For tonight’s big dinner, the table had been rearranged in a way that was entirely different than it had been in the past.JP sat at the head of the table as usual, but Mother and Frank had moved down to his left side, while Stef, Claire, Jack, Mike, Beverly, and I grouped at that end.At the other end, where Mother usually sat, Marie took her place, with the younger crowd arranged around her.Mike’s two sons were both handsome guys, but even though Chris looked more like me, and thus vanity should have me say he was more handsome, it was Colin who was truly exceptional.Then again, wearing his uniform certainly helped him look even more impressive. “I think Marie is enjoying being in charge at that end of the table,” I said to Claire.
“I think it would be more appropriate to say she is challenged by it,” Claire said with a smile, as Marie dealt with being the only female in this group of rowdy males.
“Ryan is sitting on her right side, like Frank does for Mother,” I said, trying to bug her.
“Then she must like him,” Claire said, refusing to let me bait her.
“Not surprised,” Jack grumbled.“He’s at our house most of the damn time.”
“You sound just like JP did when he found out the two of you were having sex,” I teased.
“Indeed,” Claire said, giving Jack a frosty look.“You don’t give John a bad time about his various peccadillos.”
“You should talk to JP about that,” I joked. He frowned at us but got the message.
“You have such a beautiful home,” Beverly said to Mother, evidently crediting her with having the traditional female role of being in charge of the house.She was an interesting lady, having clearly absorbed that role in her own home while maintaining a remarkably open mind.
“Thank you, but I am just one of many people who are involved in making it look so nice,” she replied with a smile.“I would advise you to enjoy it as it is now, because Stefan is a decorating whirlwind, and things rarely stay the same.”
“Change can be a good thing,” Stef replied.“It keeps things from getting old and musty.”
“It also ensures there are multiple handsome workmen around all the time,” she replied, making everyone laugh.The staff brought out food, then left, and I was just about to start eating when I noticed some movement at the entrance to the dining room.I smiled, thinking that maybe it would be Jake, that he’d decided to come back early, so when I saw that it was Darius, I had to paste the smile on to hide my disappointment.But by the time I stood up to greet Darius, having him here had erased my thoughts of Jake being gone.
“This is my oldest son, Darius,” I said, introducing him.
“I’m sorry I’m late,” Darius said to Grand, before greeting everyone else.Chris gave Will a knowing look, although I’m not sure what that was about.
“That is quite alright.I am just glad you could make it,” Grand said.
Darius then turned his attention to me and gave me a big hug.“Good to see you Dad.One of the drivers wanted to talk to you,” he said, gesturing toward the door.
“Now?” I asked, shocked.
“No, tomorrow,” he said sarcastically.Will jumped in to greet his brother, and to start introducing him to everyone, so I walked out of the dining room toward the entry hall.When I got there, I found Jake waiting for me.
“Hey,” he said nervously.I was so happy to see him, I wrapped my arms around him and kissed him, feeling myself merging with him in both a physical and spiritual way.He finally broke off our kiss, then playfully grabbed my erection, reminding me that I’d need to calm down before I went back into the dining room.“You seem glad to see me.”
“I am very glad to see you,” I said.“Thanks for making it back.”
“Sometimes I have problems with prioritizing things,” he said sadly.“I’m sorry that I left.”
“Yeah, well I’ve been accused of doing that a few times too,” I said, making him chuckle.“We can talk about our various flaws later.Right now, you have to meet my brother and his wife.”
“What are they like?” he asked.
“They’re nice people,” I said.“You’ll like his wife.His sons are both handsome, especially Chris, who looks a lot like Will.”
“And you,” he said, noting the similarities between Will and me.I led him into the room with my right hand on his right side, just enough physical intimacy to show that we were together.Our arrival stopped the conversation in the room, but fortunately people were still standing up from greeting Darius, so we didn’t interrupt dinner that much longer.
“This is Jake Pike,” I said.
