In the deserted men's restroom at the back of Middleton Community College, Sam Keller knelt on the tile, braced his hands against Keith Jameson's thighs, and broke his mother's heart.
It didn't matter that Sharyle Keller had passed away four years ago. Sam knew his mother would feel that what Sam was doing in the handicapped stall was a complete and total mockery of everything she'd ever taught him. The problem was not that Sam's sexual partner was male; Sam's mom had known he was gay before he had known. It wasn't even that he was about to give a blow-job at school and, if caught, risk expulsion for "sexual congress on campus." What would have upset his mother was that Sam wasn't at all attracted to his partner, that to be perfectly honest, Sam hated him. What would have shocked her was discovering that her son, her beautiful boy with "such a future ahead of him" had spent several minutes being verbally assaulted by his partner and was now about to service him.
Sex is beautiful, Sam's mother had told him. Sex is a union between two people. Sex is a merging of souls, a holy connection. Sex is sacred, and it should only be given to those you love.
When Sam's mother had told him this, he'd been twelve. He'd been very, very horny, but he was also scared to death of sex, and so when his mother told him he should wait for someone who loved him, he'd nodded eagerly. Yes, he would only trust his body to those who knew the worth of it. Yes, he would learn from her mistakes. He'd signed on for it all, trusting in his mother's wisdom, wanting to be safe, and wanting to please her, too. After all, wasn't he lucky to have a mother who looked forward to meeting his boyfriends, who hoped he'd want to adopt or surrogate a child someday, because she'd be more than happy to babysit? It seemed such a little, easy thing to ask, to only give himself in love.
But even before he'd realized what an incredible dearth of loving male partners there were to be had in Middleton, Iowa, Sam had struggled with his vow. His mother had found him gay support groups and sex tip sites online, but Sam had found the porn. He'd lost days in the images of beautiful, slender men bent in submission and sometimes degradation, and to his quiet horror, he realized that this was his fantasy: he, like those boys on the internet, wanted to be used. He wanted to be loved and cherished, yes. But he also wanted to be fucked. Sometimes he didn't want it to be about love. He wanted it to be about sex, and about semen, and about not quite exactly being in control. He didn't want to get hurt, no. But he admitted to himself that he wanted to come really, really close.
He thought, as he swirled his tongue around Keith's shaft and looked up at the blond boy's unshaven chin, that he'd have been a lot happier if he could have found himself a Keith at sixteen instead of twenty-one. He'd been fucking Darin Yarvin since his senior year of high school, but that was just a weekly appointment to kneel on a pizza box in Darin's dirty apartment and take it up the ass. Blowing Keith flirted with so many taboos that at first Sam had gotten himself off just thinking about upcoming encounters. Keith was straight. He wasn't bi, he wasn't in the closet, and he wasn't even curious. He just liked having his dick sucked, and he liked telling Sam what to do as much as Sam liked to do it. He was a big, buff boy: a small town Iowa ideal. And it was Sam's fondest wish that someday that ideal young man would bend him over one of the toilets and bury his cock so deep and hard inside Sam that he would see stars. Sam didn't want to kiss him. He didn't want to hold him, or take him on a date. In fact, outside of arranging their sexual appointments, they didn't even speak to one another. The only conversation they had was the one they were having now, where Keith asked Sam if he wanted him to shove his big fat cock into his throat, to fuck his mouth, and Sam agreed, breathlessly, that he did want this, very much please, and thank you.
"You like sucking my cock, don't you bitch?" Keith would say, and Sam nodded, and shut his eyes, and let the incredible sluttiness of the experience wash over him in dark, beautiful waves, until he was thrusting himself onto Keith as hard as Keith was pushing into him, sucking so hard he hurt his cheeks, moaning along with Keith as he cried out and exploded, hot and thick and salty into Sam's open, waiting throat. Sometimes, like he was now, Keith would knead Sam's hair unconsciously as Sam swallowed once, then again, then again, and then again. Keith would always realize what he was doing and push Sam away, but Sam liked the gesture, and privately cherished it.
This more than anything else would have upset his mother, that he would know only such a weak, fleeting bit of tenderness and from such a crude, cruel partner.
Keith's abrupt removal today had left one last trail of semen to drizzle over Sam's chin, and he wiped it away with his fingers and reached for some toilet paper. Keith watched him, but when Sam looked up and met his gaze, Keith looked away and made quick work of buttoning himself.
