Justin Taylor

Last night I dreamed of Manderley again. Wait. Wrong novel. That's not our story. This is our story.

My parents died when I was a baby and I went to live with my aunt and uncle. The uncle was my mother's brother. He died soon after. You know, I'm beginning to wonder if I'm not the Grim Reaper incarnate or something. Anyway, he made his wife promise to look after me and treat me like one of her own children.

So she kept me at a distance, made me feel like a charity case, and never gave an ounce of compassion or love. Worse, she let her emotionally disturbed kid, Christian, beat the hell out of me whenever he wanted to. The last time, he clocked me in the head with an aluminum youth league baseball bat and after I woke up from a weeklong coma, I decided that I'd had enough. Apparently my aunt agreed. I was a bad influence on Chris and she wanted me out of her house. Yeah.

She sent me to a boarding school. For unwanted children. This place made the orphanage in Annie look like it was run by Mary Poppins. The guy in charge was an ex-Catholic priest and when he wasn't trying to fiddle the boys, he was busy skimming profits so that we hardly had enough to eat, our uniforms were atrocious, and we were using text books that warned of the dangers of Communist aggression and ended their coverage with Ronnie Reagan's presidency. At some point the Board discovered his duplicitous bookkeeping and out he went. Things got better after that and eventually I graduated and went to a local college, got a degree in Education, passed my teacher's exam, and returned to the school to mold young minds.

But I wasn't happy. I felt isolated. I felt as if the things I saw on the news happened on another planet. It was time to leave. I didn't really want to teach in another boarding school but I didn't think I was ready for public school either. A friend of mine told me to advertise my services as a tutor. I thought he meant at one of those Sylvan learning centers or a place like that but he said, no, he meant a tutor like in the old days when people hired private teachers for their kids. Some people still did, he said. It was worth a try even though it did sound like something out of Nicholas Nickleby.

I put in my ad and within a few weeks I got a response. From a Mrs. Kinney. A tutor was required for a seven-year-old boy. She lived in Pennsylvania, outside of Pittsburgh in a fairly remote area, she explained. I didn't believe her. I mean, how could anyplace be outside of a mid-sized city and yet be remote? It would be fine. I could escape from the house whenever I wanted and go into the city and play. So I thought.

She was right. I got a flight to Pittsburgh and a driver met me at the airport. We traveled for over an hour. As all signs of civilization melted away, I wondered if we were even in the same state. Finally, we arrived at this driveway off the highway. We drove for almost five minutes through a wooded area until we came to a mansion nestled among the hills. I'd only seen places like that on television, usually proceeded by Robin Leach screeching, "Welcome to 'Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous'!" This place had obviously been designed by someone with a love of English country houses. It reminded me of the manor house in Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes. I looked for the line of servants come to greet me upon my arrival.

No one was outside. The driver let me off at the front door and I knocked. A butler opened it and I told him who I was. He escorted me to the library, or so I believed it was as there were shelves upon shelves of books along two of the walls. One wall had windows looking out over a garden and the other wall held a bank of televisions, nine to be exact. Who needed nine televisions? Seated on a comfortable-looking leather sofa was an older woman with silvery hair and piercing grey eyes.

"Mrs. Kinney?" She seemed a bit old to have a seven-year-old son. Maybe he was adopted. Or maybe it was her grandson.

She patted the seat next to her. "Come, sit down. You must be tired after your journey, Mr. Taylor."

"I'm fine. Will I meet your son soon?"

"My son? I have no children."

"But the little boy I'm supposed to teach…?" I was confused.

"Mr. Peterson. He's Mr. Kinney's ward."

"And Mr. Kinney's not your husband?" Things were getting stranger by the moment.

"No. We are related, however, through my late husband. When my Jack died, Mr. Kinney took me in, set me in charge of his household."

"Is he here?"

"Oh no, he's rarely here. He travels a great deal on business. And he has other homes, apartments here and there."

Before I could ask her what he did, we heard footsteps running towards the library.

"That will be Gus come to find out if his new tutor is here. He's been very excited ever since I told him you were coming."

There was a knock on the door and after the briefest of pauses, it opened and a chestnut haired little boy came rushing in. He fairly skipped across the floor and stopped in front of me, his hazel eyes fixed on my face.

"Are you my new teacher?"


"My name is Gus. What's your name?"

"Justin Taylor."

"Can I call you Justin?"

"I think you should call him Mr. Taylor," Mrs. Kinney suggested but I overrode her decision with one of my own.

"Justin is fine." After all, I was only twenty-four and it felt a little strange having someone call me Mr. Taylor although the children at the boarding school had done so. Gus and I would be working very closely together and I hoped that we would grow close as well.

Gus turned to Mrs. Kinney. "I like him."

After introductions, Mrs. Kinney and Gus took me on a tour of the mansion, at least the parts that were open, and finally brought me to my own room. After walking through opulent suites filled with antique objects, some of them priceless no doubt, I was relieved to see that my bedchamber was relatively modest, although it did have a sitting room and bathroom, and that the furniture was tasteful yet modern.

Mrs. Kinney and my new pupil left me to unpack what little I had and to rest a while before dinner. But I couldn't close my eyes. Instead I took out my journal and wrote for half an hour, then showered and changed.

Dinner was a cozy affair. Mrs. Kinney, despite her formidable appearance, was actually a sweetheart. She indulged Gus way more than was probably good for him but, as she was like a grandmother to him, I could see why. I'd often wondered what it would have been like to have a grandmother, someone to spoil you, to bake cookies for you, and to tell you stories. When dinner was over, we sat in a small parlor and Gus watched television for an hour before heading upstairs to his bath.

He waved as he left with a maid. "Goodnight, Justin."

"Goodnight, Gus."

At last exhaustion caught up with me and I yawned and told Mrs. Kinney that it was time for me to go to bed as well. Only, when I'd gotten undressed and laid down, I couldn't sleep. I just lay there thinking about the future. About my new student, and this fabulous house, and the mysterious Mr. Kinney.

The next month and a half passed fairly quickly and the days grew to resemble one another in their sameness. Normally I awoke at seven, showered and dressed, had breakfast at eight, and met Gus in the library by nine. Sometimes he would eat with me in the breakfast room, other times I had the meal sent up to my sitting room and I ate alone.

We worked for two hours inside and then he went out to play for half an hour before lunch. After eating we resumed our work for another two hours. The last hour of the day was devoted to the arts. A music teacher came out three times a week to instruct Gus in the piano as my training was not adequate; and on alternate days we watched dance and theatre performances on DVD and we drew. I was a pretty good artist and had sketched portraits of children and teachers at the boarding school as well as doing a number of watercolors. The afternoons Gus had music, I often took long, solitary walks, paints in hand, and did landscapes of the estate.

Gus and I got along great and I really liked Mrs. Kinney but after a while I began to feel hemmed in again the same way as I had at the school. Something was missing from my life.

I knew what part of it was but I hadn't gathered the courage yet to act on my feelings. At school I'd never approached another boy for fear of being caught doing something dirty; and at college I'd been so focused on my work that I hadn't looked for any companionship. But now I was lonely: for companionship and for love. I wasn't a bad-looking guy. Actually, I was pretty good-looking. A lot of girls had told me so, clueless of the fact that I didn't bat for their team. There had been a couple of times in college when I'd known that some guy was interested in me but I hadn't felt that I could spare the time. Later. Later. That's what I'd kept telling myself. I would find time later.

Now it was later and I didn't know what to do. If I wanted, I could have gotten a car from the garage (there were four parked there under wraps) and driven into Pittsburgh but then what? Where would I have gone? What would I have said? I didn't know how to flirt, how to seduce, or even how to be seduced. At night, I lay awake thinking about my problem but no solutions came to me.

One day Gus and I were having lunch when Mrs. Kinney came rushing into the room. Sometimes she ate with us but most of the time she was too busy dealing with household matters and we didn't see her until dinner. That day she came bustling in and announced that Mr. Kinney was returning that night.

The house was in an uproar. Although the staff kept things pretty neat and tidy, Mr. Kinney was a stickler they said for order and so everyone redoubled their efforts to make sure everything was perfect. Gus was impossible that day, excited about the return of Mr. Kinney, and I ended up letting him go early so that he could straighten up his room and find something suitable to wear. As a matter of fact, Mrs. Kinney let me know that I needed to do the same as Mr. Kinney would expect us to join him at dinner and what I normally wore wouldn't do.

"We have to dress for dinner?"

"Not formal wear but he will expect you to show up in something other than your jeans and a shirt," my habitual attire.

So I went upstairs and went through my wardrobe. Found a pair of khaki slacks and a white oxford. That was as dressy as it got in my closet.

We all flitted around like mad butterflies until the afternoon had passed and evening had arrived. We waited and waited, Gus fidgeting in rarely worn clothes, watching some inane cartoon on television that he liked, anything to keep him still and quiet and occupied until Mr. Kinney should arrive.

Finally we heard the roar of an engine outside.

Mrs. Kinney rose. "That'll be him."

"What's he drive? A Jaguar?"

"A Jeep," she replied and I almost laughed. A man as rich as he was didn't have to drive a Jeep. He could afford a fleet of Ferrari, an army of Alfa Romeo.

The servants gathered in the front hall to greet their employer. The butler opened the door and in walked the master of the manse.

I don't know what I had been expecting. I hadn't seen any photographs of Mr. Kinney and so I supposed him to be an older man, middle-aged maybe, the kind of man who ends up becoming a banker or a stock broker: solid, dependable, rather ordinary-looking.

He was older than I was but I put him at around thirty-four, thirty-five. Slender in build but I could tell he was probably very strong; tall, six two, six three; and absolutely beautiful. And, surprisingly, somewhat familiar. Wild, chestnut hair with auburn highlights that glistened beneath the chandelier overhead; large, hazel eyes with glints of mossy green; perfect, raspberry-colored lips. His skin was tanned, whether naturally or via a salon, I could not tell. It did not matter. His nose was fairly straight. When I glimpsed his profile, I held my breath. Now I knew why he seemed familiar. From the side, he reminded you of Michelangelo's David. The same profile, the same intensity of gaze, firmness of purpose. Terribilita the Italians called that look and he had perfected it. As that gaze turned upon me, I froze.