Will was first to greet him and gave him a warm hug.“So you wised up and came back,” he said.
“I was always wise,” Jake said, to which Will raised his eyebrow in a challenging way.“I’m just not always fast.”
“Good,” Will said, with a sexy leer, getting an eyeroll from Jake.I introduced Jake to Mike and his family, then walked over to thank the staff members who had put chairs and place settings at the table for Darius and Jake while we were greeting them.They were remarkably efficient, doing that in an unobtrusive way so that no one really noticed them doing it.
Everyone sat down again and started to eat, with general conversation flowing around the table.“It looks like Marie lost her place,” I said to Claire, since Darius was now in Mother’s usual chair.
“It was a strategic move on her part, since now she can sit closer to Ryan,” Claire replied, even though that was directed more at Jack.
“She gets any closer she’ll be sitting on his lap,” Jack said.
“Hard to blame her,” Jake said, which was true.Dinner continued, but it was almost like there were two separate parties happening at the same table.There was some effort at general conversation, but it largely failed, so we just went with it.The younger group was much rowdier than we were, especially after we’d all had a few drinks.Colin and Darius seemed to spend a lot of time talking, probably revolving around their mutual interest in the navy.
“How do you like living in Hawaii?” I asked Beverly.
“I like it, but I liked San Diego better,” she said.“I feel almost disconnected from things.”
“I can see that,” I said as I thought about it.“I’m usually there for short periods of time, so I haven’t had to deal with that.”
“Surfing is better in Hawaii though,” she said.I had to work not to act shocked.
“You’re a surfer?” I asked.
“Colin and I are the surfers in the family,” she said.
“I spend enough time on the water,” Mike joked.“Chris is more focused on other things.”He gestured toward the other end of the table where Chris had zeroed in on Marie.It amazed me that Ryan didn’t seem bothered by it.
“Yes, he is,” I said, and smirked at Claire.
“Your daughter is beautiful and charming,” Beverly said, trying to be helpful.
“I agree.She is both of those things, and brilliant as well,” I said.
“It is a shame she doesn’t get as noticed for her brains as much as for her looks,” Jack said.I wondered if that was a backhanded dig at Claire, since she had largely influenced Marie in her fashion aptitudes.
Something in the conversation at the other end of the table must have sparked Ryan to take action, because he suddenly leaned over toward Marie and kissed her in what wasn’t passionate but was very romantic.That got rowdy hoots from the other guys, and at that point they all seemed to realize that all of us were paying attention.Ryan and Marie both blushed so hard they were almost bright red, while Will, Darius, Chris, John, and Colin just started laughing hysterically.
There was an uncomfortable silence, which John broke by doing an absolutely hilarious imitation of his mother.“Ryan, perhaps you could join us for dinner on Tuesday, and we can inquire about your intentions toward our daughter.”I was laughing so hard at that my sides hurt, as was everyone else, including Claire.
“I think that’s a wonderful idea,” Claire finally said, and focused on Ryan.
“Thanks,” Ryan said.“I’d love to.”Marie gave John a dirty look, but Ryan didn’t seem bothered by the invitation at all.Like Jack said, he was probably used to being around there.
“It is unfortunate that we will miss that interesting exchange,” Mother said, putting Claire on the spot.
“Then you can all join us,” Claire said gallantly, grappling with the fact that she’d inadvertently been maneuvered into hosting a large dinner party in two days.
“That sounds like fun!” I said enthusiastically, just to bug her.
“Bradley, don’t you have other plans?” she asked.
“No, I’m wide open.Wouldn’t miss it for the world,” I said, enjoying our banter, which reminded me of when we’d been teenagers.
Dinner ended up being a lot of fun, but when it ended, people largely scattered in their own directions.Claire and Jack opted to go home, while Mother, Frank, JP, and Stefan vanished to other parts of the house.There was intense discussion amongst the younger crowd about their plans, but I ignored them.My input would make no difference to them anyway.I got myself, Jake, Mike, and Beverly after dinner drinks then led them out to the gazebo.We sat there enjoying the cool October evening, staring at the sparkling lights of the Bay Area.