"You suck good cock," he declared, making the compliment a sneer.
Sam waited, remaining on his knees. This part was always the trickiest, and he held still, lowering his eyes, letting Keith decide when they were finished. If Keith had more abuse to hurl, he'd take it, because the last thing he needed was for Keith to feel nervous, or threatened. He needed Keith to feel strong and satisfied, and a little superior, because that way he would want to do it again, which was what Sam wanted him to want. It wasn't ideal, but in its own way, it worked. So he waited, docile, until Keith spoke again.
"You gonna suck it again next Wednesday?"
Sam kept his head ducked to hide his smile, and he nodded. He held still until Keith left the stall, and he stayed on his knees until Keith had left the restroom altogether. Then he rose, adjusted his own erection in his pants, and went to the bathroom sink to wash his hands.
Sam looked at his reflection in the mirror as he lathered soap across his palms. It was his mother's face he saw looking back at him, slender and pretty, dark hair tousled around large, dark eyes. The only differences were length of his hair and the shape of his jaw and his chin, which in addition to being slightly more defined than his mother's, sported the tiniest spattering of beard stubble. In his own face, he saw the face he had loved so much, the face he had assumed, naively, would be around for a long, long time. He looked into its echo now, thought of what he had just done, of what she must be thinking of him now, and his heart grew heavy.
"Sorry, Mom," he whispered, wiped the last bit of Keith's semen from his chin, and went to class.
The problem was, Sam decided later as he trudged home from campus, was that he really wanted kinky. Yes, he wanted love. He wanted to date and hold hands and make the squeamish conservatives that made up his northern Iowa town squirm in their twinsets. Now that it was legal, he wanted to get married. But he wanted hot sex, too. Hot sex. He wanted to try it all, every position, every fetish. Well, not every fetish. A lot of them, though. He wanted an orgy, or at least a threesome. All the things about sex that his mother said were bad, all the objectification, all the cold, meaningless encounters--that was what he was after. He didn't know why. He just knew that he wanted it.
And as he wove his way through the well-manicured lawns of Cherry Hill Estates, he admitted that so long as he lived with his aunt and uncle, kinky was going to be very hard to come by.
Uncle Norm and Aunt Delia lived on Cherry Hill Court, their three thousand square foot neo-Queen Anne (with four car garage) sprawled over the top of the Cherry Hill, which in the days when the development had been farmland, actually had been lined with cherry trees. Delia, who hated mess, had cut them all down and replaced them with red, green, and yellow shrubbery spaced by perfectly rounded boulders and mulched within an inch of their uninspired lives. They were the same boring ornamentation that graced every lawn in the development, but they had one advantage: the shrubs, combined with the lack of fences (to better preserve the view of the rolling hillside) made it incredibly easy to cut across country.
Sam did this now, singing softly under his breath along with the music playing on his iPhone, sometimes pausing to pull up the texting interface and read an incoming tweet or answer a text. He sighed over Kylie Minogue's report on her next stop on her US tour, wishing he could be there, memorized the discount code from Los Dos Amigos restaurant, and with a low-grade arousal told Darin that yeah, he could swing by later tonight for a quick fuck.
When the phone rang, he checked the ID, paused his music and clicked "answer."
"Hi, Emma," he said.
"Are you on it?" she cried, her excitement pushing her volume so high Sam had to pull the earbud a little ways out of his ear. "Oh my god! Are you on the iPhone?!"
Sam beamed. "Emma, it is so cool. I mean, the headphones have a microphone. I'm totally talking into it right now."
Emma squealed. "I can't wait to see it! You're bringing it in to work, right?"
"It's never leaving my side. Ever." He reached into his pocket and stroked the cool metal lovingly. "I have my whole music library on here! I can't believe I was nervous about getting it. It was worth every penny."
"Yeah, now all you have to do is pay for the monthly plan."
Sam winced. "Don't remind me. It's good this thing plays movies, because I'll never be able to afford going to the theater again."
"You need to ask your aunt for a raise."
"Yeah, that'll happen right about the time she marches in the pride parade." Sam hopped over a patch of foliage and veered towards the highway, the last obstacle between himself and Cherry Hill.
"So, actually, I have something to ask you," Emma said. "A favor."
Sam paused in mid-step, instantly wary of his best friend asking a favor. "Okay," he said, and braced.
"I want you to ask your uncle if I can rent one of his apartments."
Sam snorted and started walking again. "You want a kidney, too?"
