What Paul needed was to get right back on the wagon, Terrence had said. “You can only be in mourning so long,” Perry chimed in. “Mingle, mingle, mingle,” Terrence added. “That’s how you shoo the blues away.”
Paul’s friends had managed to lure him out to an ocean-side café in Santa Barbara, the first time he’d been out in public since the funeral. He hadn’t been with Adrian that day on the freeway. He knew if he’d been in the car with him, he wouldn’t have let Adrian use the cell phone. And then there would have been no fatal accident. So, it was all his fault. Well, mostly. Adrian was the one who hadn’t been able cure himself of that bad habit.
“And he’s got a basketball court of his own, and everything. And it would be ever so nice to see the inside of that big house of his. We bid on decorating it, but it went to the bitch Consuela.”
“What in the fuck are you talking about, Terrence?” Paul asked, taking his gaze away from the activity on the waterfront and looking back at his friend. Well, Perry’s special friend. Perry was an old friend of Paul’s. Terrence was someone Paul hoped to god would disappear from Perry’s life soon.
“Ted. Ted Holt. Haven’t you heard anything we’ve being saying?”
“Ted Holt? The ‘car king of the California coast’?” Paul was just mimicking one of the TV commercials that he never seemed to be able to escape. GM, Cadillac, Buick. Even BMW and Mercedes.
“Yes, that Ted Holt. Isn’t he a dreamboat?”
Paul didn’t answer. The Ted Holt of the commercials—if, indeed, that was the real Ted Holt, which Paul rather doubted—was, yes, quite a man. He wouldn’t have picked the word “dreamboat,” though. Had anyone but Terrence used the word “dreamboat” since the 80s, Paul wondered. Rugged, yes. A hunk, yes, certainly. A “dreamboat” sounded much too prissy to Paul to assign to the man playing Ted Holt in those commercials. He had to admit that the reason he remembered seeing the commercial so much was that whenever he heard it come on, he’d run to the TV set just to see the Ted Holt character.
“Ted Holt. He wants to meet you,” Terrence persisted. “He’s invited us to his house for an afternoon if we’ll bring you.”
And then when Paul continued to look dumbfounded, Terrence said. “You tell him, Perry.” In an aside to Perry, not sufficiently out of Paul’s hearing, he muttered, “I want to see that house, Perry. Get him to go.”
“That’s it in a nutshell, Paul,” Perry said. “We met Ted Holt in a bar a couple of nights ago and he said he remembered us from when we were in that bar with you and Adrian.”
“He was aghast when we told him that Adrian had scattered himself all over the freeway.”
Both Perry and Paul turned to Terrence and gave him the evil eye for that insensitive interjection. Terrence, of course, didn’t show any sign of knowing what perturbed them.
“Please let me tell this, Terrence,” Perry said.
Please let me drag you out to the ocean and feed you to the sharks, Paul was thinking.
“Anyway,” Perry continued. “Holt said he remembered you and that he certainly would like to meet you. We did tell him that you had taken Adrian’s . . . passing very hard and that we’d try to lure you out of hiding if we could—for your own good. He then invited us three to come visit him at his new house Saturday afternoon.”
“That was after I told him I knew all about his house and had almost gotten the decorating contract for that,” Terrence broke in. “Don’t forget to include that we’ve been invited to his house because I brought the house up.”
“True enough,” Perry said. Then he turned to Paul and said, “I really am worried about you. You do need to return to the world. Not forget Adrian, of course, but not become a hermit either. You’re too young to just hang it up. We want to see the old Paul again. You used to be the life of the party.”
“You met Holt at that bar we used to go to together?” Paul asked. “Are you saying that Ted Holt is gay?”
“It appears so, but we certainly didn’t dwell on that, Paul. He didn’t come on to either of us or anything. He was just being a really nice guy—really concerned when we told him you were in mourning. We talked golf—he seems to be obsessed with that—and basketball. And that’s when he said he had a basketball court at the new house. And that he hadn’t tried it out yet. He sounded like he just was looking for guys to help him break in the court. What do you say?”
“Oh, I don’t know, Perry. I’m not really ready to come out again—not now, and maybe not ever. What Adrian and I had . . . I just don’t think I’ll ever . . .”
“He’s invited us to play some basketball and have lunch, Paul, not to an orgy. Not even to a wake. And Terrence and I’ll be there the whole time. You don’t have to jump in at the deep end; just start getting your toes wet again. What’a you say?”
