleepiness gone? The happenings of the evening hit him more and more as the minutes crawled by. He hadn’t had Callie’s support, like he usually did, but Jimmy had more than made up for it. No doubt about it; he was drawn to him. Sighing, he turned onto his side, away from the man, and burrowed in.
“Are you all right?” Jimmy asked softly.
“Not really”—Drake turned his head slightly back towards him—“I don’t know where I go from here with my family. It’s like lines have finally been drawn. The way Preston feels about me—maybe even Cathy—is completely out in the open now, and I really don’t want the rest of my family to have to choose between us, despite what I said to Mom. Don’t worry, I’ll be fine… just overthinking.”
“Are you regretting anything?”
“No. I don’t think so. I just feel stressed and… almost like I’m panicking, which is stupid. My brain is trying to catch up with what happened, but it’s too tired.”
“I don’t think it’s stupid at all. You have every right to feel traumatized.”
Traumatized? Yeah maybe he was. It was all so overwhelming. Maybe it would have been better to drive down in the morning, just for the wedding itself. Yeah, that was regret. Jimmy certainly didn’t need to hear him voice it, so he stayed quiet.
“Do you want to talk, or do you want me to shut up?”
“Oh, I… no. I’m not sure what to say.”
“You don’t have to say anything, Drake. Just let me know if there’s anything I can do.”
The silence that followed made the pounding of his heart impossible to ignore. It frightened him. “Ah, Jimmy?”
“I’m feeling… I’m kind of freaking out. Would if make things weirder if I asked you to hold me? I mean, would it be complicating our friendship?”
“Not at all. To be honest, it would make me feel better too… to do something… anything that might help. I’ve been thinking too, and what happened downstairs was pretty rough.”
Drake felt the bed shift before Jimmy spoke again.
He did, and Jimmy slid one arm under his head, giving it a perfect resting place. The other arm wrapped around his middle. The contact made him feel calmer immediately—the feeling that his heart was in his mouth lessened—and this time his sigh was a contented one.
“Much. Thanks for today.” He yawned, and smiled when he heard Jimmy do the same.
“Anytime… you know that, right?” Drake nodded, comforted by the feel of warm breath on his neck.
“Yeah, I do.”
A soft knock on the door reached into Drake’s consciousness, waking him from a wonderful place. Jimmy stirred, and his embrace tightened.
“Are you decent? Can I come in?” his mother asked from the other side of the door.
Jimmy sat up suddenly, and Drake laughed at his startled expression. A grin was quickly returned.
“Yes, we’re decent.”
The door opened slowly, and his mother’s head appeared. “I hope I didn’t wake you, but I didn’t want you to come down and find me gone.”
“It’s fine. What time is it?”
“Where are you going?”
“Nowhere yet, but I have a salon appointment for my hair and nails. I thought you might like to have breakfast with me.”
“Quality time, Dot?”
“Exactly,” she answered with a genuine smile. “I don’t want this weekend or any other to go by without spending time with my son.”
“Breakfast sounds good, Mom. What’s on the menu?”
“Omelets, your choice, and seasoned home fries, or is that too heavy?”
“Sounds good to me,” Drake said enthusiastically. He was starving. “Mom makes great Western omelets, Jimmy.”
“Jimmy?” Dot’s brow creased. “Why did you—”
“Oh, yeah, my full name is James Dean Calloway. Drake calls me Jimmy sometimes, same as my family does. Dean sounds more grown up, but if you feed me, I’ll answer to both.”
She laughed. “I’m not as good a cook as Carla, but I can certainly feed you a passable breakfast.”
“Looking forward to it.”
“Thanks, Mom. We’ll be right down.”
“No rush, boys. Take your time.” Her gaze went from one to the other before she pulled the door closed.
Drake smacked his head with his palm once they were alone, sinking back down onto the bed. “I’m such an idiot.”
“No you’re not. It gave me the perfect opportunity to lay the groundwork.”
Drake moved his hands away from his face. “What the heck are you talking about? Groundwork for what?”
“For when your parents meet my parents.”
“I repeat… what are you talking about? I’m confused. Why would that ever happen?”
“Well, after you propose to me, they’re going to have to meet if we want them at the wedding.” The crooked grin was followed by laughter. “You should see your face… boyfriend.”
“Don’t do that to me. I just woke up. I got to hand it to you, though. You’re damned accomplished at this. It’s a little scary,” he said with mock fear.
“Hey, all I did was tell the truth.”
“I call you Jimmy all the time.”
“Nope. You called me Dean yesterday, so that means there was no lying on my part. Hey, did you sleep as well as I did?”
“I slept like a rock.”
“Good. Me too.”
The look Jimmy gave him made Drake feel exposed all of a sudden. “We should—”
“Yeah, I really have to pee. Are we showering now or later?”
“Later… you still want to swim, don’t you?”
“Oh, heck yeah. I definitely want a good workout in the pool while we have the chance. Okay… I’ll pee and brush my teeth… take me no time at all.”
“Go ahead. I’ll get dressed first.” They went in different directions, and Drake allowed himself to examine the proposal comment. Why had his heart sped up so ridiculously at what had been obvious teasing? He’d just had his best sleep in recent memory. Was it exhaustion because he’d endured a stressful homecoming, or was it due to being held by Jimmy all night? Did he even want to know?
Thanks for reading, and thanks to my editor, Timothy M.. Please leave a comment if you can. I'd love to know what you thought of this chapter. Cheers... Gary....