"Sam! I'm serious. I'm tired of living in my parents' house. Aren't you? Of living with your aunt and uncle, I mean?"
"God yes. But I can't afford to move out, and last I checked, neither could you. What are you planning to pay rent with? Your biology notes?"
"I had an idea about that, actually."
The sugar-coating on her voice made Sam stop walking again. "Yes?"
"I thought," she said, tone still over-bright, "that we could be roommates. Now just hold on," she said hurriedly, when Sam broke into peals of bitter laughter. "It could work. Come on, Sam, admit it. It would be so fun! We get along great! And your aunt--"
"Would never agree to this," he interrupted.
"--would be happy to get you out of the house," she said, ignoring him.
Sam ran his hand through his hair and shook his head. "Emma, she hates me, yes, and she hates having me living in her basement. But what she hates more than anything is paying for me, and there's no way I could afford an apartment without their help. She already resents what she has to fork over for part-time classes, which is why I'm part time, as you well know."
"But that's the thing--if it's one of your uncle's apartments--"
"It's still money out of their pockets, in their mind."
"But listen," Emma said, and launched into another round of arguments.
Sam did listen, sort of, making occasional grunts and sounds of agreement or acknowledgment, but mostly he just let keep talking, because it was easier than trying to convince her that his aunt and his uncle were not going to go for this plan no matter how she sold it. He was focused more on trying to think of how exactly he was going to ask them, because he knew he had to try or he'd catch hell from Emma. And really, it was too bad it wasn't going to work, because she was right, it would be great to live with Emma. It just wasn't going to happen, not until he got his own job, which he couldn't get until he finished school, which at the rate he was going might be sometime around the time he was at retirement age.
But he pretended anyway for Emma as he came up the last crest and onto the road and, between listening to Emma and glancing back and forth on the road as he tried not to get hit by traffic, almost ran smack into the semi that was parked along the side of the road in front of the path onto his aunt and uncle's hill.
It was huge. The trailer was the same length as normal trailers, but the cab was an absolute monster. It seemed at least twice as long as the ones he was used to seeing, and it was also a bright, bright blue.
It also had a very nice ass sticking out of the hood.
The driver--Sam assumed it was the driver--was fixing something, or checking a fluid, and he was bent over at the waist, leaning in so far that the only parts of him visible were his legs and a pleasantly-shaped, jean-clad backside. As Emma continued to launch her apartment campaign at him, Sam ducked behind a black Dodge pickup and headed as close to the trucker butt as he dared. Still unsatisfied from his bathroom appointment with Keith, it didn't take but a few seconds of Hot Trucker Fantasy to send all spare blood cells due south. Very likely the guy had a face like the bottom of a boot, which made it all the better that it wasn't visible. Sam admired his features from as close a distance as he dared, knowing that later tonight he'd be imagining himself bent over a fender, with strong, grease-coated hands gripping his hips, then sliding back to part him before the trucker--
Sam blinked, stumbled, and jerked his attention back to the phone. "Huh?"
"You aren't even listening to me!"
"Sorry." Sam stepped over another series of bushes and started up the hill towards his aunt and uncle's house. "There was something on the road that caught my attention. What were you saying?"
"I asked if your aunt was going to be at the pharmacy this afternoon, because then we could ask her first, then work on your uncle."
"Today? You want to ask about the apartment today?"
"Well, yeah! We could be in by the end of the month! It'd be great!"
Sam vaulted the last series of bushes and fumbled with the keys to his basement entrance. God, he'd wanted a few days at least to plan his strategy. But maybe this would be better--get it over with. "Sure."
"Yes. Okay--so, I'm gonna head. When will you be in?"
Sam pulled out the phone and checked the time. "Give me fifteen minutes. That's the fastest I can manage."
"Don't be late," she warned him, and hung up.
Sam tugged the earbuds out and put his keys in the lock.
The house was empty and silent as a tomb, and Sam moved through the immaculate den and down the hall to his room, where he dumped his backpack on the bed, then fell onto it himself. He lay there for a few seconds, staring at his bookshelf without really seeing it. Then he reached into the plastic crate beside his bed, pulled out a can of sparkling water, and cracked it open. He sipped at it while laid back on his pillow and surfed the internet on his phone, not quite adept at it yet but still loving the idea that he could do it, whenever he had cell service. He played a word on his never-ending Facebook Scrabble game with Emma, tried to think of something to tweet, then gave up, put his phone away and wandered upstairs.
