“Glad to hear it,” Ashlee purred, “I didn’t distract you too much did I?”
“Sure, I nearly sliced my thumb off on the mower,” Clem joked. Ashlee, of course, panicked, and the big farm hand calmed him down with the phone cradled against his ear.
He’d been given the middle of the day to drive to Austin and back to have his lunch date, but to compensate Clem had bolted his dinner and gone back out to the fields for an extra couple of hours. They’d cut the whole of the long field, and the three square ones Old Man Riley always called quilting patches, and the long grass had been left to sit and dry in the cool night air. Clem had stopped every three rows to check the equipment and the huge side mounted mowing blade was cutting just as it should have, throwing the grass up against the ridged cover to break the stems and let the moisture out. He was happy enough to drive back to the big shed, and pleased that his modifications had worked well, and the mower was no longer skipping four foot sections of grass for no apparent reason. Tomorrow, they’d turn the hay over, bring it in the following day, and then the off-season would start.
Mid-fall always brought a slacking off in the jobs required on the farm, and apart from general maintenance, all three of the hands had time to spare. Cruz would be going home to visit with his family in Albuquerque for a month or so, and Malik would probably pick-up his tools once more and spend most of his time in the little garage-barn he rented from Riley, fixing cars and doing small mechanical repairs for his friends. Clem had spent most of his off time the previous year split between fixing what seemed like every squeaky porch step and front door in town, and riding out with Nathan. Now he was looking forwards to having more free time to spend in the city.
“So are you going to show me around Austin or what? I bet you know all the coolest places.”
“Well, that is my job,” Ashlee replied. When Clem grunted down the phone, he heard the young man sigh, and Clem could tell he was rolling his eyes. “That’s my other job? I run the @OutInAustin twitter feed for the web-magazine. Going to all the hot hangouts is actually in my job description.”
“Well aren’t you full of surprises?” Clem rumbled happily, settling himself back against the pillows. “So, we’ve had two dates now.”
“I know,” Ashlee sounded like he knew exactly what Clem was thinking. “You should pick this time.”
“Uh-huh,” Ashlee’s voice dropped half an octave, and Clem followed that note of huskiness all the way down to his crotch. “So what is there do to out in the sticks?”
“Are you in bed?” The big farm hand couldn’t help but ask. When he heard Ashlee’s meagre weight flop down onto something soft, he knew the answer. “What’s your room like?”
“I have a studio apartment; it’s all one room.” Ashlee’s voice drifted as his lips turned away from the cell. When he returned, it was as though he was breathing in Clem’s ear. “I have a set of shelves and a hanging wardrobe to help break it up; and there’s like, a curtain to separate my bed off from the main room. High ceilings though… What’s your place like? You didn’t show me.”
Clem could tell Ashlee was pouting, just as he had when he’d asked to see the inside of the barn where Clem lived. The farm hand had refused for much the same reason he’d not accompanied Ashlee into his house on their first date: Clem knew there’d be no stopping him once he got the young man alone and in private – there had barely been anything stopping him out in the open hay field by the truck. But Clem had the sneaking suspicion that as much as Ashlee seemed to enjoy teasing him, he was also relishing the wait. Clem had enough dating experience to know how things usually went: meet, drink, dance, hook up, have excellent sex once or twice, and usually call it quits. Even if first dates didn’t follow the standard pattern, he was fairly certain sleeping with someone the first time you met them was not something that would ultimately lead to long term happiness. And even after only two ‘real’ dates, Clem knew Ashlee was special. He wanted the young man in his life for as long as possible.
“It’s nice, rustic.”
“I suppose you’ve got the world’s most enormous bed?” Ashlee purred softly.
“It’s pretty big,” Clem swept his arm out over the empty space beside him. Even though for three years, Nathan had slept there on and off, Clem couldn’t imagine the other man there. Nathan had never rolled over to hug him, pull Clem to his big chest and kiss his hair sleepily: Clem had always woken to see the big cowboy’s back. Now, with the texture of Ashlee breathing gently in his ear, Clem could only imagine the confident young man all supple and boneless, snuggled into the mattress and the thick duvet. “Strong and sturdy, everything in here is.”
“Like you,” Ashlee giggled, “I suppose it has to be.”
“Hey!” Clem wished he could have poked the young man and tickle his ribs for his cheek, “I can be delicate too y’know.”
“Oh, I’ll bet,” Ashlee’s voice dropped again, and Clem shivered with desire at his tone, “an’ I ain’t as fragile as all that.”
“That so?” Clem gulped, “So you lyin’ here with me in the dark wishin’, or what?”
“Mmm hmmm…” Ashlee hummed. “It’s a bit cold in this bed all alone.”
“I can warm ya up.” Clem ran his hand down the flat planes of his chest to the thickening bulge in his jeans, and snapped open the buttons of his fly, and Ashlee heard him.
