I have decided to stop asking for "likes" and "comments". Instead, I want cash. Send me $5 if you like it a little and $20 if you like it a lot. After all most writers measure their literary appeal through cash transactions. Why shouldn't I?
Thanks to Nathan who took time after working a series of ten to fourteen hour days building his house to edit this chapter. You make this a better read, Buddy.
Jeff was reading emails on his iPad when he sensed someone watching him. He looked up to find Paul intently staring at him from the other end of the sofa. “What is it? Do I have food on my face?”. He chuckled nervously. When Paul maintained a steady gaze he softly demanded, “Why are you staring at me”?
“Actually, I like staring at you. It’s become one of my favorite pastimes. I never get tired of looking at you, even with all your clothes on. You’re like one of those heroes in gay fiction I sometimes read about on Nifty. Too handsome, too rich and too good to be true, but here we here.
“I was also sitting here trying to figure out if you're the same man I thought, just a few days ago, might have to partially rely on my earning power to survive. Or were you always this billionaire mover and shaker that inherently understands the nuances of proper gentlemanly dress, demeanor, and manners. A man that can schedule a fleet of private jets on a whim. Are you different? Have you changed? Or have my perceptions changed and somehow that makes you different? I mean, an attorney is usually considered an intelligent individual with excellent earning potential. I've seen your real personality when you deal with Maria, your employees, friends, and relatives. None of those interactions told me ‘this is a man of great wealth’. They just reinforce my opinion that you're a good man. Everything I've seen tells me you’re the kind of man I could build a life with, even if we had to scrape and save for a down payment on a bungalow. I know we can build an equally good life as part of the top one percenters.
“Jeff, I like the way you play with Fugly and the way you listen to Maria like she was the most important person in the world. You’re attentive even when she babbles the same thing about ‘Frozen’ for the umpteenth time. I like the way you treat Sam and Dave more like friends than employees. I like all these things about you. I think it would be easy to say ‘you’re different now’, but the truth is you’re exactly the same. It may sound funny, but it’s like Jimmy Olsen finding out Clark Kent is really Superman and realizing that while he is suddenly ‘Superman’, he’s still the same old ‘Clark’. I’ll admit, I always had a thing for Clark. He was a man I could dream of meeting someday and I definitely could have fallen for him. He had faults I could accept. He was sometimes clumsy and oftentimes clueless. I could never even dream of meeting Superman, much less get and hold his attention. He was too aloof, too perfect. I’m glad I got to fall in love with you as Clark Kent. I probably would never have given Superman a second thought. He would have been totally out of my league.
“I don’t like you more or love you more because you have money. You're the same man I drooled over when I didn't even know you. Now that I do know you, I can't imagine life without you, rich or poor.
"I don’t believe some deity decided you were more worthy and therefore deserved to be born rich while I was found to be less worthy and therefore born poor. Being rich doesn’t make you a better man nor does it make you essentially a bad man. It only gives you a bigger budget and more influence. And having money doesn’t change you any more than it now changes me. It only changes our circumstances.
"It’s true, I didn't like the fact that you're rich. I have long borne a certain resentment toward the "super-rich". For a while, I tried to think about how much less rich would you have to be in order for me to feel comfortable. I’ve decided that there isn’t a set amount or any amount, for that matter, that would or could make you more or less appealing.
"Primarily, I don’t like the money because it changes me. Not so much changes as it puts me in a different situation. Suddenly, I feel like I should know all these things that you grew up knowing. How to tie a bow tie. Tipping the haberdasher. I’ve never tipped a Walmart employee. Today I tipped a single person more than I usually tip all my waiters in six months or more, and I consider myself a pretty good tipper. Before, I have only ever tipped waiters and the occasional cab driver. Now, I can see I have to tip the valet, the doormen, the concierge, the bellhops… do they even really call them that? My worries are suddenly things I never imagined I would ever think about. Suddenly, I am worried about tieing a bow tie instead of can I afford a good, used SUV and how nice an apartment can I afford to rent. I definitely prefer worrying about the bow tie. I am also uncomfortable in that I'm not sure what to do about my resentment. I think I want to get involved with the charitable aspect of the Adams Family Trust. I'm a firm believer that education is the great equalizer."