* * * *
Paul had to admit that the house was great—a tall Tudor pile on a cliff overlooking the coastal highway with the surf raging below. The basketball court was on the other side casino siteleri of the house from the ocean.
The Ted Holt of the house was the self same guy as the Ted Holt of the commercials. In real life, though, he was much more suave than the man of the TV pitch. His voice wasn’t loud and aggressive, and he didn’t once try to sell Paul a Corvette, although they spent some time talking ‘Vettes, which were a fetish of Paul’s. He also was more of a hunk than the commercial promised. He and Paul played skins against Perry’s and Terrence’s shirts, and, although he was maybe fifteen years older than Paul, Ted’s body had been sculpted and maintained better than Paul could ever have afforded. Of course Holt was rolling in money and Paul was a mere national park ranger—not even a full-fledged ranger. He was working in the district office in Santa Barbara now as a clerk—having been permitted to come down from the San Rafael mountains when he’d moved in with Adrian. Most of the time before that, though, he had been a fire spotter up in the mountains, living in a lookout tower and spending his time trying to spot the start of forest fires.
While they played basketball, Ted had rolled out a big plastic Budweiser cooler in the shape of a huge beer can. Inside was beer on ice—all the way down. It was a thirsty type of day. When Ted’s houseboy announced that lunch was ready, they all sluiced the sweat off their torsos, toweled off, and went in to a spread of crab claws—and more beer. By the time lunch was over, they’d gotten to the bottom of the Budweiser cooler, and the houseboy sang out that he would refill it and then go back to his quarters.
“Just in time for the golf tournament on TV,” Ted said.
“Golf tournament?” Paul asked. “In December?”
“There’s a golf tournament going on somewhere in the world every minute of the day,” Ted said in a chipper voice. He was flipping channels on the remote with one hand and scratching the patch of hair in his barrel chest with the other. Paul couldn’t help but notice what really, really good condition the handsome man was in. There was that age difference. But Adrian had been ten years older than he was and yet hadn’t been in as good a condition as Ted was.
Paul shook his head then, though. He was not ready for another relationship. He probably would never be ready for another relationship—especially with an older guy. He couldn’t bear having anyone else he cared for die on him. Now if Terrence wanted to die on him . . . he’d been a little pill the entire morning and lunch hour. He was just itching to go over the interior of Ted’s house inch by inch.
Almost as if on cue, Terrence said. “The house. I’d love to see the rest of the house.”
“Yeah, sure, go right ahead,” Ted answered—but not with his full mind. He was flipping channels. “Ah, there it is.”
“You found a golf tournament on TV in early December?” Paul asked incredulously.
“Yep. The Florida Winter Championships in Pompano Beach.”
“Did I tell you that Ted was a golf nut?” Perry asked, amused. “He’ll watch anyone playing golf. If there is more than one golf channel, he’ll be signed up for them all.”
“Let’s go upstairs first,” Terrence said. “I have a sudden urge to see the bedrooms.”
Perry didn’t miss Terrence’s meaningful look. Ted didn’t seem to catch it, though. He was sinking into the center of an overstuffed sofa in front of the TV, with his eyes glued to the humongous flat screen hanging on the far wall. Paul missed the look too. He was feeling buzzed, not sure he even could climb the stairs, so he plopped down between Ted and the arm of the sofa.
“Grab us another beer, will you, before you go upstairs?” Ted sang out to Perry and Terrence. His face was still focused on the screen. “You want another one too, Paul?”
“Sure, why not?” Paul asked, not giving enough attention to the words “another one.” He was already buzzed almost to incapacitation. The last thing he needed under these circumstances was another beer.
When the sound of the feet on the stairs was silenced, Ted turned and looked at Paul. He put the remote down on top of the coffee table and sat, patiently, watching Paul drink the beer.
When Paul crushed the can—or tried unsuccessfully to—and just let it drop on the floor beside the sofa, Ted spoke to him softly, “Paul . . . I want you. Let me fuck you.”
There’s no guarantee Paul even heard him. “Look, he missed the shot,” he said in a slurred voice, looking at the TV and very proud of himself that he had been able to bring his eyes into focus long enough to see that there was an enormous TV set on the wall, let alone that someone had missed the hole in the TV coverage.
A hand on Paul’s belly. “This is what you need. I’ll be good to you. Please let me fuck you.”