“And just what have you got on under there, Sugar?”
Clem closed his eyes, blocking out the reality of the distance between them, and focused on Ashlee’s soft voice and the heat of his flesh under his hands.
“Oh, but a gentleman never tells.”
Ashlee moaned gently, and Clem shivered, imagining the young man in his own bed, touching himself just like Clem was.
“Good job I’m not a gentleman then, ain’t it, Sugar?” Ashlee sounded like he was walking his fingers down the front of whatever he was wearing; there was a soft rustle and a sigh, “I wish you were here.”
“It’s such a waste of skimpy panties if you’re not here to see ‘em.” Clem made a strangled noise that caused Ashlee to laugh a little. “I’ll buy new underwear for our date if you tell me where we’re going…” Ashlee’s promise faded off into a soft moan and Clem knew he was touching himself through the thin fabric of his underwear. In his head, the farm hand remembered the picture Ashlee had sent, remembered the heat and hard silkiness of him when Clem had touched him in the truck, and he groaned as he bit his lip: sometimes there was nothing quite like being teased. “I saw these really pretty ones in a store, red lace and white polka dots… ungh.” Ashlee’s voice was right in his ear, and Clem felt all the blood draining from his head to his crotch. “They got this big satin bow on the back…”
“You wanna see?”
“Ughh…” Clem could barely draw breath at the image his brain presented him with, and he could happily get lost imagining Ashlee’s pert behind in the panties he described.
“Where do you wanna go?”
Ashlee’s giggle was equally breathless.
“What is there do to out in the sticks in October?”
“Rodeo,” Clem panted the first thing that came into his head. Though he’d always gone with or to see Nathan, it had only been by default, because everyone went to the local rodeo: it was just what you did.
“Done,” Ashlee moaned. The high pitched noise was enough to let Clem know he was really missing out on something happening all the way back in Austin. “You still wanna be a gentleman, Sugar?”
Clem took a deep steading breath, and moved his fingers away from the aching length of his cock. He knew there was no way he’d be sleeping without making very good friends with his right hand first, but he wanted to be truthful when he smiled at Ashlee down the phone.
“You’re worth waitin’ for.”
“Hey, baby,” Madison set Clem’s sweet tea down in front of him and smiled happily, “we ain’t seen you in a while. Where’ve you been?”
Clem shrugged slightly and apologised for his absence.
“You don’t you worry about it sweetie.” Madison’s bright smile faltered, “I heard you and Nathan Cole broke up, I’m sorry Clem.”
“It’s OK, I’m not,” Clem replied.
“Ain’t there no way to fix it? I always though the two of you were good together.”
“Not without one of us pretending to be a completely different person, no.” Madison looked shocked at his words, “I’m well shot of him Madi; really. I have better things in my life to care about now.”
“Well is that so?” Madison scribbled down his order before he’d even asked for it, and Clem knew he’d get a cheeseburger with fries and extra salad. “Better things or better people, might I ask?”
“You’re such a gossip Madison!” Clem laughed at her, and his favourite waitress pouted.
“I’ll buy you lunch if you tell me?” She twirled a strand of hair around one finger, but the gesture didn’t really work on Clem like it did on the other boys she flirted with. Either way, Clem grinned back.
“How about I’ll buy you a burger and a drink too, and you can take your break and sit with me so I don’t feel so lonely sitting in this place by myself?”
“An’ maybe I’ll talk about who I met…”
Ten minutes later Madison whipped off her apron and slid her skirted behind onto the vinyl bench seat opposite him, placing the two plates of food between them. She fluffed her hair, straightened her blouse and regarded him critically.
“I might’ve known you had someone new; you cut your hair.”
Clem ran his fingers through the newly shorn dark blond fuzz which was much less messier than it had been before the barber had looked at him critically, and then gotten out his scissors and comb. Clem had just asked for a short back and sides, but he’d been given a pinch of some hair wax or other that smelt a bit like saddle soap, and the barber had styled it for him in a manner Clem knew he would never do himself. For one thing, it wouldn’t fit under a hat. He smiled ruefully.
“It was getting a little long.”
“I dunno, I kinda like a guy with long hair,” Madison admitted.
Clem glanced around furtively, and smiled happily.
“Yeah, me too.”
“Oh my god!” Madison’s voice dropped to an excited whisper, “tell me everything! What’s his name?”
Madison was the most rapt audience Clem had ever known, and it struck him as he talked that there had never been anyone in his life who he’d been able to chat with about the men he fancied. But Madison was happy to listen, and Clem found her to be surprisingly insightful.
“You love him then?”
“Yes, I mean, I don’t know,” Clem frowned, “it’s too quick to fall in love with someone ain’t it?”
“Not necessarily,” Madison had finished her burger, and sat sipping on her coke as she twirled another strand of hair around one finger, “my mom always said she knew my pop was the one on their very first date. He took her bowling and asked her for a kiss on the front porch.” She smiled happily, “I think it’s romantic if you love him already. You think he loves you?”