"And who's this?" he asked Mrs. Kinney.

"This is Mr. Taylor, Gus' new tutor. He's been with us for almost two months."

His voice was soft, softer than I would have imagined. His words caressed you and I could feel them embracing me, sliding around my shoulders… I jerked. He'd spoken to me but I hadn't been paying attention. There was nothing to do but to confess my mistake. "I'm sorry, what did you say?"

"Are you deaf?" he inquired and my cheeks reddened.

At that point Gus spoke up, interrupting the interview. He'd been so very quiet and I knew it had been killing him. He'd been looking forward to his guardian's arrival all afternoon.

"Did you bring me a present?" he asked.

"And what if I didn't?"

Gus pouted and drew closer to Mrs. Kinney.

"Dinner in ten minutes," the master announced and Mrs. Kinney nodded and dismissed the staff to ready everything.

"Is Gus progressing in his studies?" Before I could answer, he walked towards the staircase. Mrs. Kinney motioned that I was to go with him. I followed him upstairs. Gus was left behind.

"Yes," I replied to his question. "He's very smart."

"Needs discipline."

"He's just a little boy."

"Mrs. Kinney spoils him." He entered his suite which was down the hall from mine. I hesitated at the threshold but he waved me in and I walked into his sitting room. There I waited while he went into the bath and ran water in the sink. I could hear him washing his face. I didn't know what he wanted of me so I sat quietly waiting for him to return. At least it gave me a chance to calm down. Every since he'd looked at me my heart hadn't stopped racing. Upon first inspection, he appeared rude, arrogant, and intolerant of lesser beings. Yet something drew me to him. Something beyond his looks.

He returned having changed for dinner, wearing a pair of black slacks and a grey silk sweater. His hair, which I had assumed was wild from driving around in the Jeep with the top down, still stood up at the front of his head. I was to learn that that was his normal look. It didn't matter, he was handsome regardless.

Dinner was a strange affair. He said very little to Mrs. Kinney or to Gus but continued to quiz me to what end, I could not tell. His questions varied from what I thought about the estate to what my taste were in music and who I supported in the upcoming presidential elections. I guessed he was trying to get a sense of me but why, I didn't know. I was only a servant, just like the maid and the butler and the cook and the gardener. I was no one special.

After dinner he retired to the library to watch television. Mrs. Kinney told me that he usually kept all nine sets tuned to different channels and would sit and monitor all of them for hours, switching from news cast to news cast and program to program in order to get a complete picture of the day's events. She also told me that Gus and I could no longer use the library for our classroom. We'd have to move to the parlor. The master was home and we had to rearrange ourselves to suit him.

I was no one special.

Despite the chilly reception Gus had gotten from his guardian, he remained cheerful as he'd found a number of presents waiting for him in his room after dinner. Mr. Kinney hadn't forgotten him.

Over the next few weeks, I grew more and more puzzled regarding the man's treatment of the boy. Just by looking at them you could tell that Gus was probably his child. They shared the same hair, eyes, and mouths. If any of the mother manifested itself, it was in Gus' nose and maybe his disposition. Yet Mr. Kinney treated him as if he were little more than a stranger. Still, he was not cruel to him just… indifferent. That aside, he did provide for him, more than provided for him, so I couldn't complain too much about his lack of warmth towards the boy. If he didn't hug him every night before bed, then I would. And I did and I wondered what it would be like to have a child of my own. But I never would. Unless I adopted or found a surrogate mother willing to have a baby for a gay man.

If Mr. Kinney continued to ignore Gus, he paid more and more attention to me. Most nights, after Gus had gone to bed, he called me into the library to talk with him. We'd watch television together and he'd question me about what we'd seen. I took to devouring the newspapers and watching the news over breakfast just so I could contribute to the conversation. Sometimes I disagreed with him and we would have furious discussions. He never gave me any word of praise or derision. Just grunted every now and again and then turned to the next topic of conversation. But he never talked about himself.

I wanted to ask him about Gus, about the missing mother, about himself. Had he been married at one time? I didn't think so. I definitely thought he was gay. Not that he'd ever said anything or done anything to make me think so; maybe I just wanted it to be. The more time I spent with him, the more I wanted to know about him. I didn't even know what it was he did for a living. Mrs. Kinney wouldn’t tell me what I wanted to know, citing confidentiality as the reason. And she was right. But it didn't stop me from wondering.

Like me he seemed restless. He'd often leave the house early in the morning and wander for hours over the property. Or he'd jump in his Jeep and drive away with a squeal of his tires. He never said where he was going on those excursions. Mrs. Kinney said he was a rolling stone by nature and she didn't expect him to stay long.

I began to sense a connection between us. We were kindred spirits of a sort despite our very different backgrounds and sometimes when we conversed, he treated me as an equal. As long as I held my ground, he did not expect me to yield. He grew fond of me. I could tell. He'd slip and call me Justin and the word would go through me and I'd look away so that he couldn't see his affect on me. But he had to have known that I cared for him.

Feeling shut-in one Saturday morning, I took my paints and went in search of inspiration. Since the weekend was his own to do as he pleased, Gus usually slept late and then got up and messed around in his room. Sometimes Mrs. Kinney had the driver take him on a play date with the other children of privilege who lived in the area. I wondered if they had tutors as well or if there was a school nearby. We had yet to go into the city but I was planning a trip very soon as a visit to the various museums in Pittsburgh would be educational. But, as of yet, I'd avoided the city due to my own fears.

However, this morning I was on a mission. I had seen a solitary tree on one of my long walks and it seemed to me to be the perfect subject for a sketch. When I arrived there, I found that I wasn't alone.

Mr. Kinney sat beneath the tree. It was a warm day for autumn and he wore a pair of black jeans and a black sleeveless shirt. I'd never seen him dressed so casually before. As I had imagined, he was extremely fit; his arms were particularly muscular. There was a gym in the mansion but I had never used it. I wasn’t a gym bunny by any means. I had always been slender and didn't feel any need to bulk up. Neither did he but he was solid, that much I could see. I had hoped to make my escape before he noticed me but he must have heard me walking up because he turned and said quite casually, "Justin. I thought that was you."

"I… I didn't mean to bother you," I said and he looked away.

"Sit down."

So I did.

"Where's Gus?"

"He's gone to a birthday party."

He said nothing for a long while then, "You've been wondering about him. Wondering if he's my child."

Unable to deny it, I told the truth. "Yes, sir."

"I knew a woman once, a lesbian, she wanted a child. So I contributed to the effort and nine months later Gus was born. He was her child, I was only the sperm donor. She and her lover were to raise him. That was the understanding. I sent money as needed and everyone was happy with the arrangement. Then she and her lover had the misfortune to die. So I took him in."

The entire story was told with such a lack of feeling that I felt sorry for poor Gus despite the riches that surrounded him.

"You're disappointed in me, aren't you?"

"It's not for me to say, sir."

"I ask," he demanded.

"He's your own flesh and blood. It's not his fault his mothers died. He loves you even though he doesn't know that you're his father. You could show him a little affection."

"I show him no less than my father showed to me. I wasn't meant to be a parent. I know that. I do the best I can: I stay away from him and I leave him with people who will care for him."

"But it's not the same. I know."

"Didn't your parents love you?"

"My parents died when I was a baby. I went to live with my aunt and uncle. My uncle died soon after and my aunt never loved me. She sent me to boarding school and I stayed there until I graduated. I wish I had known my parents."

"Why? You turned out just fine without them. They gave you all they could: they gave you life. What more did you want?"

"Love," I exclaimed. "Haven't you ever felt anything for anyone?"

"And what of it?" he said, suddenly bitter. His face darkened. "What good did it do? I'm still here, alone, explaining myself to a servant."

His words stung. I gathered my things and, without his leave, left him to his brooding.

If I had ever had daydreams about him, I let them go now. He was a hard man who would never admit anyone to his heart. If he had, indeed, loved someone in the past, it had only served to turn him against love. From that moment on, under the tree, I swore to be no more to him than the servant he had named me to be.

After our talk under the tree, I saw less of Mr. Kinney. He seemed to be avoiding me. Which was fine. I busied myself with Gus, trying to make up for the coldness of his guardian. I refused to even think of Mr. Kinney as his father.

If Mrs. Kinney noticed the strained relations between myself and her employer, she did not mention it. She was too busy preparing for the annual holiday party. Thanksgiving had come and gone without much fanfare. Mr. Kinney hadn't attended our small dinner, had been away on a brief business trip Mrs. Kinney had said. I hadn't believed her. But now Christmas was fast approaching and preparations were underway for a huge celebration at New Year's. Mr. Kinney was holed up in his library day in and day out occupied with business and when the night came he disappeared, often returning in the early hours of the morning.

One night as we sat together in the parlor while Gus watched television, Mrs. Kinney let something slip. She said that Mr. Kinney had been spending a great deal of time with a Mr. Novotny who lived nearby. Mr. Novotny, she understood, was a very eligible bachelor with a small fortune of his own. Mr. Kinney had told her that Mr. Novotny was coming to spend some time at the estate during the holidays and they'd gotten a room ready for him not far from Mr. Kinney's. All this she told to me in a very conversational tone, as if we'd spoken of Mr. Kinney's sexual preferences in the past and this was just idle chit chat. She added that Mr. Novotny was quite attractive with black hair and dark eyes and that Mr. Kinney seemed genuinely fond of him. "They'd make a fine pair," she declared.

Her words followed me to bed. Despite my earlier resolution to care nothing for the man, I knew that I was hopelessly in love with him. I had mistaken his boredom for interest in me. With no one else to talk to but Gus and Mrs. Kinney, he had turned to me. I was nothing more than an intelligent servant, he'd said as much. The connection I had felt between us did not exist except in my own mind and heart. But even so, I felt it. Even if he did not love me, I loved him. And I would not stay here for the holidays while they made love two suites down from mine. I couldn't stand it. I'd go on a brief vacation, go to NY or some other city and stay while Mr. Kinney had guests. When the holidays were over, I'd return to my duties with a clearer head and the determination to forget my feelings for him.