Living in Aunt Delia and Uncle Norm's house was like living inside a Pottery Barn showcase, and it drove Sam crazy. But for where he was headed now, he had to give himself the full tour, and as always, he felt disgusted by the opulence and waste. To Delia, her picture-perfect home was a sense of pride. To Sam, who had grown up in a crowded, messy trailer with a mother who hadn't been able to stand on her own after he was ten let alone arrange knickknacks and silk flowers, it just made him feel more alone.
Once he made it to the living room, though, he didn't feel quite so solitary.
The urn Delia had chosen for her sister's ashes was elegant and gleaming and not at all what Sharyle Keller would have wanted, and certainly it hadn't been Sam's vote. Even so, he always felt better when he saw it, because he knew his mother was inside. He went up to her now, placing his fingers on the bottom of the urn and resting the butt of his palm against the gleaming walnut mantle.
"Hi, Mom." His fingers curled against the gilded handle of her resting place. "Miss you."
He never felt any weird vibes from the urn, never felt ghostly fingers caress his shoulder, no matter how many times or how long he waited for them, but it still felt good to stand here, touching the container that held the little bit of her that was left outside of his memories. The anxiety of having to ask Delia and Norm about the apartment eased a little, and even the shame of Keith faded to a degree, just by being near her. But that was the way it had always been with his mom. She fixed everything just by being with you.
He stood there until he felt completely calm, then leaned forward and kissed the base of the ornate china. "Gotta go to work. Love you," he said, and headed for the front door.
He reset the alarm, then hurried out and locked the door before bee-lining for his beat-up Civic that Delia made him hide around the side of the house behind a boxwood hedge. When the Civic took a moment to turn over, he glanced at his watch and frowned, knowing he'd lingered too long and that Emma was going to be mad. Actually, he was so late now that he was in danger of being late for his shift. It was hard to say whose anger he was more anxious over.
Once he got the car going, he had use the highway to get out of Cherry Hill Estates, and despite the danger of two powerful women angry with him, Sam slowed when he saw that the blue semi was still parked beside the road. The driver was just shutting the hood and heading for the door to the cab, and as Sam drove past at almost ten miles under the speed limit, he got a good look at his face.
Not like the bottom of a boot, he acknowledged, quickly editing his upcoming fantasy. Not like the bottom of a boot at all.
Emma was waiting for Sam at the front of the store when he got there. She was standing next to Delia, who was at the front counter, sorting through a purchase order. Behind them, half-obscured by a shelf of antacids, his uncle was blithely surfing the internet.
Sam's uncle Norman was one of the last independently operating pharmacists in the state of Iowa. He owned Biehl Drug, a store so old that it had been there since the town of Middleton was founded in 1889. By rights an independent pharmacy shouldn't have been able to operate with a Wal-Mart pharmacy and a Walgreens in town, but Norman had some good nursing home contracts, and to pad his income he played the stock market and rented property. He rented a lot of property, to the point that he had a near monopoly on most of the apartments in town. Delia managed all of them. Delia managed everything, including Uncle Norman.
She looked up when she saw Sam, and she didn't smile.
"You're almost late," she pointed out, and flipped another page on the order sheet.
"Sorry." Sam reached around the counter to pull out his apron and fumbled with the ties after he looped the noose of the bib over his head. "Did the truck come in yet?"
Emma's pasted on smile strained. Sam glared at her. What, he was supposed to initiate the conversation, too?
Delia missed the look, as she was still scanning her order sheet. "Yes. It's all in the back, waiting for you." Then she lowered the form and gave Sam a pointed look. "The diabetic supplies are almost out, and they didn't get put on the order list. Why didn't you tell me when you checked stock last weekend?"
Sam held up a defensive hand. "I did tell you! I put a note in your in-tray."
"Well I didn't see it," Delia snapped, "and now we're out. And you know very well Harriet Meeker will talk of nothing else at the Ladies' League as soon as she discovers it."
Sam had put it in her tray, and he was about to point out to her that if she hadn't found it, it was her fault when he caught a glance at Emma's pleading, desperate face. God, woman, but you owe me. He gritted his teeth into a smile as he turned back to his aunt. "I'm sorry to hear that. Do you want me to go buy her usual at Wal-Mart and keep it on hand in case she shows up?"
Delia waved his offer away. "Just tell me next time." She dropped the pile of mail in disgust, then rubbed her forehead as if trying to grind out a headache.