Paul breathed a heavy sigh and smiled shyly, "And that’s what I was thinking as I sat here staring at the man I love. Aren't you sorry you asked? Also, If I ever forget, please feel free to remind me. I had much rather be much, much too rich than to be too poor.”
Jeff set his iPad aside. He slid down the sofa to lay his head in Paul’s lap and clasped his hands across his chest. “No, I am not sorry I asked. I like it that we can share our feelings. It sounds to me like you’re adjusting rather well to your new found wealth. When we get back, we can talk to our big brother about getting you involved with our charities.”
Paul welcomed his lover by laying his left hand on Jeff’s chest and running the fingers of his right hand through Jeff’s hair. Jeff closed his eyes and said, “I’ve gone to school with and worked with people who had lots of money and people who had almost no money. I have seen people who struggled and people who were spoiled by their own or their family’s wealth. I like to think I’ve helped more than a few I found struggling along the way.
“I never considered myself ‘rich’ growing up. My Mom was always involved in my classroom activities. She baked cookies and worked with the PTA. Looking back, I’m sure she helped those of my classmates that didn’t have. No one missed out on class activities or birthdays or Christmas. I wasn’t the only kid in my class that got to go to Disney World. I did travel more than most during my summer vacations. We traveled on private jets or commercial first class. But, I never realized we actually owned the planes we flew in. I thought they belonged to some company my Uncle Joe’s friend worked for. Don’t ask me how I came up with that idea. No one told me that. I think I overheard some partial conversation and when some kid asked who owned the plane we flew in for that vacation, that was what came to mind. I just never questioned it.
“As for having more than most. My parents tried not to make a point of having the best or having a lot. Kids knew we had a big ranch and lots of horses. That, to a kid growing up in Texas, means you have money. Horses are more a luxury these days than a necessity, unless you're breeding them. My school uniform was boots and jeans. Even in high school, I drove a pickup, just like most guys did, simply because it could be used for ranch chores, whereas a car couldn’t. It’s hard to be a snob when you’re mending fences and shoveling horse shit right alongside someone who's doing it to earn a living.
"In college, after my freshman year, I guess I let my wealth show more. I drove a Porche as an undergrad and a BMW in law school. I like my Tesla better than any car I’ve ever driven. In fact, I predict a Tesla will be your first big bucks purchase.”
Paul burst out laughing and lightly slapped Jeff’s chest, chastising him for such a foolish notion. “I can’t see me spending $200,000.00 for a car. That’s more than most houses cost. Sure they’re fast, quiet, and something right out of science fiction, but you can buy ten gas-powered cars for that much money. I could see maybe buying a Model 3. Thirty or forty thousand is a lot more realistic for a car than $200,000.00. At the end of the day, it’s still just a car.”
“Well, to say my Tesla Model X is just a car is likening an F-35 to the Wright Brothers first Aeroplane. You scoff now, but you’ll see. Maybe we should drive it down instead of having it shipped like I planned. I’d rather not think I’m about to marry an ‘ICE’ Hole."
“Very funny. I know about Internal Combustion Engine ‘ICE’ holes going out of their way to challenge or discriminate against owners of electric vehicles. I watch the YouTube videos. I think Tesla's on the leading edge of the electric vehicle wave. The time of oil as king is fading. Speaking of fading and of time, I’m ready for bed and how long should we plan on being in Chicago? TR and David will expect me to be at work soon. So don’t plan on driving back down to Texas.”
“I had planned on flying out Saturday morning because I wanted to maximize my time here. Now that I have you by my side and plan to move back to the ranch, those plans are more flexible. I’d like to show you around Chicago, but we can do that another time. I just have to clear out my office and get someone to take care of the minutia that comes with moving across the country.” He thought for a moment, then, “How about we fly up tomorrow morning and look around a bit, celebrate New Year’s Eve atop the Sears Tower at my “Farewell” and plan on coming back Monday or Tuesday.”
“I’ve moved several times, I know it can be quite a hassle. But, Chicago is basically just north of here. I’d hardly say it’s across the country from us. Geez, it’s still in the same time zone.”