Mrs. Kinney was very concerned about my plans. She told me that Mr. Kinney had expected me to remain during the holidays to help with Gus.

"I'm a tutor," I explained. "Not a nanny." My mind was made up. I would make arrangements the next day.

Only the next day came and Mr. Kinney paid a visit to the classroom, interrupting our work. "Mr. Taylor, a word with you."

I followed him to the library and he shut the door. I waited for him to offer me a seat. He did so and sat directly across from me so that our knees almost touched. I didn't want to look up into his eyes but I could feel him watching me and so I did. I wanted to run. He had the most beautiful eyes.

"Mrs. Kinney tells me that you're planning to go to NY for the holidays."

"I haven't decided on the city yet."

"I had hoped you'd stay here." He paused. "With us."

He couldn't have meant that, couldn't have meant what his eyes seemed to imply: that he had wanted me there. I wouldn’t be fooled again.

"As I told Mrs. Kinney—"

"I know you're not his nanny," he said impatiently. "That's not why I want you to stay." He rose and paced a bit. "As you can tell, I don't have much family. My elder sister died a number of years ago. This house originally belonged to her. My father had left it to her. I had an allowance and free run of the world. So I did. I traveled all over, hardly ever coming home. But now I am home. I took your lecture to heart."

"What lecture?" I asked, panicked that I'd done something wrong.

"About Gus. You're right. He deserves to have parents who care for him. He deserves to have a family. I've made it my duty to see that he has one. I consider you a part of our family, Justin." He returned to his seat. "Will you reconsider and spend Christmas with us?"

I could not refuse even though I cursed myself later in the darkness of my room. He would bring that man here and I would be forced to sit at the dinner table with him knowing that Mr. Kinney planned to make him a permanent addition to the household. I wanted to run away but I couldn't. I couldn't leave.

I couldn't leave him.

It a few days before Christmas and Mr. Kinney's guest had been with us for a week now. At first it was easy to ignore him as Gus and I still had class every day but then, only three days before Christmas, we suspended them until after New Year's. Gus' mind hadn't really been on academic matters anyway. From the moment Michael came into the house, he'd been distracted, always thinking up reasons to be near his guardian and his lover.

Even I had to admit that he brought changes to the house with his arrival, positive changes. He was a fairly cheerful person and so he laughed a lot, as did his friends who came with him. Mr. Kinney hadn't mentioned them. Emmett and Ted they were named and they came and claimed a couple of rooms along the vast hallway of rooms that made up the main wing of the house. There was a whole other unused wing that I wished he'd put all of them in but no one seemed to go into that wing although I thought once or twice that I had heard noises coming from that side of the house. Mrs. Kinney and the servants had assured me that I had not and Mr. Kinney had dismissed my concerns as well although I felt that his nonchalance was a ruse.

Anyway, the house was filled with laughter, and the smell of good food and wine—they loved wine—and the sound of music because they loved to dance as well. There was a game room on the lower level and they often commandeered it and danced all evening, Mr. Kinney joining them. They even asked me to come too but I refused. I wasn't really the dancing type. In fact, I'd never danced with anyone in my life. At school I had avoided it and dances like the Black Death. But I longed to dance with Mr. Kinney, to feel his strong arms around me as we whirled about the dance floor to something sweet and sappy. I imagined him dipping me and then kissing me…

Some nights they didn't dance but sat around talking, drinking, gossiping about friends they all knew. They played pool and in this I did join them as I had played in school and could hold my own. The times I played, one of them would drop out so that we could do teams. Usually Ted or Emmett sat out a game while I took their place and Mr. Kinney and Michael paired up but one night, Mr. Kinney announced that I was to be his partner which threw everything out of whack. Michael sat out the game and glared at me from the sidelines.

That evening I heard him and friends talking in a hallway. I had gone to bed earlier, having left them about to start dancing for the evening. Mr. Kinney hadn't been able to persuade me to stay. Truthfully, I had wanted to get away from Michael's black eyes that seemed to follow me wherever I went. Thirsty, I had left my room and gotten something from the kitchen. As I returned to my room, I heard him and his friends coming up the stairs and I hid in an unused room with the door cracked. Really, I did it because I didn't want to run into them but afterwards I realized that maybe I was just spying on them. I heard my name and then I heard one of them say, "I wonder if he's fucking him?"

"Did you see that ass? Of course he's fucking him."

"Then why the fuck am I here?" That was Michael.

"You're respectable, honey. He's just the help. And what do you expect anyway? That after you two tie the knot, he's going to stop playing around?"

"The man is notorious." Ted. "He's fucked his way across six continents. If they'd open Antarctica to tourists, it would be seven."

"But I love him and I thought he loved me too."

"Maybe he does. In his mind, that has nothing to do with fucking. If you're smart, you'll let it ride."

They moved on and I couldn't hear the rest of their conversation. I don’t think I wanted to. I returned to my room with yet another piece of information to add to the complex puzzle that was Brian Kinney.

Burdened with the knowledge that Michael was jealous of me and that he and his friends believed I was sleeping with Mr. Kinney, I felt awkward around them the next day at breakfast. If Mr. Kinney noticed, he ignored it as he did most things that did not directly impact him. He was deep in thought, it seemed, and Michael teased him.

"You look like that statue," he said and Mr. Kinney glanced at him. "You know the one."

" 'The Thinker'," I said thoughtlessly when I should have known that the last thing Michael would want was to be shown up by the help.

Mr. Kinney smiled at me (Why? Why did he do such things?) which only served to infuriate Michael.

"You know," he said, "I really think you should send Gus to boarding school." Both Gus and I looked alarmed. "I think it would do him good to be with other children. No offense, Justy," I bristle at the familiarity, "even though you're young, you're not quite on his level." Nor on theirs, he implied. You don't belong here, that's what he was trying to tell me. I was an outsider and unwanted. I looked to see what Mr. Kinney thought of Michael's suggestion but he gave no hint.

Instead he finished his meal and then went into the library to do some work, he announced. Michael and the boys groaned. Whenever he went in there to work he was, invariably, gone for hours and they were forced to find something to do without him. And as Michael's whole purpose in being here was to be with Brian, it pissed him off. Angry, he decided that he and the boys would go into the city and hang out for the day. They left in one of Brian's cars without looking back. Once they were gone, Brian emerged from his library and asked me to join him.

I took my accustomed seat and waited for him to speak.

"I've been trying to think of presents for the last two people on my list. I thought you might have an idea."

"Yes, sir." Probably Mrs. Kinney and Gus.

"They're for you and Gus."

I was flustered. I had asked Mrs. Kinney if I should give presents to Mr. Kinney and Gus and she had assured me that Mr. Kinney did not expect any individual gifts from the staff. They generally pooled their money and bought him some trifle which he put away in his room and never used or paid attention to. Gus, on the other hand, they did buy presents for as the boy had always seemed a little sad at Christmas. He probably missed his mothers most around that time of the year and they endeavored to make him happy and showered him with gifts.


"I want nothing, sir."


"No, sir. I have everything I need."

"Christmas isn't for the things we need, it's for the things we want," he pointed out.

I want you, I wanted to say. Instead, I said, "Gus and I both have been wanting to go into the city."

"Then take a car and go."

"I think he'd enjoy it if you went with us. We could go to a movie or dinner." I waited for him to axe the idea.

"Or both," he teased by way of an answer.

I smiled and he stared at me as if he had never seen me before.

"You have the most amazing smile," he said and it seemed as if he was a little out of breath. He was perched on the arm of the sofa where I sat. Suddenly he seemed too close. I got up to leave and he caught my arm so that I now looked down at him.

My heart was beating so quickly, I thought I would have a heart attack and die. I wanted to die. I knew what he offered and I wanted it, I wanted him to have me but I couldn't. Not like this. The master of the house playing around with the tutor like we were in some trashy romance novel. I wouldn't be Conquest #4000. Softly, I said, "Sir," to remind him that I was the help. His jaw tightened and then he released me and I left, shaking every step of the way to my room.

That night I did not join Mr. Kinney and his guests in the game room. I watched television with Gus and when he went to bed I escaped to my suite. But I could not sleep. I lay awake reliving in my mind that moment in the library and what he had offered. Should I have taken it? To be with him if only for an hour, would that have been enough? No. I could not accept that. I would go. It was as good as decided that when Michael moved in, Gus would go to boarding school and then there would be no need for my services. As a tutor. And even if they did not send Gus away, I could not stay in the same house as Michael, in the same house with Mr. Kinney and his hazel eyes that saw right through you. I didn't know how much longer I could refuse him and I didn't want to be some kind of in-house ass for him to fuck when he bored of Michael. And he would. He was bored with him already. Whether they fucked in the house, I never heard them but I could tell that Brian was bored with his soon-to-be partner. Brian was serious-minded, intelligent, quick-tempered, passionate. Michael was passionate as well but he wasn't Brian's match in intelligence and he pouted rather than raged and he didn't care about politics or the economy or world affairs. What they talked about, I don't know. Maybe they hadn't in the beginning. Maybe they had only fucked. Maybe it hadn't mattered to Brian. As Michael's friend had told him, he was respectable. Perhaps that was all that counted.

The next morning, the sounds of an argument greeted me as I descended the staircase. It was Michael and Mr. Kinney in the midst of a battle royale. They were holed up in the library and I expected any minute to hear glass being shattered. Just as I reached the bottom stair, the door flew open. There was nowhere for me to go so I just stood there. Michael came out scowling. The scowl deepened when he saw me. But he didn't bother speaking to me, he just rushed past me, his friends emerging from the breakfast room, now that the argument as over, to follow. I did not wait to see if Mr. Kinney would come out as well, I hurried to the breakfast room and hoped he would remain in his library until I could finish eating and escape outside. I had planned to make sketches of the tree in the snow and now I had even more reason for wanting to do so.