“Can you see San Francisco from here?” Beverly asked.
“Unfortunately not,” I said, “but if you’d like to visit the City, we have a condo up there with spectacular views.”
“We’ll have to see what the boys want to do,” Mike said, and I remembered that he had primarily set this up so he’d have a chance to touch base with Colin about life at Annapolis, and so Chris could get to know us.“You certainly enjoyed putting your sister on the spot.”
I chuckled at that.“We’ve been tight for as long as we’ve both been alive, but it’s fun to tease her once in a while,” I explained.“And it was too good of an opportunity to pass up giving Jack a bad time about Ryan, since I was there backing him up when he was in Ryan’s place facing JP.”
“JP would be an imposing father to tangle with,” Beverly observed.That made me laugh again.
“He is, and he was.We certainly had our share of battles,” I agreed.“I was kind of surprised that Ryan kissed Marie at dinner.He’s not usually one to draw attention to himself.”
“It was probably a defensive reaction, at least in part, to the attention Chris paid to Marie,” Mike said.“He was staking his claim, letting Chris know that Marie was off limits.”
“You make it sound like they’re animals in the jungle,” Beverly said, clearly annoyed.
“I would submit that with teenagers, that analogy is probably only too true,” I said.
“Chris won’t cross that line now,” Mike said with surety.“He’s had some run-ins with other guys, and he knows the drill now.”
“I’m glad,” I said.“It would be unpleasant for him and Ryan to be at each other’s throats with both of them living here.”
“And that’s another reason for him to behave,” Mike said.“If not, Ryan will explain it to him again.”In other words, there wasn’t much we could do in this situation other than to act as outside arbiters of justice, assuming such a role was required.
“I am so glad I’m getting a chance to meet you,” Beverly said to me earnestly.“I was excited to learn about you, only to discover that Alex had opted to have a blood feud with you.”
“I’m willing to let that all go, as long as she’s pulled in her claws,” I said, more to Mike than Beverly.
“I have put up with Mike’s twisted family for some time now, and I’m not willing to countenance the schemes she’s developed and implemented,” Beverly said firmly.“So if she isn’t done, she is going to be dead to us.To all of us.”She was angry, and that anger was clearly directed at Mike.
“I am hoping she understands that,” Mike said.
“Maybe I should talk to her and make sure that she does,” Beverly snapped.
“Well the last time you did that, it created a rift in the family that is still there today,” Mike observed coldly.“My mother demands at least respect.”
“That is something that is earned, and she has yet to show me she deserves any respect at all,” Beverly said.“So you can couch it however you want.I put up with your nutcase uncle and his fire-breathing Christianity, and I put up with your New-Age aunt who practically has granola falling out of her head, but I’m done putting up with your psychotic mother. Next time she strays from the straight and narrow, she is out of my life, and if you want to go with her, you will be too.”That tirade had ended at a relatively high volume.
“You’ve made your position quite clear,” Mike said coldly.
Beverly just glared at him as she stood up.We all stood up when she did.“I’ll see you gentlemen in the morning.”She turned on her heel and walked back to the house, leaving the three of us staring after her.When she made it back to the house, we collectively but silently decided to sit down again.
“I’m sorry about that,” Mike said.
“It’s not a problem,” I said soothingly.
“I’ve been around here long enough to know that was relatively mild compared to how some family discussions can go,” Jake added.
“My mother has kept me in the middle of her various battles,” Mike said.“I was almost worried this would happen, while at the same time I was hoping it would.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.Sometimes Mike could be annoyingly cryptic.
“It was easier for Beverly to put aside her anger at my mother when you and your family were merely names without faces, but now that she’s met you, and now that she evidently likes you, she’s not willing to do that,” Mike said.