Sam turned to Emma automatically for some support and found she was still giving him intense Talk about the apartment already! vibes. Sam folded his arms over his chest and stared meaningfully at Emma. No way, he telegraphed right back. You're starting it.
Emma gave him one last pleading look, but when Sam just shook his head, she wiped her hands on her own apron and turned to Delia.
"Mrs. Biehl," she began, in her brightest, shiniest voice, "I had this idea, and I wanted to know what you thought of it."
Delia put down the invoice and turned to Emma, softening a little. "Yes, Emma? How can I help you?"
"I talked it over with my parents, and we were thinking," Emma began in the same megawatt tone, "that it was time I got into an apartment of my own. You know, for responsibility and all."
Delia smiled. "I think that's very wise. Were you wanting to rent one of ours? Because I know a perfect little place opening up this summer. The one above the bookshop, just up the hill?"
Emma's hands stopped bunching together in her apron and clasped together in front of her chest instead. "Oh, Mrs. Biehl, that would be great!" She turned to Sam. "Wouldn't that be perfect for us?"
Sam tried to shake his head in warning, but Delia's eyes were already on him, sharp as a hawk's, her smile washed away. "Us?"
Sam held up his hands. "I--"
"I thought maybe Sam and I could room together," Emma said, quickly, "Right, Sam?"
She looked at him--they both looked at him, expectant, and Sam faltered. What was he supposed to say? He felt flustered, and angry. This was Emma's scheme--couldn't she say something?
Back in the pharmacy, Sam saw his uncle look up from the computer.
Delia gave Sam a very brittle smile. "And how were you going to pay your half of the rent?"
Sam felt, somehow, that there were some answer he was supposed to give, something that, if he could guess what it was, would make this go right. He searched for it, he really did. But his mind was a blank, and the silence pressed on him, making thinking even harder. "I, uh, don't know," Sam confessed at last. He looked at Emma, then at his uncle, but found no help in either place. "I--I don't know."
Delia picked up the purchase order and began scanning it again. "When you find a roommate who can pay her half of the rent, Emma, the apartment is yours." She glanced at Sam. "Your stock is waiting in the back."
Sam's uncle went back to his computer, and Sam turned away, feeling foolish, but not really knowing why. "Sure," he murmured, and headed back towards the stockroom.
There was no surprise at all that Emma followed him.
"What is wrong with you?" she demanded, as soon as the door closed behind them.
Sam picked up a box of adult diapers from the pile by the door and tore back the flaps. "Don't yell at me, Emma. This was your plan, not mine."
"But you didn't say anything!" Emma protested. "You didn't even try!"
"You didn't give me any time to get anything ready," Sam grumbled, and pulled open the flaps of the box. "I don't have money, Em. I didn't know how to pull it out of my ass!"
"It isn't about money." Emma pushed the box closed. "Sam, I thought you wanted this. You're always telling me how much they drive you crazy. I thought you wanted out of there."
"I do," Sam agreed. God, he wanted nothing more. "But she's never going to agree. You heard her."
"Why do you always let her roll over you? Why don't you stick up for yourself for a change?"
"What am I going to say, Em?" he demanded. "What sort of leverage do you think I have? They've paid for everything for me since I was in high school. They're paying for my college. They pay for my food and they give me somewhere to live."
"They pay for your college because they have to," Emma shot back. "They feed you because it would look bad if you starved. If J.K. Rowling hadn't made it such a mark of Cain, I swear they'd put your room in the closet under the stairs. Your mother made them your guardian, and this is the responsibility that bought. You don't owe them, Sam. Stop acting like it."
Sam picked idly at the plastic wrappers visible beneath the open flap of the box. He knew Emma was right, knew that he should stand up for himself, but he didn't know how to explain to her that he didn't know how. "I just can't, Em," he said. "I'm sorry. I'm really sorry."
Emma sighed, and opened her mouth to launch into another lecture, but before she could the door to the store opened, and Uncle Norman stuck his head inside.
"Emma?" he called, politely. "I need you up front."
"Sure, Mr. Biehl," Emma said to him, then turned back to Sam and poked a finger into the center of his chest. "We will talk later."
I'm sure we will, Sam thought, not looking forward to the conversation already. He watched her go, then pulled out his iPhone. He scrolled through his playlist, selected "Kylie Favorites" and tucked his earbuds in, ready to let Ms. Minogue take all his worries away.