“Please” came back as the answer. Whether it was “Yes, please,” “No, please,” or just an echo of the one word Paul picked up from what Ted was whispering is up for conjecture.
Ted reached over with the other canlı casino hand, curled it around the back of Paul’s neck, leaned over into him, and brought their lips together. Paul opened his lips to Ted and let Ted control the kiss. Ted’s other hand worked its way up Paul’s thigh, underneath the loose basketball shorts, and found and encased Paul’s cock. Paul swiveled until he could lay back across the cushions with his back on the arm of sofa. Ted followed him down, and his lips went down to Paul’s nipples.
Paul moaned, “Adrian, Adrian, Adrian.”
The hand had left Paul’s hardening cock and took one of Paul’s hands and moved it below the waistband of Ted’s athletic shorts and down to his already-hard cock.
“Let me give you this. You need this. I can be really good to you.”
Paul moaned in answer.
Paul’s belly was bent over the arm of the sofa, and Ted was covering him close from behind, holding Paul’s wrists with his fists, and stroking Paul’s channel deep with his sheathed cock when Paul came out of his drunken stupor enough to have any idea where he was and what was happening and who was fucking him.
“Oh, shit, no!” he cried out. “I can’t.” He struggled up from underneath Ted, who just sat back in the center of the sofa and looked at him with surprise and disappointment as Paul swept up his shorts and briefs from the carpet and ran for the door. Ted hadn’t bothered to take Paul’s athletic shoes off him.
Paul had no idea how Perry and Terrence made it home that day. He had driven his Jeep, and he had taken off alone. He didn’t even have any idea how he made it home that day as buzzed as he was. Within a week he was, by his own request, headed back up in the San Rafael mountains to hide himself away in a fire spotter’s tower. The park authority had been delighted he had volunteered for duty up there over the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, when it was almost impossible to staff up the isolated forest posts. No one asked him why he had volunteered. They didn’t want to hear again how much he missed his boyfriend.
He left without speaking to either Perry or Terrence again. He didn’t have much doubt what they’d gone upstairs in Ted’s house to do and left him alone with Ted, buzzed—after Perry had said they would be there with him, that they wouldn’t leave him alone with Ted. He even half suspected everything had been arranged between the three of them. Holt had more money than he knew what to do with. Terrence could be bought easily, even if Perry couldn’t. He knew that if he asked Perry, he’d get the answer that, no matter whether or not it had been planned, it was what Paul needed. But Paul couldn’t stop thinking that Holt probably lured a young guy to his house a couple of times a week, fucked him, and then cut him loose.
And of course he didn’t contact Ted either. Paul was more embarrassed about what had happened with Ted Holt than angry. Holt was a sexy guy, and obviously a player. He certainly was more into the game than Paul was. Paul was the one who drank the beer and lost control. For all Paul knew Holt had made it clear that he was inviting the three of him because he wanted to fuck Paul and mistakenly thought that this had been conveyed to Paul before he agreed to come.
It had taken him a while to come out of the buzz. He had felt the cock working inside him for several minutes before he had fought to escape it. And he was angry. Not necessarily at Ted; he had some slight remembrance that Ted had asked for permission to fuck him. He was angry at himself—and was feeling disloyal. This, because as he was coming out of his stupor and realized he was being fucked, he remembered imagining that it was Adrian—and then thinking that it couldn’t be, because he was getting a much better fuck than Adrian had ever given him.
He . . . just . . . couldn’t give in to Perry’s argument that this was what he needed. It was disloyal to the memory of Adrian. And somehow it was worse that he hadn’t been able to make it even to Christmas before he betrayed Adrian.
* * * *
A week before Christmas Paul had been on top of his tower in the San Rafael mountains for four days, completely alone. He’d had time to think, and each time he started to think about Ted Holt and what had happened in his house, he blotted it out and tried to think about something else. Being alone was what he knew he wanted, what he needed. He spent a lot of time out on the balcony that ran completely around the small, but adequately outfitted crow’s nest he lived in 24/7, and scanning his binoculars over the ridge tops, watching for signs of smoke. Not many came up here over the Christmas season, although the weather was still good for camping, other than the surprise snow storm now and again. But those who did come up here in December tended to be less careful than the summer campers.