In the middle of eating, I heard footsteps on the stairs. It sounded like a troop of soldiers. The front door opened and slammed close. I heard car doors opening. The trunk being slammed. Then the sound of the limo starting. Our guests were going home.

Mr. Kinney did not appear for the rest of the day but a black cloud hung over the house as if a storm were about to break. Christmas, which was but one day away, seemed doomed.

It was Christmas Eve and the staff had outdone themselves decorating the mansion. I'd begged for and gotten a small tree for Gus to decorate and to put in the parlor. A grand tree which the staff had decorated graced the front hall of the house but I thought Gus would appreciate having a tree of his own and he did. He loved it. After decorating it, he closed the curtains and I plugged in the lights on the tree. He lay on his belly on the floor looking at for the longest time.

Mr. Kinney had disappeared. To go into the city Mrs. Kinney believed. I worried about him. Even though I had doubted Michael's fitness to be his partner, I didn't want to see Mr. Kinney unhappy. More than anything I wanted him to be happy.

Still, Gus' happiness and anticipation was enough to infect all of us and we had a fairly good day. That evening, the staff sang Christmas carols after dinner and Gus joined in on the piano. Despite Mr. Kinney's absence, I felt as if it were the first real Christmas Eve I had ever had.

With a warning that Santa Claus wouldn’t visit the homes of little boys who stayed up past their bedtimes, I sent Gus to his bed with the maid. Afterwards I had a bit of egg nog spiked with bourbon and sat on the floor in the parlor staring at the fire in the hearth. I wondered if he would return tonight or if he had taken a notion to fly off to Paris and spend the holiday there away from the estate and memories of Michael. Only I couldn't imagine that losing Michael had hurt him that much.

Mesmerized by the flames and meandering among my thoughts, I lost track of time and eventually dozed where I sat. I would have probably slept until daylight except that someone opened the door and I jerked awake. Checked my watch. It was almost midnight. Mrs. Kinney had probably come to send me to bed. I looked up and saw Mr. Kinney.

"You're still up," he said.

"I must have fallen asleep," I explained, getting to my feet. "Goodnight," I said and made to leave.

"Won't you stay a while? Keep me company, Justin?"

As always when he said my name, I felt two contrary impulses: one, to run to him and confess my love for him and, two, to run away and hide.

He sat on the sofa by the fire and crossed his legs. The flames cast their light across his face. I searched it and found no ulterior motives, only the desire not to be alone. So I returned to my place. We sat like this for a while, me at his feet, both of us pretending to be fascinated by the fire. Finally, I had to speak.

"I'm sorry that you're alone," I said.

"I'm not. I have a partner, you know."

I was confused. "But I thought you and Mr. Novotny had argued?"

"We did."

"And he left."

"He did."

"Is he coming back?"

"Probably not."

His answered only served to deepen my confusion. "Have you found someone else?" And so quickly?

"I have."

I would have to leave. I could not remain in the employment of a man who seemed to throw away lovers like old socks. Did he care for no one? I felt his hand on the back of my neck. His fingers stroked the nape and then cupped my face. Forced me to look around at him.

"It's you, Justin."


"I love you."


He laughed. "How? Don't you mean why?"

"Why do you love me then?" I asked.

"Because you're like me. You're smart, and you're good at what you do, and you're strong. And," he added, "because whenever I am away from you, you're all I think about. You and your beautiful smile. And your beautiful face." He slipped from the couch and knelt next to me. Drew me to my knees. "I've been wanting to do this for a long time." He kissed me and I felt dizzy. We were both trembling: me, a virgin who had never kissed anyone before and him, a man who had probably had thousands of lovers. I took comfort from that, that he was as scared as I was. We parted briefly and then resumed kissing. I never wanted it to end. I had dreamt of kissing him, how his lips would taste, and my dreams were nothing compared to the reality. With his arms around me, I felt as if I had finally found my home. With a last kiss, he pulled away from me and studied my face. I blushed, remembering his words, and looked down. He raised my face and ran his thumb over my cheek. "I want to make love to you," he said in a whisper and I shivered. It was what I wanted to only I was afraid.

"I've never…" I began but he put his finger across my lips.

"I know. If it's not what you want—"

"I want to. Just… I need you to go slow."

He stood and held out his hand, helped me up, then kissed me again, lightly on the forehead. "Do you love me?" he asked and I laughed. "What?"

"Of course, I do."

"I know that I'm hard to love. I know that."

"But I do, I do love you." I kissed his fingers. "I love you."

Scarcely parting as we ran up the stairs, I kept expecting us to fall down and break our necks. Suppressing giggles, we leaned against a wall when we finally reached the second floor and caught our breath. Then he led me to his chamber.

I had never been in his bedroom, only the sitting room, but I had glimpsed the massive bed through an open door. Never had I hoped that I would be undressed as tenderly as he undressed me and laid down upon thick, warm covers to wait for him until he was naked as well. He came to me and took me in his arms. Kissed me gently while I grew accustomed to touching him. I could feel his penis, hard against my thigh. Mine had stirred but my fear kept it from becoming erect. "Don't be afraid," he told me. "I won't hurt you."

"I don’t know what to do."

"I'll teach you. And you'll teach me how to give you pleasure."

"I just want you to hold me," I said and he chuckled.

"Be a waste of a great lover," he boasted. "I want to kiss you."

"You are."

"All over," he explained and I nodded.

He began with my forehead, kissing my temples, kissing my eyelids, down my face, across my lips. He paused there and we kissed for the longest time and then he resumed his course. His mouth traveled down my neck leaving kisses along each inch of my throat. I inhaled as his lips closed around one of my nipples. I couldn't believe how much it affected me. A warmth spread from the tip outwards. I could feel the sensation in my penis. I moaned, feeling it throb. He continued to kiss my nipple and then he began to suck it. I cupped the back of his head and my lips parted and I wriggled beneath him. Leaving that side of my chest, he turned to the other and did not cease his work until I begged him to. He raised his head.

"Do you really want me to stop?"

"Yes. No." My head swam. "No."

But he moved from my chest anyway, kissing his way down my torso until he reached my navel. He encircled it with his lips and I jerked, ticklish. He laughed low in his throat and held me down. Followed the faint line of hair down my belly.

The fear returned. I wanted him to take my penis into his mouth and to suck it as he had my nipples but I didn't want to come, not yet, and I knew it wouldn't take much for me to climax now. "Wait," I told him.

"What's wrong?"

"It's too close."

He smiled and kissed my belly once more. "Don't worry." He grasped my penis by the base, held it up. "I want you to come." Just hearing him say the word made me moan. "I want my little boy to come." He engulfed the head and I cried out. I couldn't help myself. My muscles trembled as I gripped the covers in my toes and fists. God, his tongue. He lashed my cock with his tongue. My cock. Before it had been something anatomical, now it was more than that. He sucked my cock, coaxing it to thicken, to lengthen, to harden. I clenched my buttocks and began to thrust up into his mouth. The tip of my cock brushed against the roof of his mouth and I shouted. Cum erupted from the opening and I groaned. His head bobbed over my groin as he drank every last drop. Which only served to make me come even harder, the sight of him milking me, his eyes closed in contentment.

He released me, then crawled up my body until our heads were aligned. Cum stained his lips. He kissed me and I tasted myself on his mouth. We lay together for a few moments, neither of us moving. I knew what he was doing. He was letting me set the pace. Although I had been afraid before of seeming an experienced fool, I no longer cared. I wanted him. I wanted him so badly I could feel it inside of me, a hunger to have him in me. I reached for his cock. Its head reared proudly over his belly, a shiny drop of liquid clinging to the tip. I rubbed the precum over the head and he sighed, "Oh, Christ…" He closed his hand over mine. I couldn't believe that I had done that to him just by touching him. "I want you," he said. "I want you so badly."

"I want you in me," I told him, no longer shy. "Fuck me."

Brian smiled and slid down in the bed, pulled me on top of him, and made me kneel over his face. I felt his hands on my thighs. I couldn't believe what he was about to do. Keeping my eyes on his cock, I felt his tongue slip between my cheeks. "Oh, God!" I cried. It was incredible. His tongue flickered over my hole and I couldn't keep quiet. I had never felt anything like it, had never imagined that it would feel so good. I squirmed above him and felt my cock sway between my legs. He continued to ply my ass until I could feel the tight muscles relaxing. He worked the tip of his tongue inside me and I stiffened. I caught his hands in mine to steady myself. I felt like I was about to explode.

When I was certain I couldn't stand anymore, he stopped. Kissed my hole and told me to lean forward. I did, my face in his groin, and soon I felt his finger exploring where his tongue had previously gone. With his cock so close, I extended my tongue and licked what I could reach. It felt so strange, that skin so soft could cover something so hard and yet the hardness wasn't like steel, it was like silk wound around itself a thousand times. I found my way to the head of his cock and closed my lips around it, heard him sigh. His finger dipped deep inside me and I gasped.

"Are you ready?" he asked and I took another breath. "Justin?"


"Then turn around." Reluctantly I left his cock. There would be other opportunities for me to taste it. He got a condom from the nightstand and the tube of lubricant, handed both to me. I opened the packet and unrolled the condom over his cock. He hissed as I lubed him. Then he positioned me over his groin. "It'll be easier this way," he explained. "Take as much as you want. It's up to you. We'll go as slow as you need."

For a few moments I could only sit there watching his face. I could feel the heat from his cock beneath me. It was like a wild animal wanting to burrow inside of my body. And I wanted him to. I wanted to shelter him inside me. I understood why he'd trembled too. He needed someone to hold him, protect him, comfort him. I would be that person.

I reached back and held his cock steady, moved around until the tip pressed against the center of my hole. Then I pushed down. My mouth opened and I panted as he split me open, as my tight muscles open to let him in. I had thought them relaxed from his finger but I was wrong. The pain was like nothing I had ever experienced. And then the head passed through and it lessened. There was still pain but not the sharp, rending feeling from before. It had subsided to a sting. I rested for a moment and opened my eyes. A tear had slipped from beneath the lid. He reached up and wiped it away and I kissed his hand.