But she hadn't even gotten through the first verse of "No More Rain" before the door from the front opened again. This time it was Delia.
His aunt was a small, slight woman, but her diminutive size somehow made her all the more terrible. Her features were similar to Sam's mother, but while Sharyle Keller had been as soft and cozy as a stuffed animal, Delia was as cold and un-cuddly as a china doll. Sam's mother had loved yeast and sausage and chocolate, and once her disease relegated her to a wheelchair, she had no hope of burning it off; hugging Sharyle had been a warm, soft experience. Delia ate organic salad with tofu, counted calories, and put in at least three miles a day on the elliptical machine across the hall from Sam's basement bedroom; even if he'd wanted to hug his aunt, he'd have bruises from her bony frame.
Delia did not look like she wanted to hug him now.
She nodded at the half-opened box and folded her arms over her chest. "Were you thinking you should get paid for doing nothing in addition to asking for free rent?"
Sam pulled his earbuds out and started unloading the box. "Emma was talking to me, and then I just turned on my headphones."
Delia gave the pocket that held his iPhone a cold look. "I hope that thing isn't going to make your job performance even worse. If I catch you surfing the internet while you're clocked in, I'll dock your pay."
"Hey." Sam shoved the package onto a shelf and turned to her. "I do my job. I work hard." A hell of a lot harder than Uncle Norman.
Delia aimed a finger at him. "Just bear in mind, young man, that I've got my eye on you."
She left. Sam made a face, murmured "I've got my eye on you" in mocking sing-song under his breath, put his earbuds back in, and hoped that this time, maybe, he could be left alone to work.
Sam liked doing stock. Sometimes he did tech work behind the counter with his uncle, but he had to dress up and wear a lab coat there, and deal with customers, and worst of all, his aunt. In the stockroom, people left him alone.
In the stockroom, he could dance.
As discos went, shelves full of shampoo, Band-Aids, and rubbing alcohol made poor decor, but he had a wide floor to himself, and he'd long ago made an art form of reaching into a box, grabbing a bag, bottle, or box, and inserting it onto the shelf in time to the beat. Emma teased him, warning that if his aunt found out she'd freak, but Sam had his argument for that ready: he was faster when he did his weird stock boy dance moves. He'd timed himself just to prove it, and he'd been right. Yes, he spun his way down the aisle and sang into bottles of Pert, but he was a full five minutes faster when he did it than when he didn't.
The best of all music to stock to was Kylie Minogue. He was partial to the Light Years album, but X was pretty good, too; he'd made a playlist of the best over her whole career, and she sang it to him now. "All I See" took him through the Depends and Charmin, "Giving You Up" gave him the courage to face the madness that was sorting through a case of makeup with all its tiny, tiny packets that refused to lie orderly on a shelf, and "Sensitized" made him tap his toe all the way through bar soap, shaving cream, and cotton balls. By the time "Kids" came on, he was really in a grove; after breaking down the boxes he'd done so far, he shut his eyes and boogied backwards with them out the door, belting along with the chorus as he spun, tossed the boxes into the dumpster, swung his hips, then shimmied down the wall beside the rail.
A movement out of the corner of his eye made him stop short, and he blushed as he saw a man leaning on the back of a semi trailer that filled the alley, a trailer that was, he noted, attached to a bright blue cab. Eyes wide and heart pounding, Sam's eyes flicked back to the man, the man who was the same as the one who had been climbing into the cab beside the road on Cherry Hill.
The man had a slow, wicked smile on his face, and he was clapping.
Sam tugged the earbuds out and backed up a step against the railing. He was standing on the pharmacy's loading dock, an ancient, slightly crumbling concrete structure that only sort of met the ramp of a delivery truck. The semi's trailer was backed against the dock on the opposite side of the alley that belonged to the bicycle shop, its metal ramp extended and jacked sideways to make a walkway. The driver, however, was standing on the ground, about twenty feet away from where Sam was standing.
"Hi," Sam said, and gave a feeble wave.
"Hello yourself, Sunshine." He said nothing else, just watched Sam for a minute, and when the silence went on too long, the trucker made a rough salute against his forehead as if tipping an invisible hat. Then he pushed off the side of the trailer, climbed up on the ramp, and started unloading again.