“Well, it’s about a thousand miles if you’re driving, and if you traveled a thousand miles east or west you’d probably wind up two time zones away from here. So yeah, it’s like moving across the country. So what do you think about flying out tomorrow? We could go clubbing tomorrow night in Boy’s Town and I could show you all my moves. Grandma Mellie already said they were looking forward to hosting their granddaughter for a few days.”
“It could be like a real date. It sounds like fun. We’re already packed, so why not. Will the plane be available”?
“The plane was already scheduled for our flight. We’re taking the smaller jet so it can land at the Municipal airport right here. I just need to call and verify.” Jeff didn’t ‘call’, he texted and got an almost immediate ‘affirmative’ response. “The pilot needs to know a take-off time. How does 0900 hours sound”?
“Sounds like some kind of covert military operation, otherwise 9 AM sounds great. Make it so, Mr. Adams.”
Paul made sure the guards and Rosarita were aware of the change and went to check on his sleeping Princess.
Paul’s anxiety centering around the Chicago trip was allayed by a drawn out coupling, building to a couple of earth-shattering climaxes. He slept the sleep of the dead wrapped in his lover's arms.
Fred would drive Maria to Grandma Mellie’s and be around for the ranches security upgrades. Rosarita would be gone back to school before Jeff and Paul returned. It wasn’t an emotional farewell, but it was heartfelt. Maria summed it up by saying, “Rosarita, your school is important just like mine is. You can have friends there, but you can always come home to the people who love you, just like I do, ‘cept just not every day. Just know that Mr. Fred will be here waiting for you when you do come home.” That sentiment brought tears to Rosarita’ eyes and it was obvious from Fred’s huge grin that he agreed with Maria’s sentiment. The couple kissed passionately, even though Rosarita wasn’t leaving until Sunday.
In spite of the toiletries provided by Mark Sanders, Paul insisted on bringing his and Jeff’s grooming aids along in a separate backpack that also held clean underwear for each, just in case. Jeff chided him about the underwear, “We’re not likely to get stuck sleeping in some airport. The plane has a shower and the chairs recline into beds. There’s plenty of food and water. The worse case scenario is we get diverted and have to spend the night, with our luggage, in some hotel in another city.” Paul accepted all that, but he still didn’t unpack the underwear.
Paul wasn’t sure what to expect regarding the “smaller” family jet. It didn’t look “small” as they approached. The size, in Paul’s mind, was shifted from small to medium. The only distinctive marking, on the white and chrome jet, was on the tail fin. A giant black, block-lettered “AFT” set above a wavy line and surrounded by an equally bold black circle. Paul observed to Jeff, “That’s your cattle brand.” Jeff just grinned.
The crew member doing the walk around turned out to be the Pilot. He was soon joined by the co-pilot and steward in welcoming his passengers. After introductions, Jeff took Paul by the arm and led him up and into the jet. The first thing Paul noticed was that it was spacious. The next thing he saw was that the interior was light and airy, done up in soft browns and blues. He had expected to have to stoop as he moved about. That was not the case. Nothing felt cramped or squeezed in. They entered near the front of the plane. To their left, Jeff pointed out the galley and beyond that was the cockpit. There were two bathrooms one forward and a larger one, with a shower and dressing room, at the rear. At the far rear was a communal seating area that centered around a 60-inch screen that currently displayed a view from the cockpit as though the camera was looking over the air crew’s shoulders. Jeff explained that the aft communal seating area could be closed off and the seats could be turned into a queen-sized bed complete with custom bed linens. But, all that required the steward’s help. Jeff pointed out that there were three seating areas including the viewing/bedroom. The other two were made up of large swiveling recliners as well as comfortable looking love seats. All motions were electronically controlled by panels on the end of either armrest. Each seat could fully recline into a bed that came complete with custom fitted sheets to ensure the occupant's comfort. The upholstery was the softest leather Paul had ever touched. Jeff explained the seats could be heated or vented by use of the tablet located in the side pockets. By Paul’s calculations, the plane could seat more than twenty passengers if all seats were occupied. Obviously, it was intended to luxuriously accommodate every single passenger.