“Well I’m glad that she likes us.The feeling is mutual,” I replied.
“Beverly’s confrontations with my mother over the past few years have escalated to the point where I keep them separated to the degree possible,” Mike said.“And when my mother was leeching money from me for her expenses, that only made things worse.”
“I can imagine,” I agreed.
“Beverly’s attitude was that my mother’s own idiocy had driven her into bankruptcy, and that was her problem, not ours,” Mike said.“But she is my mother, so I couldn’t be quite so cavalier about this.”
“I had a similar ethical argument with JP over his half-brother, Brian, whom you probably remember,” I said, feeling my anger with that whole situation return all over again.
“I remember him only too clearly,” Mike said with dread.
“JP argued that since Brian was a member of the family, we were obligated to help him out when he was in dire need.My position was that Brian had tried to harm other family members, and by doing that he had forfeited his place among us.As a result, any help JP gave him was a betrayal of the rest of us.”
“I can see both sides of that coin,” Mike said.
“On a philosophical level, perhaps, but in a real-world situation, with my partner, my business, and more importantly my sons on the line, JP’s argument falls apart completely.He gave Brian a loan to help him move away, but Brian used that money to help launch a pretty broad plan to bring me down, and even had people stalking Will.If you had someone chasing after Chris or Colin, would it be that clear-cut?” I asked.
“It would not,” Mike said, “but in this situation, I wouldn’t have to worry about that, because to the degree that she can, my mother loves those boys.”
“What if it were Beverly she was after?” I asked him.I wasn’t quite sure what he was thinking, but I could sense that my question had troubled him deeply.
“That would change the equation,” Mike said, then stood up.“If you don’t mind, I think I’ll turn in.”
“Our schedules are flexible,” I said.“We’ll walk with you.”Once we got to the Entry Hall, he went down one corridor, while Jake and I went the other way to my room.
“That was a little intense,” Jake said.
“It was,” I agreed.“I think he’s had quite the burden to bear, dealing with his mother, with me, and with his wife.I didn’t really know about that until now.”
“Should be an interesting weekend,” he said.
We got to my room, went in, and locked the door.“Thank you for being here.”
He smiled at me, then looked a little sad.“I’m sorry I didn’t stay in the first place.”
“No,” I said, and put my finger on his lips to stop him from talking. “No guilt.You made me really happy.I just want to enjoy you being here.”Then I kissed him, and then I made love to him.
October 10, 2003
We were all at a party at Lindsay Rhimer’s house, and evidently it was the first house party she had ever thrown.Lindsay was cute but not hot, smart but not brilliant, and nice with a little bitchiness tossed in.She was basically pretty normal.She wasn’t a big socialite, so she’d probably been roped into hosting this thing by her friends because her parents were away on business in Argentina.She spent most of her time walking around and trying to keep people from trashing the place, which they weren’t doing, at least not yet.I walked out into the back yard, then strolled off the deck to a wooded area, enjoying the solitude.I took out my one hitter and took a few tokes, hoping that would put me in the party mood, but it just wasn’t working.I saw someone else walk out onto the deck and stand there, staring off into space.I put away my dugout and walked back to the deck and saw that it was Colin.
“Hey,” I said.
“Hey there,” he said, smiling at me.“What are you doing out here?”
“Went down there and smoked a little weed,” I said.
“I used to smoke a lot of pot, but I can’t do that anymore,” he said sadly.
“Sucks to be you,” I joked.“I liked you better in your uniform.”He was wearing jeans and an Abercrombie polo, which was pretty much the norm for these parties.Even then, he seemed older and more mature than the other people here.I guess having graduated and gone to the Naval Academy for a few months had already made him different, or maybe he was like that before.
“Yeah, well that would have looked pretty lame here,” he said.
“You look bored,” I said.
“No...” he started to argue, then stopped and smiled at me again.“Maybe a little.It’s been a long day.”