Ready to begin again, I forced myself down on his cock and gave a shout as he hit my prostate. As intense as the pain had been, the pleasure that shook me was a hundred times more powerful. I gripped him with my muscles and shuddered.

"Does that feel good?" he asked.


"It gets better," he told me and I believed him. Anxious to continue, I pushed down again and took the rest of him inside. He stroked my belly and sides. "That's my little boy."

The way he said that made my stomach flutter. I had never been anyone's little boy but I could be his if he wanted me to be.

Once I was used to that full feeling in my bowels which had accompanied his cock, I was ready to begin fucking in earnest. Raising up, I squeezed my eyes shut. My muscles resisted the withdrawal just as much as they had the intrusion. Still, I managed to continue my ascent until only the head remained in me. Then I descended once more.

The noises he made told me that he was pleased. As I grew looser, I began to bounce on his cock and he screwed up his face and fought the urge to cry out. I whimpered as I fucked myself on his cock, the thick organ sliding in and out of me, twisting my insides tighter and tighter. It felt so amazing, I never wanted to stop. He drew me down upon his chest and I worked my ass back upon his cock, rubbing mine against his belly.

Suddenly he rolled me over onto my back and went up on his hands. I gripped his waist with my legs and held on as he began to plow my ass.

I cupped his small buttocks and urged him on. "Fuck me," I whispered. "Fuck me."

"Say it."

"Fuck me."

"Say my name," he ordered.

"Fuck me, Brian."


"Fuck me, Brian."


"Harder. Harder." Sweat dripped off his body onto mine and I could feel my muscles cramping but I didn't want him to stop. He pounded me and I loved every moment of it. My cock was so hard, all I needed was to brush up against his stomach one more time and I would come. He lowered his body to kiss me and that did it. I exploded with a shout. Cum splattered the underside of my chin. Caught up in my orgasm, I gripped his cock and he bellowed and came too, jerking hard against my ass. Even after he had ceased to ejaculate, he kept thrusting into me until exhaustion claimed him and he collapsed on my chest. Although he was heavier than I was, I didn't care. I didn't care if he never moved again. Closing my eyes, I fell asleep with him still buried inside me.

It was the best Christmas of my life. I awoke in my lover's arms and we made love in the early morning hours before Gus got up to see what Santa Claus had gotten him. We had just showered and dressed when I heard him running down the hallway. The staff would have breakfast ready soon. I would have to go downstairs and face Mrs. Kinney and the rest of the servants knowing that I was no longer one of them. And Gus. How would I explain what had happened? I stood in the middle of the sitting room, confused and somewhat apprehensive. But Brian came to me and embraced me and kissed the top of my head. "Come on," he said and I followed. I would follow him anywhere.

Gus was busy searching out his presents beneath the tree. When he saw us coming down the stairs, he stopped and made as if to leave them but Brian waved him on and he smiled broadly and continued his search. When he had found them all, we carried them to the parlor and he proceeded to open each and every one. Brian had coffee brought into the room and he and I sat quite chastely on the sofa while Mrs. Kinney helped Gus with his gifts. The adults would open theirs later, after breakfast. When every gift had been opened, Gus turned to his guardian and tried to look happy but he couldn't.

"You didn't buy me a present," he said and I looked sharply at Brian. I knew that he had promised to take us into the city but I had assumed he'd buy something for Gus as well.

"No, I didn't buy you anything. But I do have a present for you." He smiled and for the first time I realized how fond he was of Gus.

"Where is it?"

"It's right here," he said and he handed Gus a box. The little boy opened it and took out a silver ring. He tried it on but it didn’t fit any of his fingers.

"It's too big," he complained.

"That's because it's not for you."

My eyes widened.

"How would you like it if Justin stayed with us and we became your new parents?"

"You and Justin?"

"Yes. Would you like that?"

Gus nodded, then ran and leapt into Brian's lap.

"All right then, give Justin the ring."

Solemnly, the little boy offered me the ring. I took it from his hands, mine trembling, and held it for a moment.

Brian cupped my face and asked, "Will you be my partner?"

The words got caught in my throat. I cleared it and then replied, "Yes."

He took the ring from my hand and placed it on my finger. Then kissed me and beamed at the world. "Mrs. Kinney, are you surprised?" he asked.

"No," she said. "I've known from the moment he walked in here that he'd end up in your bed."

"Not just my bed," he explained. "In my heart."

Despite Mrs. Kinney's chilly response, nothing could dampen the day. After breakfast, the adults opened their presents, Brian laughing when he opened his and found a new burgundy sweater.

"I guess I do wear a lot of black," he confessed. "It makes me look slim," he explained.

"You are slim," I assured him. He was. He had a beautiful body.

"You're good for me."

"Then it's a good thing I'm hanging around."

Dinner was served in the early afternoon and by then even Mrs. Kinney was in a better mood. I think it had to do with the large amounts of egg nog she'd consumed. Heavily spiked with bourbon. Brian whispered that she had a bit of a drinking problem, poor thing, that was mainly why he employed her rather than leaving her on her own.

In between bites Gus planned for the future. He wanted to know if I would continue as his teacher and I told him that I thought it would be better if he went to school with other children his age. Michael had been right about that. But not a boarding school, a private school nearby where I could drop him off and pick him up each day.

"So what will you do?" Brian asked.

"Sketch. Paint. Maybe I was meant to be an artist," I replied. Just then a question that had been in my head since the moment I had heard of Mr. Kinney popped to my lips. "Brian, what do you do?"

He laughed. "Not much of anything. Mostly I watch my investments. And there are a couple of companies somewhere that are being run very well without any interference from me. I forget what they do." He smiled to let me know he was joking. "I'll tell you all about them. Later."

We watched Christmas movies on television all afternoon and had a small supper around seven. Gus was allowed to stay up until nine and then he was hurried off to bed. Mrs. Kinney retired then as well, saying she was tuckered out from the day. With everyone else gone, we remained in the parlor and made out like teenagers until it became painfully obvious that we would either have to go up to Brian's room or run the risk of being caught in mid-act by some of the staff. We opted for privacy.

If Christmas had been magical, then the day after was amazing as well. We bundled up and hopped into the limo for a day in Pittsburgh. I had never been into the city in all the time I had lived on the estate. Now, I couldn't wait to see it.

"Don't expect too much," Brian warned me. "It's not like New York or LA or even Philadelphia for that matter. It's just Pittsburgh."

"I don’t care," I told him. "I'm with my two favorite people in the whole world. What could be better than that?"

"Walking along the Seine in Paris; wandering around Trafalgar Square in London; speeding down the streets of Rome on a Vespa—"

"But we're not in those places. We're here. You have to learn to be content where you are."

"Lessons already and we haven't even been together three days."

My answer was interrupted by our entrance into the city. It wasn't New York, that was true, but it had a charm all its own. We drove through the downtown area and I saw some interesting buildings, some very beautiful buildings.

We spent a few hours in an art museum and then headed for the mall to see what was playing at the movies. There was nothing really suitable for children so we decided to go ice skating instead. Gus didn't mind as he loved to ice skate. Watching him from the edge of the rink, I could see Brian taking pride in his son's accomplishments.

Brian left dinner up to Gus and so we ended up at a very loud and very tacky restaurant that catered to children and housed a veritable cornucopia of video games. Gus had very few video games at home as I didn't care for them and neither did Mrs. Kinney but he proved to be adept at the ones he played in the restaurant and returned to the table victorious with a fistful of tickets which he exchanged for a prize at the end of the evening. It might as well have been a Faberge egg as far as he was concerned. Clutching his cheap toy in his hands, he fell asleep on the way home, exhausted from his trip into city, and I silently wished that all of our days together as a family would be as wonderful.

Brian and I bathed together in the huge sunken tub in the middle of his bathroom. I had yet to return to my room except to get a change of clothes. I'd put off moving into his suite. I don't know why but I had. Even with the ring on my finger, I waited for something. I didn't know what. Brian teased me and said we'd do like couples used to when they had separate bedrooms and only came together for pleasure or to procreate.

"I don't think we'll be doing a lot of procreating," I teased.

"We can always try."

"And try."

"And try."

Not ones to put off until tomorrow what we could do today, we tried that very night to conceive but it was not to be. So we settled for pleasure.

The next few days were filled with pleasure. And pain. Brian was driving everyone insane with his plans for his annual New Year's party. He changed his mind a hundred times a day which kept the staff guessing what their duties were from moment to moment. Finally, I cornered him in his office and told him it had to stop. Poor Mrs. Kinney was a nervous wreck.

"I just want everything to be perfect."

"It will be."

"I can't wait to show you off," he said. He'd even taken me into the city to buy an expensive tuxedo even though I told him I had a suit that would do. He wouldn't hear of it.

"How many people are going to be here?" I asked, suddenly apprehensive of meeting his peers and being found lacking.

"Won't matter," he said. "I'll only have eyes for you." He held me in his arms and kissed me gently. "I love you."

I believed him, deep down where that little voice inside of you lives, the one that tells you if you're doing something stupid. It had been silent for days. "I love you too."

"And you'll always be with me. You'll never leave me."

I could hear a note of fear in his voice. "Never." I wondered who had left him before. He had spoken of having loved someone else but I thought it best not to question him about it. Whoever it had been had hurt him deeply. But I would heal his hurts.

The night of the party arrived and a bevy of fabulous cars pulled up in front of the house discharging their equally fabulous passengers. Brian had hired extra help for the party and they were busy opening car doors and taking people's wraps and circulating champagne and appetizers. He had wanted me to go down with him when the first guests had arrived but I had demurred. I had wanted a little more time to get ready. Not to dress, I was dressed and my hair was combed and I looked wonderful. He'd told me so. But I couldn't go down, not yet. As the moments ticked away, I realized that I would have to leave our room and meet his friends. His acquaintances. He had assured me that neither Mikey nor his coterie had been invited so I didn't have to fear an awkward exchange. Well, actually, I did. I had never done much socializing even in college. I didn't know how to make small talk. Brian and I had suited one another perfectly because he had asked the questions and I had answered. He too had no patience with chit-chat. We would discuss issues, offer opinions, but we always talked about things that mattered to us, even if it was just a television program. I didn't know how to mingle, how to circulate, how to play host. Still, I had to leave and soon or he'd be back upstairs demanding that I come down.