His digs at the top of the tower consisted essentially of one room with a small bathroom in a corner, the rest of the walls all windows looking out on the mountains and, beyond kaçak casino them, to the west, a glimmer of the ocean. But there was a kitchenette; a table and four dining chairs; a small sofa and overstuffed arm chair; two twin-sized beds, each against a wall, a braided rug in the center of the room; and a desk. No TV, but he did have electricity and a CD player—and, best of all, he had an Internet connection. He hadn’t used that much yet, though. He wasn’t in the mood to be connected with the world. He’d intended to do some writing while he was up here—but he hadn’t done any of that yet either.
So, his days were spent mainly walking the balconies, scanning the ridge tops more than half of his waking moments, trying to read a couple of novels that weren’t helping—he saw the mistake of bringing gay novels up here almost immediately—and trying not to think about what he knew he really should be examining in his mind.
The afternoon of the fifth day he saw smoke—up to the northwest, toward the Sierra Madres, but clearly within his own span of responsibility. He was instantly excited by the prospect of activity, not giving a second thought to his professed desire to be alone, and raced down the tower, jumped in the Jeep, and headed down his mountain toward where he had seen the smoke.
It was a fire, but it was a campfire at an established camping site, and the fire was letting off a hell of a lot more smoke than seemed justified by the embers still smoldering. It wasn’t near any overhanging trees, and it was well surrounded with rocks, with no brush nearby. Not a danger. Paul felt a little disappointed.
There was a tent nearby, though, and he saw the ripples in the nylon sides of the tents about the time he heard the unmistakable sounds of sex. Male sex. Men in deep fuck.
The flap of the tent was full open and snapped back on the sides on either side. He could see a pair of big feet, the toes scrunching up, letting loose, scrunching up. He was drawn to the sound. As he drew closer and could see farther into the tent, he saw the calves that the big feet were attached to and the knees. And he could see the soles of smaller feet, on either side of the calves. And the butt cheeks of a young, well-muscled man. He could see the beefy hands of the man on his back grabbing the slim waist of the smaller man. And he could see the alternating root of a thick cock and a couple of inches of the base of it, as the smaller man, who was straddling the pelvis of the larger man, rose and fell on the impaling cock.
This is exactly what I do not need to see, Paul thought, as he jerked away, went to the Jeep and took a bucket of sand from the back, walked back to the fire and smothered it with sand, and then got back in his Jeep and rode back up to his safe tower on the adjacent mountain top.
Stumbling into the tower room, he went directly to his laptop. He’d check his e-mails, he thought. He hadn’t done that in a couple of days. It would wipe the vision of what he’d seen—and how it had aroused him—out of his mind. Fat chance of that his mind sassed back at him, as he switched on his e-mail account. There was a message that there was a large box addressed to him down at park headquarters in Santa Barbara that he could come down and pick up at his convenience.
He’d go later in the afternoon, he decided. He was too fidgety now. He picked one of the gay novels up from beside the laptop, walked over to one of the twin beds, stripped off his trousers and briefs, laid down on the bed, and flipped open the novel to one of the dog-eared pages. Then he masturbated himself to drowsiness and a restless sleep.
When he woke, he showered, and dressed again. Then he drove down the mountain to Santa Barbara. There were a couple of routes he could have taken down the fire trails, but, without a thought, he chose the one going by the encampment where the two guys had been fucking. He pulled up at the side of the road beyond eyesight of the encampment, took out his binoculars, and trained them on the site.
The two were still fucking—or were fucking again. This time they had moved to outside the entrance to the tent. They were on some sort of mat. They both looked like college students—clean-cut, although the bigger one had a tattoo on a shoulder blade—and athletic. The smaller guy was dark headed. He might even have been Hispanic. The bigger guy was a Nordic blond. The smaller guy was on his back, with his legs spread and in the air, held out there by the bigger guy’s hands. He was scrabbling at the brush and small rocks nearby with his hands, his mouth was gaping open, and, now that he saw him, Paul realized he could also hear him—but barely—crying out how well and deep he was being taken.
The bigger guy was kneeling between the smaller guy’s thighs and moving his buttocks back and forth, rapidly and rhythmically, ramming the smaller guy’s ass hard and deep.
Paul let the binoculars drop in the seat beside him—after several minutes of watching—he shook his head to try to dislodge the vision of what he’d seen—not just looked at, but watched for several minutes—and told himself to get a grip on himself. He backed the Jeep up to take a route that didn’t go right past the campsite and drove on down into Santa Barbara.