Sam watched him work. If Sam could have place an order for a man, this would be what he ordered. The man was ripped. His muscular frame bugled through the thermal shirt rucked up around his elbows and filled out his jeans until they strained the seams. It was cooler now that evening was coming on, but the trucker was sweating enticingly from his exertions. He hefted huge boxes that strained under their own weight with ease and bore them away as if they were full of feathers. Best of all was when he crouched down to pick something up: Sam wished he dared to pull out his phone and snap a photo of the moment before he started to rise, his seams straining, his perfect, perfect ass presented to Sam for a private viewing. His face wasn't bad, either. He wasn't quite a Greek god, but he was very chiseled, his jaw peppered with stubble, his nose not pert and cute, but not chunky, either. Good mouth. His lips weren't lush, but they weren't thin. They looked quite luscious, in fact, especially when the man's tongue snaked out between his teeth to wet them. The only flaw the man had at all, in fact, was his hair. It was ragged, too long, and dull, suggesting that the man washed it with a bar of Coast and got it cut with a butcher knife every three months.
Ah, straight men, Sam thought, with a quiet regret.
The man turned, caught Sam still looking at him, and smiled agin. And as the gesture turned dark, laced with invitation, Sam went still.
Maybe not straight?
You're imagining things, he scolded himself. Even if he's gay, a guy like this is not going to come on to a scrawny little rat like you.
The delivery man's thumb stole up to his mouth and toyed lazily at the side of his lips, which had the effect of making Sam fill out his own jeans a bit more snugly.
"I got a camera in the front of my truck." The trucker spoke the words in a drawl so thick he practically applied it with a trowel. He jerked his head towards the front of the semi. "You could take a picture and make this last a bit longer."
Sam fought a blush and replied, his voice almost steady, "I've got one on the phone in my pocket, thanks."
The man laughed, a quiet huff that made his shoulders rise but came out only as "heh, heh, heh." Then he planted his feet firmly on the ramp, lifted his square chin and held out his arms. "Well?"
Sam's hands were shaking, and his mind had shut down all thought outside of oh god, oh god, oh god, oh god!, but he managed to pull out his iPhone without dropping it, and his hand was almost stable as he flipped it open, raised it up before him and fumbled with the camera function. He had no idea, though, where he found the chutzpah to lift his other hand and make a spinning motion with his finger as he said, "Turn around."
The man grinned, rubbed his thumb across his lips again, then did as he was told, boldly giving Sam a front-row view of his jean-clad ass. The tiny click of Sam's iPhone shutter seemed to echo like a gunshot through the alley. Sam felt surreal--happy, but surreal. This wasn't like anything that had happened to him before. This was . . . well, naughty, yes, but it wasn't the sort of naughty Sam was used to. It wasn't laced with shame at all. It was fun--light fun. It wasn't the quiet, desperate sex or parody of it that he was used to. It wasn't sex at all.
The man glanced over his shoulder. Sam's thumb, still hovering on the camera button, quickly clicked again. Then he cursed his timing when the man's mouth curved into a slow, delicious smile. He frantically pushed the button one more time, but he lowered the phone without looking to see if he'd captured the gesture.
"Thanks." Sam tucked the phone back into his pocket and gave what he hoped was a rakish and not constipated smile.
"Not a problem." The man turned back around, but he didn't go back to work. He just kept watching Sam, as if he didn't have a trailer full of stock to unload. Then Sam thought to peer inside and realized he didn't see any more boxes at all, in fact. The man was done delivering.
And yet, he was still here, playing with Sam. Waiting for him to play back.
Sam tried to think of a witty rejoinder, or any rejoinder, but his mind was blank, still melting down to oh god oh god oh god, his dick helping nothing by pulsing like a nuclear bomb inside his pants.
"I'm Sam," he said at last, extending his hand. He realized the ridiculousness of the gesture when they were standing more than twenty feet apart, tried to turn in into a wave, then gave up and stuffed both hands into the back pockets of his jeans. "Hi."
"Howdy, Sam." He eased his stance, then braced his arm against one of the open doors of the trailer. "Mitch Tedsoe at your service." Another lazy smile stole across his lips, this one so wicked it practically came with its own arrest warrant. "You need anything delivered, Sunshine, I'm your man."
Sam nearly made a delivery himself right then inside his underwear. I am not cool enough to play this kind of game, he thought, panicked, but tried anyway. "You do seem like you know your way around a package."
"It's all in the handling," Mitch said, his drawl making the last word come out missing its g. "You have to treat them careful, but at the same time, you can't be afraid to be a little rough when the occasion calls for it."