I did. Taking the stairs slowly, I finally made it to the first floor. He'd seen me coming down and came over now to meet me. Took my hand and kissed it. Which attracted attention. Not one to shrink even under the most intense gazes, he snagged two glasses of champagne and handed one to me. Then stood on the bottom step of the staircase and shouted, "May I have your attention! Ladies and gentlemen!" The butler had the foresight to dim the lights a couple of times as Brian's voice was never really loud even when he was yelling. The guests began to quiet. When there was near silence, he said, "Thank you. Thank you for coming out to share New Year's Eve with me." He looked at me. "With us." I waited. "I had a dual purpose for inviting you, however. This past year, something amazing happened to me: I fell in love. I found my soulmate. I'd like you to meet Justin Taylor… my partner."

The crowd began murmuring and then a lone voice cut through the noise. "What about Cam?"

I glanced up at Brian and his face had paled. Who was Cam?

A man was pushing his way through the throng of partygoers. When he reached the stairs, he asked again, quite loudly, "What about Cam?"

"Will…" began Brian but his voice faltered.

"Have you forgotten about him? Locked him away and forgotten about him?"

"You know that isn't true."

"Is he here? In this house? With you? No, you keep him hidden, keep him isolated from the world. You're killing him!"

Brian was shaken. The champagne glass trembled in his hand and an amber drop fell. "Will, don't do this. You know it isn't—"

"Now that he can't serve you, you've found another one. Another fool to worship at your feet." He turned to me. "Has he told you about Cam? Has he?"

I didn't know what to do.

"Leave him out of this. It doesn't concern him."

"But it does. It does concern him. After all, he's Cam's replacement, isn't it?"

"Stop it," Brian ordered but Will ignored him.

"Has he told you about my brother, Cam, about his first lover? Did he tell you how he wooed him with gifts and promises that he never intended to keep?"


"You're the liar!" Will took a step towards me and I shrank away. "Did he tell you how he drove Cam crazy with his infidelity, his lies, his deceit? Did he? Ask him where Cam is. Ask him where he disappears to when he leaves the house and you can't find him. Ask him about the cabin on the edge of the property. Ask him!"

"Brian…" I was very aware of all the eyes on us, eyes that wanted answers to their questions. I wished them away but they did not vanish. "Brian, please…"

He sat upon the steps and spoke in a conversational tone. It must have driven the people in the back mad not to be able to hear all that he said. But I heard him, I heard every word. "I met Cam when I was younger. I'd fucked my way across the world and back and never had I ever fallen in love. And then I met Cam. He was beautiful. Dark hair and blue eyes. Blue, like yours. He was… incredible. Full of life. Passionate. He had a dream of us settling down and being together forever and I tried, I tried to give him what he wanted. But I couldn't. I was too wild, too immature, too selfish. I bought him gifts after I cheated on him and begged him to forgive me. He always did. But… something was wrong. Cam," he tightened his jaw, "wasn't stable."

"He was stable enough before he met you!" spat Will.

"You know that isn't true. I had seen the marks on his wrists and ignored them. Ignored the strange things he said from time to time. Put it down to eccentricity. But Cam wasn't eccentric. He was disturbed."

"You were never there," Will accused. "Always out fucking around! He would call me, crying, wondering where you were, who you were with. He hated needing you so much but he did. And you used him!"

"I came home from a business trip and he'd… he'd tried to kill himself. I had him hospitalized and he snapped. They said he might never recover. I didn’t want to leave him in an institution—"

"You felt guilty!" yelled Will.

"So I brought him home."

"You didn't bring him home. You didn't want him near you."

"He didn't want to be with me!" Brian replied, angry, humiliated. "I know you're his brother but you don't know. You don't know. I tried. I tried to keep him here in the house but it just—it seemed to make him worse. So I had the cabin built and I hired someone to take care of him."

"Keep your guilty, little secret, you mean."

"Will, I never meant for it happen like this. I loved Cam."

The man sneered. "Fuck you, Brian. Fuck you!" He stormed from the house, many of the guests trailing in his wake. The party was over.

I didn't care. My entire world had been turned upside down. I looked at the ring Brian had given me, a symbol of his fidelity, his desire to build a life with me. A life founded on lies.


"You lied to me."

"No, Justin—"

"I can never believe you again."

He rose to stop me as I started up the stairs. "Justin, please. Please, listen—"

"You had plenty of opportunities to tell me about Cam but you didn't. You lied to me. And I can never forget that." I pulled the ring from my finger, held it out to him. "Take it."

"Don't go."

"I'm going. Take it."

Tears streaking his cheeks, he took the ring. "Justin…"

I left him there. I had nothing further to say to him.

The next morning I packed my things and called the driver to take me to Pittsburgh. Brian didn't try to stop me. I didn't even see him. As I walked through the reception hall, remnants of the party reminded me of our aborted celebration. Our aborted life. I took nothing with me that he had given me. The tuxedo lay on the bed in my room. I suppose it had been fortuitous that I had never moved into his suite. It made leaving that much easier.

But not easy. My stomach was clenched and I had trouble breathing as I walked down the front steps. I wanted to run back into the house and find him and tell him that I loved him. Because I did. But I could not trust him. If he would lie to me about something so important, what else would he do? Would I end up like Cam, waiting at home wondering if he was out with someone else? Slowly losing my mind.

The driver took my bags and held open the door for me. As he closed it, I turned away from the house. It would be that much easier if I didn't look at it. Or so I thought. At least a dozen times on the trip to the highway, I started to ask him to stop, to take me back. I thought I would die without Brian. I wanted to die.

But I lived. I stayed in the city for a few days to figure out what to do. I had enough money for a plane ticket someplace but where? And what would I do? I wasn't wealthy. I had a little in the bank to tide me over until I found a job but I didn't want to teach anymore. I didn't want to think about Gus. What had Brian told him when the little boy awoke to find me gone? I tried not to care. Besides, I had begun to think of myself as an artist. I would let my art be my life since I had nothing else.

In the end I chose to go to Chicago. I had always been intimidated by NY and DC was just a little too close to the South for my tastes. LA was too far away and I didn't want to spend my summers in New Orleans or my winters in Boston even though winters in Chicago are fierce. Truthfully, when I got to the airport, I just said the first thing that came into my mind when asked my destination. "Chicago."

I found an inexpensive hotel that had weekly rates and I stayed there for a week while I looked for a job. It was difficult. All I'd ever done was teach. So I did what most starving artists do, I waited. On tables. I got a job in a diner run by a brother/sister team: Vic and Deb Grassi. They were amazingly sweet even when it became painfully obvious that I had never waited tables in my life. Better still, when they learned of my circumstances, they offered me a room in their house. It was actually a basement apartment with a separate entrance. The bathroom and kitchen weren't fancy but they would do.

"And you'll have some privacy," Vic explained. "In case you want to entertain."

"I won't be entertaining," I told him. He was gay too and I know he probably thought a young person such as myself would have a steady stream of guys coming in and out of the apartment. But that was the last thing I wanted. Besides, who could compare to Brian?

"A wallflower, huh?" he teased.

With tears glistening in my eyes, I said, "No. A…" But I couldn't finish. It hurt too much even to talk about Brian. I covered my face and cried in front of this man, this virtual stranger. I hadn't cried from the moment I walked out of Brian's house but I cried now. I wept. And Vic held me and said nothing.

I told myself as the weeks went by that my heart would mend. One day I would wake up and the pain would be gone. It's how I kept going. I concentrated on my work and I lied to myself. I devoted as much time as I could to my art and I took a class at the community college in life drawing. I kept busy, I reverted to my prior hermitlike existence in college. No dates, no close friends (other than Deb and Vic), no risk of breaking my heart again. It was a kind of life, a pale imitation of the life I had imagined I'd share with Brian and Gus but I survived. And if I cried myself to sleep thinking of his arms wrapped around me, what of it? The tears were gone by morning, soaked into my pillow, and I was able to go to work and pretend for another day that everything was fine. I learned how not to have high expectations, to moderate my needs, temper my desires.

I was only half alive, I think.

Men approached me: guys my own age, older men as well, and I turned them all down, refused their offers of temporary comfort. I earned a reputation for being aloof, cold, distant. They gossiped about me, claiming I felt I was too good for the common man. In fact, I did not. I felt worthless. I had given everything to Brian and he'd lied to me. I had nothing left to give. I was empty.

I thought of him often, of Brian. Gus too. I wondered if Brian had kept his promise to be a real father to the little boy or if he'd shipped him off to boarding school before the linens had even been changed on my bed. Probably Brian had left the estate too, taken up residence in one of his other homes. Leaving Cam behind. If there was anyone I felt sorrier for than myself and Gus, it was Cam. He too had been mistreated by Brian. And yet we all still loved him, I'm sure of it. I knew I did and Gus had loved him even when Brian hadn't given him a reason to do so. Fools. We were all fools to cast our hopes with such a man.


I tried not to think about the good in him because then I would have gone mad.

A year had passed and I had thought about pursuing a degree in Visual Arts from the University of Chicago but hadn't submitted the paperwork yet. I don't know what I was waiting for, some kind of sign to tell me I was doing the right thing, I suppose. But God must have been busy because I never got any messages from burning bushes. So I continued working at the diner, hoping I'd eventually make a decision about my future. I couldn’t keep in the holding pattern I'd been in for the past twelve months.

One night I was getting ready for the serious dinner crowd to arrive: making sure each table was stocked with condiments and that there were napkins in all the holders, when a story on the news caught my eye.

"A fire broke out earlier today on the estate of wealthy Pennsylvanian businessman, Brian Kinney. Early reports indicate that there was one death associated with the fire but the identity of the victim has not been released as of yet."

