‘The hardest part of loving someone is knowing when to set them free.’
Indiscriminate sex with strangers is the only pleasure Charles has left in life. No matter how much he wants a relationship, the memories of a painful break-up during his youth won’t allow him to commit—until a friend persuades him to confront the past—to confront the man who dumped him.
Taking his friend’s advice, Charles returns home, in the hopes of rekindling the romance with the man he lost. But, his father’s religious views and the backwater community he grew up in aren’t so understanding when it comes to same-sex relationships and, to his disillusionment, neither is the man he’s returned for.
Malcolm rinsed his toothbrush, gargled, and spat in the sink. The room was bright, and the lace sheers waffled on the early morning breeze. It was as sunny as the day before, a requirement for a bumper crop of fruit. He slipped on a plain white T-shirt, buttoned a pair of faded jeans, and notched the scruffy ball cap until it fit comfortably on his head.
Pausing in the hallway to shut the door quietly so he wouldn’t wake his son, he looked to the spare room. Entering the cool darkness, he drew the curtains aside. Charles’s knapsack was wedged in next to the chair, and the bed was neatly made, hospital corners included. His full weight hit the mattress, stretching the springs, and his gaze drifted to the headboard.
He’d been in town most of the day, paying bills, buying a coffee, and delivering fruit to the senior citizen center. It was late when he arrived home, well past midnight, and Todd had long gone to bed. Removing his hat, he locked the rear porch door and attached screen, washed his hands and face in the bathroom off the kitchen, and climbed the narrow flight of stairs to the upper level.
The house was deathly quiet. Entering his bedroom, he froze and dropped the house keys. Charles lay in his bed naked, his ultra-smooth flesh glowing an icy copper in the moonlight, his black hair tinted with a hint of chrome. His clothes were draped on the rocking chair, and his boots were beside it.
“Sweet mother!” He kept his voice a dull whisper. “Just what are you doin’ in my bed?” He shut the door, turning the knob slowly. “Todd might hear!”
“We’ve had sex once. Now I want more.”
“It was a mistake.” He tried to concentrate on Charles’s face instead of his erection.
“We made love, and it was a mistake?”
“Don’t make me explain again.”
“It’s my age.” Charles turned his attention to the window, and his watery eyes glistened in the stream of moonlight. “I get it.”
Malcolm crossed the room, knelt on the bed, and clamped Charlie’s forearm with an ironclad grip. “Now we’ve got a problem.”
“There’s no problem because I’m leaving.”
“You think you can tease me and walk out.” He smacked him into the pillows, and the entire bed creaked. “You aren’t going anywhere.”
“I wasn’t teasing you.” Charles put the back of a shaky hand to his mouth.
“You’re a cock tease.”
“You think it’s funny to play with me?”
“I’m not playing with you!” Charles bit back, more tears swelling in his eyes.
What should he do? Give in to the temptation? Or ignore it? He pleaded for a damn answer. A beautiful young man lay ready and willing in his bed.
Once again, he gave in, and ‘God forgive me’ were the last coherent words he muttered before bending down to kiss Charles between his quivering thighs.
Malcolm put his hand to the headboard, the memories it held crystal clear and resonating from the brass. He could still hear the rocking of the bed frame and Charles’s moans of pleasure. They’d made love over and over that night until fatigue won out and they’d fallen asleep in each other’s arms.
He came back to earth with a jolt and promptly let go of the headboard as if his son had read his mind.
“What are you doing in here?” Todd asked.
Rubbing his sweaty palms on his knees, he looked up. “Just thinking,” he said.
“I should get rid of this furniture.”
“Isn’t this your old bed frame?”
“It is. But I don’t need it now since I bought a new bed. It’s taking up space. I’d like to do something else with this room, maybe use it as an office.”
“The brass reminds me of Mom.”
“She did have a thing for it—anything shiny.”
“Like a crow.”
“Yep.” He shot Todd a wry smile.
“I checked. Charles didn’t return last night.”
“He will, son.”
“I hope so.”
He rose from the bed and patted Todd’s shoulder. “He will.”
“I thought I’d visit Mark and then maybe pick up a few movies and a case of beer for tonight.”
“I’ll be back later.” Todd hung onto the doorframe, his fingers tapping it like a snare drum. “Is there anything else you need from town while I’m there?”
“No, son.” He grinned cheerfully. “The movies and beer will be enough.”
‘Taking erotic to a sinful new level.’
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