Once the tour was complete, Jeff led the way to the forward most seating area. He explained this was closest to the galley and made it easier on the steward for serving drinks and snacks. Soon the pilot’s voice announced their flight time would be just over two hours. The weather in Chicago was overcast with possible showers. The high expected was 62 degrees Fahrenheit with a low of 30 degrees tonight. He directed all to fasten their seatbelts and prepare for take-off. Jeff and Paul had taken adjacent recliners while Sam and Dave did likewise across the aisle. Paul snickered as he realized there wasn’t really an aisle, or overhead stowage or seat-back-trays. This was a truly unique experience for him. He noted that Jeff, Sam, and Dave were obviously used to this level of in-flight accommodations.
The take-off was smooth. Paul had viewed the take off on a big screen monitor showing the cockpit perspective. It was strange to see the ground drop away and to feel it in his gut at the same time.
After leveling off, the steward came around taking drink orders. Everyone opted for coffee. Once coffee was served, he brought around an assortment of fresh pastries. Paul watched, fascinated, as Sam and Dave pulled from the side of their chairs what appeared to be work surfaces. Paul chuckled out loud as he realized indeed these were seat-back-trays… Ok, side trays. From the same side pockets, they retrieved tablets and began a quiet discussion concerning the Chicago itinerary.
Upon arrival at Midway International Airport, they were met by a driver with a tinted-windowed, black Tahoe. Paul idly wondered why he had not seen any General Motors stock in the portfolio. He could tell by the way the driver greeted Jeff that the man had been a part of Jeff’s Chicago security team. After a hearty hug and a pat on each other’s back, Jeff introduced him as Mark Benning.
On the flight down Jeff had told them they would have the world famous deep dish Chicago style pizza for lunch. Paul was looking forward to the culinary adventure. He loved pizza with everything, “except dead fish”. The deep dish was met with mixed reviews. To Jeff and Mark, it was common fare and they reserved judgment. Sam thought it was great and wondered why it wasn’t available in Texas. Dave agreed with Paul that it was more like an Italian casserole than a real pizza. After all, “everybody knows pizza is topped with cheese, not sauce.” Afterwards, they drove along Lakeshore drive and then took a nap at Jeff’s apartment. Sam and Dave would occupy the second bedroom. Apparently, Mark Benning shared an apartment with his partner adjacent to Jeff’s.
Paul was not surprised to find the apartment was tastefully decorated with a definite masculine touch. Rich earth tones and supple leather. It was first and foremost, comfortable and inviting. He had half expected a penthouse apartment with a staggering view. Jeff insisted, if he stretched just right, he could see the lake. Paul was pretty sure what he saw was just the overcast sky. Jeff told him the view had never been important until now. Now, he had someone to share it with. Paul was definitely more impressed with the sentiment than the view.
It was almost three in the afternoon. Jeff and Paul had just drifted off after a rousing bout of 'hide the sausage'. Jeff cursed softly at whoever dared call and disturb his slumber. It was Bradley Davis. He practically begged Jeff to meet him for dinner and when he found out Jeff had Paul with him, he quickly expanded the invitation and admitted he too would be bringing a guest. Jeff explained that he had a couple of other friends, but they would be sitting at another table. Bradley chuckled and said, “You mean your security team will be close at hand as usual. You know it got to be a game with me. I tried to pick out your security team from the milling throng. At the gym, it was easy and of course, the ubiquitous black SUV parked outside my house every time you visited. Your background check was intensive and revealed a staggering estimation of your net worth. I admired your efforts to keep that part of your life secret. You never rubbed it in our faces. You treated everyone with respect.”
Jeff had been careful not to reveal his wealth. It was one of the reasons he remained a bit aloof from his coworkers. “Who else knew”?
“As far as I know, only the senior partners and myself. I made it my business to learn as much about you as I could. The reasons for which I will explain tonight.”
When Jeff tried to clear the dinner date with his lover, Paul responded sleepily, “whatever” punctuating that statement with a soft snore. Jeff and Bradley agreed on meeting at a premier steakhouse not far from the apartment at seven. Jeff completed the call and set his alarm and proceeded to snuggle into his lover’s somnambulant embrace.