I felt weak. If Deb hadn't been at my elbow, I would have fallen. She kissed me on the cheek and said, "Go, go, go." I had told them all about Brian one night over dinner when I'd been feeling particularly down. I paused, not because I was unsure as to where I belonged, I just didn't know how to proceed. Deb solved that dilemma as well. "Go home, pack your bag, and get your ass down to the airport."

I smiled. "Thanks, Deb. I'll call when I get there."

"You'll call once you find out he's okay." She knew me. "Bye, Sunshine."

I packed in record time and caught a cab to the airport. This time I knew exactly where I was going.

Sitting in the airport, I watched the television screens religiously to see if they'd mention anything about the fire. They didn't. I'd have to wait until I got there it seemed.

Which made for a very long flight. I didn't ask myself what I'd do if he were dead. He had to be alive. God couldn't be that cruel.

I immediately got a cab from the airport in Pittsburgh and gave the driver directions to the estate, assuring him that he'd get his fare plus a hefty tip. The closer we got to the estate, the more certain I became that Brian was the person who had died. I was in a state of panic by the time we pulled into the driveway.

You could smell the smoke from the highway. We drove down the private road to the house and I gripped the handle on the door, ready to leap from the car the moment we arrived.

There was still one fire truck on the scene monitoring the ruins for a flare-up. All that was left of the house was a charred frame. I opened the door and ran for the nearest fireman. "Brian! Is he…?"

"Mr. Kinney was taken to Allegheny General."

"Thanks." I rushed back to the taxi and told him, "Allegheny General." Handed him a wad of money before he could complain.

"Allegheny General it is."

I knew they wouldn't let me see him but maybe they'd tell me how he was and I could sit out in the waiting room until visiting hours the next day. I would wait for as long as it took.

It was after midnight when I finally arrived at the hospital. Thanking the taxi driver, I jogged into the hospital and gave them Brian's name at the front desk. The attendant looked him up on the computer, told me he was on the eleventh floor. I went up and, after what seemed like an eternity, I found the nurses' station. "I'm looking for Brian Kinney."

"Are you a relative?"

"No. We…" I paused and wiped the tears that had appeared. "Is he okay?"

"He's resting."

I nodded and found a chair nearby. Sat in it and tried to calm down. I wouldn't have done Brian or myself any good if I fell apart then. One of the nurses came over and sat next to me.

"You love him very much, don't you?"

I couldn't answer.

"We gave him something to help him sleep," she told me, "but you can go sit with him if you'd like."

As I walked down the hallway, I promised myself that I would never leave his side again. I found his room and quietly opened the door and went in. Even though they'd given him a sleep aid, Brian was a notoriously light sleeper. I didn't want to wake him.

In the dark, I could see something wrapped around his head. No, around his eyes. His eyes had been bandaged. "Oh, God," I whispered and he stirred.

"Who's there?"

It had been a year since I'd last heard his voice and it didn't sound any different. He didn't look any different. Except for the gauze around his eyes.

"It's me."

He tried to sit up. "Justin?" I cut on the lights and then moved a chair next to the bed, sat down. "Is it really you?"


Brian turned away for a moment, then back. "I'm glad you're here."

I took his hand. "Are you okay? What's wrong with your eyes?"

He grimaced, as if in pain. "The fire." Paused and began breathing quickly.

"It's all right. You don't have to talk about it if you don’t want to."

"It was…"

A thought came to me. "Brian, where's Gus?"

"At school. I sent him away not long after you left. I couldn't stand the way he looked at me. He knew, he knew it was my fault and he hated me for it."

"He could never hate you."

"I can't believe you're here. I kept dreaming…" He moistened his lips. "Cam started the fire."

"What? How did he get out of the cabin?"

"He wasn't in the cabin. I'd moved him to the house. About six months ago. Will was right. I was hiding him. I didn't want to see him, I wanted to forget he existed but I couldn't. It wasn't his fault and I was punishing him. So I moved him into the empty wing of the house and for a while it seemed like things would work out. Taking care of Cam helped me… helped me deal with the pain of losing you. And it seemed like, it seemed like he was getting better. But about two weeks ago, he got out of his suite and he wandered through the house until he found my room. I woke up with him standing over me, holding a pair of scissors. I thought he was going to kill me. But he let me take them from him and lead him back to his room. I fired his companion the next day, had one of the house staff take over his duties. That was a mistake."

"What happened?"

"About four this morning, I woke up smelling smoke. It's a good thing I'm a light sleeper. It's the only thing that saved us. I got up and investigated. The smoke was coming from Cam's room. The door was open and the maid I'd assigned to him was passed out on the floor. I picked her up and started shouting for the rest of the staff to leave the house, call the fire department. Everyone made it out safely. Except Cam. He was still somewhere in the house. I hadn't seen him in his suite but I couldn't be sure that he wasn't in there, suffocating. So I went back in." He paused in the telling and I could see that it was difficult for him to continue. I said nothing. He began to speak again. "A beam fell over me. I'm lucky it didn't kill me. But the sparks… I wasn't able to block them and I lost an eye…" I endeavored not to speak but I gripped his hand even tighter. "The other eye is infected. They don't know if I'll be able to see." He laughed bitterly. "And for what? Cam wasn't in his room. He'd jumped from his window and killed himself."

The horror of his story gripped me and I shook. I should have been there, I should have been with him. Maybe if I had been there Cam wouldn't have been in the house and Brian wouldn't have been hurt. I hoped my tears were silent because I didn't want him to hear me crying. He'd take it for pity.

"I've missed you so much," he said. "I thought about you every day. I wanted to leave the house, to go overseas and lose myself in Rome or Paris or London. But I realized that it didn't matter where I was: you were always in my thoughts. And now you're here."

"And I’m never leaving you again," I swore.


"I promise."

The staff had been temporarily relocated to a block of hotel rooms in town, at least those with no family in the area. Mrs. Kinney came by the next day to see Brian and to tell him that she'd called Gus and assured him that his father was still alive. In fact, she came by every day to see her employer and to take whatever orders he had concerning the household. His attorney saw to the insurance claim for the house and attended to those matters, contacted Will to tell him of Cam's death.

I also found a room in a nearby hotel and spent every day with Brian, arriving early in the morning and leaving when visiting hours were over. I would have stayed with him at night but he needed his rest and if I had been there, he would have been tempted to talk to me instead of sleeping.

At the end of the first week of his stay, the doctors removed the bandages around his eyes to check the damage to his remaining one. I was with him and I watched with trepidation as the gauze was taken away, like unwinding a mummy almost. The sparks from the beam had burned the flesh across the bridge of his nose but the doctor assured us that the scar would fade in time. There was a pad over his left eye. They'd removed the damaged eye and put an implant in its place which mimicked the shape of his lost eye. A clear disc was put over the implant just under the eyelid. In time, tissue from the socket would fill in the implant and a custom artificial eye would be constructed for him and put in place of the disc which they called a conformer. They hoped they'd be able to attach the prosthesis to the implant by means of a peg. It would allow him to appear as if he had a functioning eye. Which would not be the case. He'd never see out of that eye again.

But it was his right eye the doctor was concerned about at the moment. "Now, I want you to open your eye and tell me what you see."

I held my breath. Please, God…

He opened the lid and stared directly ahead.

"Brian? What do you see?" asked the doctor.

"Nothing." His voice sounded as if it had come from the bottom of a well. "I can't see anything."

After Brian was released from the hospital, we both took up residence in the hotel while his attorney and Mrs. Kinney looked for suitable houses in the area. When at last they found one that fulfilled Brian's requirements and mine, it was considerably closer to the city and much more modest than the old place. Most of the staff was let go. I didn't mind, I'd never been very comfortable with people doing things for me.

When I asked Brian if he planned on rebuilding the house on the estate, he said, "No." Indeed, the land and the cabin were put on the market and it seemed a relief to him when a buyer was found and he signed the final papers.

He began training at a local vision center. Part of his training included therapy help him adjust to being blind. I didn't think it was possible for him to accept it. He never complained about losing his sight although I knew it angered him having to depend on other people for everything. He was used to doing as he pleased. Now he had to change his entire way of life. We both did.

Eight weeks after his release from the hospital, we had an appointment with an ocularist who was to craft a custom-made artificial eye for Brian to replace the conformer that was hidden behind dark glasses most of the time. The ocularist assured Brian that he could match his remaining eye perfectly and that he would have a natural appearance with the artificial eye. Even the movement of a real eye could be replicated once the artificial eye was attached to the orbital implant he already had. Although I reacted enthusiastically, I couldn't imagine that anyone could craft an eye that was as beautiful as Brian's had been. But if it would help him regain his confidence, I supported it.

Finally, after months of living in the hotel, we moved into our new home. Mrs. Kinney had outdone herself in terms of furnishing it and making it as comfortable as possible. She and I and Brian and his trainer from the vision center had gone over basic principles involving furniture: avoiding objects with sharp corners and laying rooms out to facilitate ease of movement. The trainer and I walked Brian through the rooms he'd be primarily occupying until he had memorized the placement of all the furniture and could walk through each room unaided.

We settled in and began our life together. Things had turned out quite differently than I'd expected but we were together and that mattered most to me: us being together and bringing Gus home. Brian agreed that his son should be with us and it helped that there was an excellent school in our new neighborhood. The day I went with the driver to bring Gus home was one of the happiest of my life. In the way of children, he accepted the changes without fuss, only regretting the loss of his model cars in the fire as he'd had an impressive collection. But when Brian promised to replace the cars if they could, he brightened. He'd taken to Brian's condition quite easily and did not seem uneasy with him. In fact, he had to be dissuaded from wanting to help Brian. He loved his father as did I, he only wanted to be with him, that was enough to make him happy.

I wished I could say the same. We'd been together now for months and we'd yet to be intimate with one another. I had waited patiently through his physical recovery and now it seemed as if his mental recovery would pose a barrier to us forever. Whenever I approached him sexually, he put me off with an excuse. Finally, as the weeks become months and the months accumulated, I found my patience waning. I wanted him. I slept next to him each night and I wanted more than a chaste kiss before settling down. Yet I sensed that he was still not ready, so I waited.