“Come on,” I said.“Let’s go back.”
“You don’t have to go,” he objected, not wanting to kill the party for me.
“It’s good.I’m done with this,” I said.We went back inside where Chris was working Lindsay’s friend, which was pretty funny because he’d been playing on Marti earlier.I saw Darius talking to this chick who had graduated a year ago, the same one he’d talked to at Cam’s house.“I’m taking Colin home.See you later,” I said crisply.
“I’ll let them know,” he said simply, referring to John, Marie, Ryan, and Chris.I led Colin out of the house and let out a sigh of relief.
“Got out of there,” I joked.
“Dude, that was too easy,” he said, shaking his head.“Shit, usually takes me an hour to leave a party.”
“That’s just one of the reasons why it’s so cool to have Darius around,” I said.“He’s not into excess conversation unless he’s trying to fuck someone.”
“Sounds like Chris,” Colin said.They’d taken the limo up here, while I’d driven my car.I guess I subconsciously knew I wouldn’t get totally ripped tonight.Chris had ridden with me, because he loved my Ferrari, while Colin had been in the limo with the others. We walked up to the car and it chirped when I hit the fob.“This car is the shit.”
“What do you drive?” I asked.
“I’ve got a Range Rover,” he said.“It’s at home though.”
“An SUV?” I asked. I got in and fired up the Ferrari, then maneuvered out of the Rhimer’s driveway.
“Yeah, mostly to haul my surfboard.”
“Holy shit!You surf?” I asked.
“Fuck yeah,” he said.“Haven’t done it in a while though.Maryland isn’t the ideal destination for waves.”
“I guess not,” I said.“Wanna go surfing this weekend?”
“With you?” he asked in a condescending way.
“Dude, I will rip you up out there,” I said with bravado.
“Let’s see if I can escape from my parents long enough to do that,” he said.I got to Interstate-280 and went north instead of south.“Where are you going?”
“You’ll see,” I said.We bullshitted about the various places we’d surfed while I headed north toward the City, but I only went as far as Hillsborough.I pulled off at the rest area where Father Serra’s statue sat there like the big symbol of native exploitation that he was, then hopped out.“Gotta pee.”
“I’ll wait here,” he said.I went in and urinated, ignoring the creepy people who were there, and went out to find him standing outside the car.
“Here,” I said, tossing him the keys.“You can drive home.”
He looked at the keys, then at me, and smiled again.He had the most adorable smile; it looked innocent with just a hint of evil and was magnified by dimples that were subtle.“Kick ass!”
He fired up the car and followed my directions, heading north to the next exit, then reversing course and heading south.“You look like your mother,” I said, probably because I was high.
“Yeah, I look like my mother and have more of my father’s personality, while Chris looks like my father but is more like my mother,” he said.“Those two are pretty strong willed.They’ve had some hellatious fights in the past.”
“I look like my father and I’m a lot like him too, and our fights have been epic,” I said.“You don’t fight with your parents?”
“Not very often,” he said.“I’m into having a routine, and with there being order in my life, which is probably why I’m so comfortable in the navy.”
I pondered his words.“I’m organized, but I’m not big on having a lot of rules.I usually react pretty violently when people try to control me,” I said.If any member of my family were to hear me say that, they would laugh their ass off at that understatement.
“Then you’d hate the navy,” he joked.
“Maybe,” I said.“Besides, there’s still that whole gay thing, and I’ve been ‘telling’ for so long there’s no way to stuff that Genie back in the bottle.”
He shrugged.“Things are changing.I don’t think it will be all that long before that policy is gone.”
“Dude, I hope so, but I think I’ll end up following a different path,” I said.
“Where you going to college?” he asked.“You are going to college, right?”
“You met Grand.You think there’s any way I can skip college?” I asked.
“Guess not, unless your grades suck.Even then...” he mused.