When Jeff’s alarm sounded he roused Paul and checked on Sam and Dave. Jeff advised them all that due to the “classy joint” at which they would be dining, a suit and tie would be the most appropriate attire. Using the products that Mark Sanders had provided them, the four proceeded to shower, shave and dress for dinner. They would then come back to the apartment afterward and dress more casually for the club crawl. In the elevator, Paul decided he definitely liked the way Jeff smelled. It was like an amped up version of his natural essence. It made Paul think of a sexier version of the “Old Spice” his grandpa used to wear on Saturdays and Sundays.
Jeff pulled Paul close and whispered, “Are you sniffing me? Do I smell bad”?
“Yes and no. I was just thinking how sexy you smell. You smell just like you do at bedtime, when you get hot and sweaty. I like it a lot.”
Jeff pulled him closer and inhaled Paul’s scent. “One of the first things I noticed about you was a distinct smell of lemon and wood. Right now it seems to be more distinct yet subdued like the smells were blended with a soft rain. It’s hard to describe, but it smells really good.”
Sam and Dave chuckled. Dave spoke up. “You two just got a whiff of each other’s new scent, didn’t cha. Sam and I already decided that we might not be able to buy all our clothes from Mark Sanders, but we damn sure intend to buy more of his toiletries. We’re afraid to ask for the price list. This stuff works so well, it can’t be cheap. The soap, for us, is the same, but the shampoo and every other product are different and I don’t mean just the label. I mean the smell, texture and listed ingredients are totally different. I wouldn’t be surprised if they used Sam’s DNA to get the fragrance to compliment his sweat and musk. We almost didn’t make it out of the bedroom. That stuff is killer."
Sam pulled his partner close and inhaled deeply. “He smells like what I think a walking wet dream should smell like. It isn’t an aphrodisiac but it's damn close.” Anyone viewing the security camera just then would be perplexed as to why four sharp dressed, handsome, young men were taking turns sniffing each other’s neck. All four agreed that each smelled good in a unique way. None were repulsed, in fact, each admitted to finding all the scents most pleasing, if not downright sexy.
Since the four would be dining with reservations, Jeff decided to drive his Tesla. Sam and Dave were to be chauffeured for a change. Jeff used every opportunity to display the Tesla’s features, advantages, and benefits. The fact that it was already warm when they took their seats was soon overwhelmed by the vehicle’s panoramic view, not to mention it’s seat-slammin' acceleration.
When they arrived, Jeff was pleased, but not surprised to see Doc Stellman accompanying Bradley Davis. Sam and Dave were shown to their reserved table close to and in plain sight of the other gentlemen’s booth.
Once drink orders were submitted, Bradley began, “Jeff, I really meant to do this a while ago. Now that you're leaving, I want to kick myself for not having done it sooner. When you first came to work as an intern, I remember thinking, “He sure doesn’t look gay”. Then you joined the firm, I really got to know you as a fine young man. I talked to Doc about you a lot, I guess.”
Doc rolled his eyes and offered, “I’ll say.”
Bradley grinned at Doc, then became serious, once more, as he continued, “I remember how gays were treated when I was in school. No one dared come out. Especially, if they wanted to have a professional career. Jeff, you showed me times have changed. More importantly, you showed me being gay is just one aspect of who someone is. I started talking to Doc about you so much because I wanted to sound him out. You see, when we were roommates, we fooled around with each other when we got drunk. Most times we only pretended to be drunk so we could fool around. Of course, we’d pretend not to remember the next day. About the time I was ready to come out to him and profess my love, he tells me his girlfriend is pregnant and they’re getting married. Well, I crawled so far back into the closet I couldn’t have been outed by a professional mining crew with jackhammers. I can’t say that stray gay thoughts didn’t cross my mind or that I never looked at gay porn. But, I never engaged in any sexual contact except with women. I think it was because of my own father’s example that I engaged in adulterous behavior to blatantly show how “straight” I was.
“Anyway, not long ago I found out my wife had been cheating on me since shortly after we were married. I began to examine my feelings for her and I took a hard look at myself. I decided that I couldn’t go on pretending I was satisfied with my life. I decided to make some changes. I called up Doc and we agreed to meet at his apartment. We had just settled in the den with drinks when I decided to come out to him. Before I could begin he said, “Bradley, there is something I have to tell you...”