Then one night the tension that had been building erupted. We were watching television in our sitting room, something inane and utterly forgettable but it passed the time and focusing our attention on it meant we didn't have to talk to one another. I missed our conversations. Brian had grown quieter in the months after the fire. I had become accustomed to his moods, to his brooding when I'd lived at the estate but I had always counted on a lively debate when his mood lifted. Now it seemed as if he was always depressed. But I knew better, I knew that there was an anger brewing beneath the surface that was barely being kept in check. His trainer had warned me of it and I had waited for it to burst through.

That night, he grew agitated by the television program and demanded that I shut it off. As the remote was right where it always was, by him, I responded by telling him to do it. I supposed he wasn't the only one who was angry.

"Fuck you, Justin," he said and stood to go into our bedroom but I wouldn't let him. I grabbed him by the arm and resisted his efforts to shake me off.

"What's wrong? Tell me. Talk to me."

He tried to escape but he couldn't.

"Tell me!"

Brian pushed me away and sat down. "I can't—" His lip trembled as he spoke. "I can't see."

"I know that," I said as I knelt next to him.

"All the time you were away, I thought about you, thought about the day you'd come back to me. And I would see you, see your face. See you smile. And I can't." The tears he'd kept at bay for months ran down his face. He hadn't cried in my presence once. Now I sat on the arm of his chair and held him as he wept.

"I know. But I'm here with you now. We're together, that's all that matters."

"I'm a freak. How can you even stand to look at me?"

"You're not a freak. You're the same person you used to be. Only you're blind." I smiled. "And maybe a little less arrogant than you used to be."

"What have I got to be arrogant about?"

Knowing I was opening Pandora's box, I replied, "That you're still the most beautiful man I've ever seen. And you're wealthy beyond belief. And you're intelligent. And you've got the most amazing son. And a partner who loves you more than anything."

He touched my face. "My beautiful partner."

"That I am," I said and I smiled and kissed his fingers and then I leaned over and kissed his lips. "I've missed you." I stood and touched his shoulder to let him know I wanted him to come with me. He took my hand and together we walked into our bedroom.

I undressed him and he laid down and waited for me until I was naked. Then I went to him and kissed him, nothing more, just letting him grow accustomed to being touched again. I knew he could feel my erection brushing against his thigh but he was not hard. I returned his words to him, that he'd spoken to me so long ago. "Don't be afraid. I won't hurt you."

"Just hold me," he said, trembling in my arms.

"Be a waste of an amazing lover," I boasted and he laughed. "I want to kiss you."

"You are."

"All over," I told him and he nodded.

I began at his forehead and moved down his face, kissing his eyelids, his cheeks, his luscious lips that began to swell as I plied then with sweet kisses. I made my way down his throat, brushing over his Adam's Apple, then nuzzling the hollow right above his breastbone. My hand spread over his pectoral and I tweaked his nipple between my fingers before kissing it. The flesh drew up to a nub which I sucked until he began to squirm beneath me. He'd always loved having his nipples played with and I'd suggested on more than one occasion that he get them pierced. Just imagining me twisting a ring between my teeth made my cock throb and I bit his nipple causing him to hiss and then to moan as I sucked the reddened flesh. Sliding my hand between his thighs, I felt that my activities had had the desired effect.

I crawled on top of him and rubbed my cock against his until he whispered, "Wait! Oh, God..." He was breathing hard. While giving him an opportunity to catch his breath, I moved down his body until my head was over his groin. His cock had stiffened but he wasn't fully erect. Not yet. My eyes on him, wanting to see his reaction, I took him in hand and held the head up to my lips. Kissed the tip gently. His chest rose quickly, then fell and his lips parted. I kissed him again and again, making my way around the head until he stopped me. "Baby…"

"It's okay," I assured him. "I know." It had been a long time. For both of us. And as much as I wanted to feel him in my ass, I also wanted to taste him, to swallow his cum, to know him again. So I went down on him and sucked his dick until it pushed the back of my throat seeking release. I fondled his balls and probed his hole with my finger and that did it. He arched his back and came. Spunk dripped down my throat. I pulled up before he could spasm again and this time tasted his cream as he pumped my face. When I finally released him, I'd drank my fill. Then I moved up and kissed him hard, sharing his cum with him. He opened wide as my tongue pushed inside his mouth and painted his tongue with jizz.

I let him rest a moment and then I knelt over his head. "Lick me," I commanded and he tilted his head and extended his tongue. The feeling just as intense as the first time, I shook as he rimmed me and my cock seemed to grow even harder. I swayed back and let my cock slide across his lips and he flicked his tongue over the shaft and head. Which meant I had to be in his mouth so I shifted positions and lowered my cock between his lips. He held onto my ass and legs and sucked me until I knew I either had to pull out or come. I withdrew and reached for the lube and a condom. Gave his cock a few strokes and nibbled on the swollen head for good measure. A bead of precum appeared and I licked it away. In danger of sucking him off again, I unrolled the condom over his cock and covered it in lube. "Hold it," I told him and he did and I positioned myself over him and pressed down.

It'd been over a year and a half since we'd fucked and I was tight. As he split me open, I groaned and tried to ride out the pain that accompanied his penetration. Pausing with just the head inside me, I took a deep breath and pushed down again. With the broadest part having passed through, my muscles were able to relax and by the time I was fully impaled, the pain had subsided greatly. Now there was pleasure.

I rode his dick, sliding up and down his shaft, never letting it slip from me, until I felt as if it were a part of me. As I bobbed over him, he tweaked my nipples, stroked my belly, my ass, my thighs, my cock. Sitting all the way down on his dick, I moaned at the sight of him wetting his fingers with my precum and then sticking them in his mouth. I could feel him pulsing inside me and knew now was the time.

I rose up and let him slide from inside, lay down next to him and placed a pillow beneath my hips to cushion my erection and to raise my ass. My legs were spread and I could feel the cool air on my hole.

"Justin? What's—"

"Come fuck me," I told him.

Instantly, he was unsure. "I can't see you," he said.

"You know me. You know everything about me. You've touched every inch of me." I paused then reiterated my demand. "So come and fuck me." I watched as he got up, cock pointing the way, and knelt behind me. He reached out with his hand and felt around for my hole. Found it. His fingers sank inside me. "Yes…" When he'd finished massaging my hole, he laid one hand on my hip and used the other to guide his cock to its destination. "Oh, God," I sighed as he mounted me and began to thrust. "Yes. Yes."

"Mmm," he moaned, pumping my ass. "Baby…"

"Fuck me." With each stroke, my balls tightened and my cock twitched below me, drooling onto the pillow. "Fuck me." His hands slipped on my sweaty back but he managed to grip my neck and the edge of the headboard to anchor himself and he began to pump harder. "Oh! Oh! Yes!"

"Your ass is mine," he growled.

"Yes…" I lowered my head and whimpered as he ravished me. I had given him mastery of me, it was what he'd needed, to feel in control again. His balls slapped against mine as his dick slammed into my ass over and over again. I would be sore the next day but I welcomed the soreness. He released the headboard and lowered his body onto mine, humping me hard, forcing my cock down into the pillow. "Brian…"

He grunted and came, pinning me to the bed. With his cock still buried in me, he turned us over onto our sides and stroked my dick.

Shuddering, I came, splattering the pillow, my belly, and his hand.

It had been two years since the fire and we were happy. Gus loved his new school and had a horde of friends who would descend upon the house on the weekends driving Mrs. Kinney crazy but she drank less these days. Maybe having a real family to take care of had filled her needs. In any case, she was content and even managed to find a boyfriend who escorted her to the symphony during the season.

I progressed with my art, taking classes at Carnegie Mellon in preparation for entering a degree program. Brian supported me even though he groused at the number of portraits he had to sit for but, secretly, he enjoyed it, vain creature that he was.

He'd had the second surgery to attach his artificial eye to the implant and you couldn't tell the difference between the prosthetic and his real eye. The ocularist had done an outstanding job in matching the two and Brian finally relinquished his dark glasses, feeling confident in his appearance. He had also decided to take an active interest in his businesses. Although he was careful not to get in the way of the people running the companies, he did attend board meetings and got to know senior management. And like Christopher Reeve had after his accident, he began campaigning for increased funding for ocular research. Especially research that would benefit children. I was glad he couldn't see the babies who'd been born eyeless due to birth defects and the children who had to face the world knowing they were not like other kids but they took to him immediately and to see them clambering to sit on his lap, it was hard to believe that just three years ago he'd been unwilling to acknowledge his own son.

Things had changed. Life had gone on despite our losses and we were grateful for our blessings.

Quite unexpectedly, a miracle occurred. Brian was listening to the television while I went through my drawings trying to decide which sketches to include in my portfolio. I'd finally gotten the courage to apply to the MFA in Art program at Carnegie Mellon. Deep in my thoughts, I didn't realize he'd spoken until afterwards and so I said, "Hmm?" hoping he'd repeat himself.

"I said that blue sweater really brings out your eyes."

"That's what I thought when I—" I realized what he'd said. He knew I was wearing a blue sweater. We had color-coded his clothes in the closet so that he knew what he was wearing each day but I had done no such thing. "Brian?" I rushed to his side. "How much can you see?"

"Everything's hazy but I can see colors and shapes. I can tell what things are." He reached for my face. "And I can see you." I began to weep, I couldn’t help it, all of our prayers had been answered. But he thumbed away the tears and said, "Don't. I've been waiting all this time to see you smile." So I did.

And I haven't stopped smiling since.

Challenge Scenario:

Don't know how "AU" you're willing to go with our boys, but....remember our emails about "Justin Eyre" (lol)? I know you wanted something "brief," but, since most of your readers know the story, maybe you could create a sort of "abridged" version. Just think: Brian as the brooding, haunted Mr. Rochester, Justin as the young and virginal teacher (don't know what you'd call a male governess)"Jane" (oops, I mean, "Justin"), heck - even Gus could make an appearance. I could go on and on, but, you get the idea (lol).

Author's note:
I left out a lot of details from the original novel but I think the major turning points are covered in some fashion. And, yes, it's extremely abridged.

Heels Over Head | Stories