“I don’t know. I’ve not told him though.”
“You should,” she replied firmly, “seriously Clem; what’s the point in waitin’?”
“Umm…” Clem stared at his empty plate, remembering the way Ashlee had set about demolishing his French toast and bacon stack as though he had a grudge against it. Whether or not the beautiful man was trying to prove a point was sort of moot, because he’d shown he could put away his food just as fast as Clem did, and didn’t feel the need to stand on ceremony. Clem thought of him like a truffle-covered toffee, because Ashlee seemed soft and malleable on the surface, but the more Clem looked, the more he realised underneath the sugar and lace, the young man was hard as steel. It had been a long time since Clem had told anyone he loved them, apart from Penny and Dime, and already he couldn’t imagine what it would be like not to have Ashlee in his life like a big bright starburst.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen you scared of somethin’ before baby,” Madison got up and swept together their plates, “this Ashlee must be some kind of wonderful to have you this tied up.”
“An’ when do I get to meet him?”
“I invited him to the rodeo on Saturday,” Clem couldn’t help his excited tone, “are you goin’?”
“Well I am now!” Madison bumped his shoulder with her hip, “but I gotta find someone to take me… my fall-back date got a new boyfriend!”
“See ya, Clem!”
She swished away between the tables, and Clem laid down enough paper to cover the cost of their food and a tip, even though Madison’s meal would technically be free: there was no way she would eat another meal in the same shift, because she was only slightly wider in the hips than Ashlee and probably didn’t weigh much more either.
Clem left the diner with a nod through the hatch to the fry cooks, and stepped out into the bright fall sunlight beside his truck. It sat behind a little Japanese eco-car, and for the smallest moment, Clem was annoyed: seeing his truck next to Nathan’s had always made him happy, because they sort of matched in the same way he and Nathan had sort of matched. But a Chevy and Ford were very different underneath their bodywork, and Clem shook his head softly as he walked past the foreign import and climbed into his truck. Getting pissed off by an eco-car was the sort of thing Nathan would have done, and Clem resolved to live and let live; after all, it wasn’t like anyone was trying to force him to buy one. He thought of Ashlee’s cute little cornflower blue Beetle, and how pleased the young man had been to pull Clem against the little car, both of them tucked into the space between the Volkswagen and the Ford truck, and kiss him like there was nobody around to watch.
Two minutes later as Clem headed home, his phone vibrated in his pocket.
Ashlee: so what does one wear to a rodeo?
“Will I do?”
Clem gulped, and then blinked a couple of times to clear his vision; it didn’t work, because according to his vision, Ashlee was standing in front of him looking drop dead gorgeous and Clem had no idea how he was going to keep his hands off his date long enough to climb into the truck, let alone get to and watch the rodeo. It didn’t help that before leaving Austin, Ashlee had sent him another picture, and Clem’s imagination was good enough to let him visualise the perfectly sculpted mounds of Ashlee’s heart-shaped arse, framed by his new red lace edged white polka dot panties, and tantalisingly obscured by the hem of his skirt and the long thick ribbons of the satin bow. Ashlee twirled for him again, and Clem took in the V-necked chunky knit navy sweater, with the thin bottle green t-shirt underneath; the A-line blue denim skirt that fell to mid-thigh with the stud buttons, patch pockets and side pleats; the long length of his black clad legs, though Clem didn’t know if they were tights or leggings; and the tall, brown Western boots with the chunky heel that finished off the outfit beautifully. Ashlee smiled at him as he brushed invisible dust off his skirt front, and Clem found himself mesmerized by a combination of the young man’s glossy pink lips and his glowing honey-toffee eyes.
“Will I do?” he asked again.
“Yeah…” Clem fought to find his voice, “you look amazing, Ashlee.”
“Thanks, Sugar,” Ashlee stepped up with a self-confident smile and Clem realised his date knew exactly what effect he was having on the big ranch hand. “You wanna drive?”
Ashlee placed his hand over Clem’s heart and stood on tiptoes to whisper against his lips.
“Can you drive? Or am I too distracting?”
“You have no idea how hard it is to be me right now,” Clem muttered.
Ashlee grinned again, and his hand slipped from heart to crotch, and he squeezed gently. Clem moaned.
“Oh, I think I might. C’mon big guy.”
Clem followed him around the truck, partly to be polite, partly to have the excuse to touch Ashlee as he helped him into his seat, and partly because, for at least those few heartbeats, Clem couldn’t have looked away from the young man even if the world had been ending. As Ashlee swung onto the bench seat the material of his skirt rode up a few inches to show a slice of smooth olive skinned flesh, and Clem stared.
“Well,” Ashlee beamed, and kissed him finally, “it is our third date. Don’t look so worried, Sugar; I ain’t gonna leave you lonely tonight.”