Sam was now so far out of his element he was on another planet, but he couldn't seem to stop. He gripped the metal rail and pressed his groin against it, willing the cold iron to permeate his jeans and calm him the hell down. "That sounds a little dangerous." It was a lame comeback, but his brain cells were all shutting down as his libido ratcheted up. And if he didn't keep talking, this little play was going to end, and Sam was going to have to go back inside and unpack more boxes of Depends.
"Sunshine, I'm only as dangerous as you want me to be." Another lazy smile. "But something tells me you could use a little danger. And I bet you'd find you like it a little rough."
It was good he was holding onto the rail, and it was even better that it was a double rail, which turned out to be a handy support for failing knees. "Hhhnnnnh," he said, apparently out of vowels. He swallowed, drew a breath, and laughed, but it was shaky. "Okay," he said, breathless. "You got me."
A pair of blond eyebrow shot up. "Far as I can see, you're still up there on your little balcony and I'm all alone over here. I don't got anything, Sam."
And Sam had thought this was surreal before. Shit, this guy was actually propositioning him? Like, now? Here? In the alley? "Uh." His hands, despite the cold, were growing sweaty against the rail. "Aren't you--uh--working?"
Still the lazy smile. And he was looking at Sam's mouth. "I could use a break. You?"
It had to be some sort of joke. Or a mistake. Or something. Because this was the sort of fantasy Sam jacked off to alone in the dark at night. This wasn't even the sort of thing he hoped would happen to him. This sort of thing did not happen to Sam in real life, and it was never going to. Except, apparently, for right now.
Sam dropped the game and started doubting the situation out loud. "What, right here on the loading dock?"
"Naw." Mitch jerked his head towards the open door of the truck.
"Isn't it a bit cold?" Sam's voice was high, and panicked. He couldn't stop looking at the open doors of the trailer. Dark, and close. And he's right. Nobody would see. But this was a far cry from Keith in the handicapped stall. Keith he knew. Even Emma might not get behind this sexual adventure. This guy could kidnap him!
Yes, he could tie you up and take you with him, fucking you cross-country. Sharp, erotic images flashed across Sam's mind, and he swayed at the rail.
Mitch gave a dark chuckle. "Don't worry, Sunshine. I'll keep you warm."
"You're serious." Sam was holding so tightly to the rail that his wrists ached. "You're seriously propositioning me."
Mitch grinned, crouched down, then braced against the edge of the ramp as he lowered himself to the ground. Sam clung to the rail as the trucker ambled up to the edge of the concrete dock of the pharmacy, tucking his hands into his jean pockets and looking up at Sam. "Come on over and play a bit, Sam." He laughed, wrinkling his nose as he did so. "I got the bat, and you got the ball."
This was insane. "I have a bat, too," Sam pointed out.
"That you do, Sunshine, and I would rightly enjoy getting my hands on it." Mitch's eyes were bright blue, Sam could see now, and they burned. "Wouldn't mind a taste of it, either. Wouldn't mind tastin' any part of you."
Maybe it was because he was so close, or maybe it was just that Sam hadn't ever been talked to like this, or maybe, as another queen of drawl would say, it was Memphis. Whatever it was, Sam fell victim to it, and it took every last bit of his strength to keep from melting off the loading dock and into Mitch's waiting, able arms. But the promise of sex washed over him, and as if someone had thrown a switch, he calmed, aiming himself with strange serenity towards this new goal. If he was going to do this, he wasn't going to fuck around.
Pardon the pun.
"Do you have a condom?" he asked. "Lube?"
He liked the way Mitch's blue eyes darkened. "I'm afraid not, Sunshine. But there's plenty of playing to be done with the equipment we bring with us."
"You might not have noticed," Sam said, his voice only breaking a little bit, "but I'm standing at the back of a pharmacy."
Cats with cream didn't have grins like Mitch's. "Of course, there's also nothing wrong with being well-supplied. But the question is, if you go back through that door, are you gonna come back out again?"
"With a box of Trojans and a tube of KY in my hand," Sam promised, not so much as batting an eye. In fact, he was looking rather intently at Mitch now. "What about you? Are you going to be here when I get back?"
This time there wasn't any smile at all. "Sunshine, if you don't come out in under a minute, I'll be coming in after you."
Sam's heart slammed into his chest, then slithered down into his groin with the rest of his vital functions. "Make it two," he said, gruffly. "I think I have to unpack the box."