Doc interrupted, “What I told him was that after my divorce, years ago, I had every intention of coming out to him and professing my love for my best friend. But, before I even had a chance, this dumb shit goes and gets engaged again. I kept my mouth shut and made a few gay friends on the sly. Brad’s glowing praise of you Jeff, left me jealous and hopeful. I stopped having casual encounters and decided to come out at work and to my sons and family. I decided to tell Brad first. That same week he calls and invites himself over on Friday night to have a talk. I figured he had decided to divorce the gold digging bitch that was his current trophy wife. Before he got a chance to share his bit of news, I came out to him. When I did, I was as nervous as a pup passing peach pits. I don’t think I actually got the words, “I’m gay” out of my mouth before his tongue was batting my tonsils around. Suffice it to say we didn’t leave my apartment that entire weekend. When Brad told me he wanted to take you out to dinner and thank you, I insisted I tag along. I owe you just as much as he does. It was his relating your example to me that gave me that little extra push to come out and stop living a lie. More importantly, it was your example that let us both realize we belong together, as best friends, as lovers, as soul mates.” Doc looked lovingly into Bradley’s eyes for a moment, then turned back to Jeff, “We intend to marry as soon as Bradley’s divorce is final.”
Jeff was amazed. He had never seen any indication that Bradley was gay. As his mind searched for any possible clue he had overlooked, it occurred to him, “Bradley, how did your wife take the news”?
Bradley and Doc shared a knowing chuckle. “I’m not sure. That silicon Barbie Bitch spent the last couple of days ‘visiting her sister’ in St. Louis. I took the opportunity to change the locks and security codes as well as canceling her access to our bank accounts and all credit cards. As far as I know, she's still fucking the guy who cuts our grass and shovels our snow for the landscaping company. To add insult to injury the video shows he has a significantly smaller dick than mine. Not that mine can compare to Doc’s, but it ain’t no shrinking wallflower either.”
Paul swallowed hard. “Speaking of... OUCH!”
The scowl on Jeff’s face left no doubt in Paul’s mind what the elbow to his ribs was meant to communicate. Paul slid out of range and continued, “As I was about to say, speaking of weddings, Jeff and I plan to be married during a gay pride celebration in our hometown, mid to late April. If you two can, we would both love it if you could attend.” Paul sneered at Jeff as if to say, “See, it wasn’t what you thought at all. Get your filthy mind out of the gutter. Asshole!”
Bradley chuckled at Jeff’s chagrined expression as if he understood the exchange that just took place. “That’s about the time my divorce will be final and we will be either newlyweds or about to be.” Getting an approving nod from Doc, he continued, “But, in either case, we wholeheartedly accept your invitation and look forward to attending your wedding celebration. And just in case Jeff was right… Paul, I have no problem with you viewing one of nature’s wonders. Just don’t just respect the ‘do not disturb’ sign.”
Paul’s blush was as good as an out-and-out confession. Jeff was elated, “Goddamnit! I knew that was what you were going to say. You wanted to see Doc’s cock. That invitation decoy was quick thinking and almost had me fooled. God, I love your blush. It says so much.” With that Jeff exuberantly pulled his lover to him and gave him a noisy kiss on the cheek.
Dinner was wonderful and Paul assured them it was one of the best steaks he had ever had. Bradley and Doc took that as a sincere compliment to their taste as it was coming from a Texan. Jeff invited both men to join them in club crawling through Boy’s Town. The over forty couple insisted the only bar they would consider visiting allowed for conversation without screaming to be heard. Hugs, goodnights, and repeated commitments to attend each other’s nuptials were exchanged.
The wind had picked up as they exited the restaurant producing a below freezing wind chill. Jeff chuckled admonishing his companions that this was a mild breeze compared to most days and the chill factor was almost mild for this time of year. After all, it is known as the “Windy City” for good reason. Again, thanks to Jeff’s iPhone APP the car’s interior was toasty warm. Paul was really beginning to like the Tesla.
Well, Chicago came faster than Christmas did. So, what happens now that it's here?