“I’m vying with Marie for the top ranking in our class, and I’ve pretty much got a guarantee from Harvard they’ll let me in next fall,” I said.“That’s not a problem.”I knew I was bragging a bit, but for some reason it was important to me that he know that I wasn’t stupid.
“Dude, that’s impressive,” he said.We got off the freeway and he focused on driving.He didn’t say anything else until we drove through the gates to Escorial.“Thank you so much!This car is fucking incredible.”
“Glad you like it,” I said.“My father likes Porsches, and they’re cool, but I’ve always liked Ferraris better.Guess that could change.”
We got out of the car and he walked toward the stables.“What’s that?”
“We’ve got horses here, if you like to ride,” I said.
“Been awhile since I’ve done that, but it’s fun,” he said.
“Come on,” I said, dragging him into the stables.“I want you to meet someone.”
“Who?” he asked curiously.I grabbed a couple of carrots and led him down to Psyche’s stall.
“This is Psyche,” I said.She stamped and bucked when she saw me, which was really cute.She acted just like a puppy sometimes.The trainer had worked wonders with her, and I tried to find time to ride her at least every other day.We were doing really well together.I told Colin how I’d acquired her while I fed her the carrots, then led him out to the gazebo.
“These views are kick ass,” he said.
“You should figure out what you want to do this weekend,” I said.“If you want to surf, we have a house in Santa Cruz right on the beach.We also have a condo up in the City, if you want to hang out up there.Or there’s stuff to do here.We’ve got the horses, some ATVs, a pool, a gym...”
“Wow,” he said. “I’ll have to talk to my parents about that.”
I was standing next to him, and it seemed like he was moving a little closer to me, enough that I could feel his warmth.“I’m up for whatever,” I said, with just a hint of a double-entendre in my words.
“You’re full of surprises,” he said, even as he kept staring at the blinking lights.“I wasn’t really expecting to meet someone who was so interesting.”
“Thanks,” I said.“I wasn’t expecting to meet someone who was as hot as you are.”I was blatantly flirting, but I figured that since he knew I was gay, he’d blow it off.
“Right,” he said skeptically.I was starting to piece together the puzzle that was this guy.He seemed honest and honorable, the kind of guy who wouldn’t break the rules, but he was also shy and a little insecure, and completely clueless about how gorgeous he was.
“Seriously?” I challenged.“Don’t you ever look in the mirror?Dude, I was in New York two weekends ago at the spring fashion week, and there were shitloads of hot guys there. Not one of them can hold a candle to you.”
“Now I know you’re full of shit,” he said, but grinned shyly.
“Some of them might be a little more sculpted,” I said, and used that as an excuse to grab his biceps.He made them bulge for me, which was adorable.“And might have bigger chests,” I said, and ran my hands across his pecs.I smiled inwardly at how he moaned a little when my fingers grazed across his nipples.“They might even have washboard abs,” I said, letting my hand slowly move down to his abdomen.“But they don’t have your brains, and your personality.”
He got this almost panicked expression on his face, and the next thing I knew, his lips were on mine.He had tight lips, ones that made kissing amazing, to the point that I felt myself completely absorbed by him.His hands moved down to my waist, pulling me closer, so I could feel our hard cocks smashing against each other.I wrapped my hands around his neck, pulling our mouths together, urging him on.I opened my mouth and probed his with my tongue, and it was like I unleashed a fire in him.He began moving against me, and I got into his rhythm, as we frotted against each other, fully clothed.
His breathing got more intense and he let out a loud moan, almost shouting it down my throat, and it was only after he did that I realized that he was having an orgasm.I let him set the pace until he was finished, then he let his hands drop from my waist and our embrace ended.“Don’t tell, OK?” he asked, in a playfully paranoid way.
“There’s a price for my silence,” I said.“Let me show you what it is.” I led him back to my room, taking the back way, and unlike most of the other residents here, I locked my door behind us.