The next day was extremely busy, thank God. I was kept hopping with scheduling and making Karl and the others go over what I expected them to do while I was gone. Fortunately the project had entered that phase where the next step is obvious and everyone knows what to do. I often did leave project sites at this point to work on other issues so this wasn't even that out of the blue.
But Karl and the others knew something was up. Donna kept giving me looks that held a lot of questions and not a little speculation. They all knew I was gay. It was no big deal to them - or hadn't ever seemed to be. They'd met Michael while we were partnered and had managed to take him in stride, which spoke volumes for their tolerance.
"I know it's none of my business," Donna finally got up the nerve to approach me during one of our liquid breaks. "But this thing isn't business related, is it?"
"Am I that obvious?"
"Normally no. But this time... yeah. It's all over your face."
I felt heat scald my cheeks. She shook her head.
"Don't, Ty. Hell, you look happy. I envy you. I always thought you were a good guy and deserved better --" She broke off and this time she flushed. "Sorry, I didn't mean to diss Michael. He just wasn't... right for you."
I laughed. "Well keep your fingers crossed, Dee, that this one is."
"Hey boss." She grinned. "Fingers and toes."
The last hour crawled by as I tied up loose ends, gave them Charlie's number with the admonition that they were only to call in a 'flat out, absolute, earth-shattering disaster that has galactic implications - otherwise it can damned well wait'. I was pleased to see Donna tuck the paper into the pocket of her jeans. I trusted her to be more level headed in defining a disaster than any of the guys.
If she called I knew there was trouble.
I had packed a bag before leaving the house this morning. All I had to do at home was take a quick shower and check my messages for any last minute problems, then I was back out on the freeway and driving toward the airport.
It took forever to clear customs and check in but finally I stashed my bag in the overhead and slid into my assigned window seat. I propped a paper back thriller on my lap to discourage talk from my seat mate, a harried looking woman in her twenties who barely glanced at me.
The book managed to hold my interest long enough to get me into the air and into the first hour of the flight. Then I closed it and lay my head back and pretended I was dozing, while thoughts of Charlie flashed through my overheated imagination. I was glad I'd chosen to wear loose khakis and a jacket that covered my lap since, since, as the plane descended, I came out of my self-imposed daze with a raging hard on. I hastily picked the book up again and tried to get back into it, if only to take my mind off thoughts of what I was heading into.
It worked, barely. At least I was able to disembark and pass through the crowds without getting any particularly horrified looks.
I picked up the car, a white Intrepid and reviewing my directions with the girl behind the counter I set out for Gatlinburg.
I made good time and it was barely ten-thirty when I pulled into the gravel driveway leading to Charlie's house- studio. Lights were blazing inside the house when I pulled into the spacious yard behind his Harley. The front door flew open before I could even get my feet planted on the ground.
Charlie strode out onto the wide, wraparound veranda carrying a rag and couple of paintbrushes. He was shirtless and wore ragged jeans cutoff at the knees.
"Tyler. I'm glad you came." He took my bag from me and lightly touched my elbow with his free hand. "How was the flight down?"
"Good. No problems. This your place? I like it."
It wasn't big, and it had the rustic look of an old cabin that lent it a certain charm. But then it could have been a falling down barn and I wouldn't have cared less. Not if Charlie was in it.
Charlie hadn't been exaggerating when he said he backed onto the wilderness. Massive shadowy trees came right up to his property line, some of them were over the line, filling his lot with even more shadows. There wasn't much attempt at landscaping. A few bushes and perennials crowded around the sides of the veranda and there were flower boxes haphazardly filled with annuals on window sills and beside the front door.
"Let me show you the house," Charlie said. He took the veranda steps two at a time and waited at the top for me.
The veranda was draped in shadow. The only furniture I could see was a gliding swing that would have held three in a pinch but would have been just perfect for a leisurely afternoon drinking mint juleps with the man of your dreams. Then I faltered. Did they drink mint juleps in Tennessee? Or was this Jack Daniels country? What the hell was a mint julep anyway?
The screen door banged shut behind us. Charlie set my bag on the floor at the bottom of a set of ancient looking stairs that led to the second floor. The interior had that peculiar smell that is unique to old houses. Through it I could detect coffee brewing. My nose perked up.
"Is that coffee?"
"I threw on a pot a few minutes ago. Figured you might be tired after your trip."
"I'm too wired," I said. Then I looked up to meet his gaze full on. "Don't I get a hello kiss?"
Charlie cupped my face in his strong hands and slid his thumb over my mouth. I opened my lips and he took advantage and bent down to caress me with his lips.
I sighed and opened my mouth all the way. He slid his tongue in then withdrew and straightened, brushing an errant strand of hair off my forehead.
"Before this goes too far, let's grab a coffee and I'll give you a tour."
It turned out to be a sprawling place that seemed bigger on the inside than it looked on the outside, full of unexpected turns and rooms that weren't quite square. Charlie explained it, "It was built back in the middle of the nineteenth century, before the civil war, by a real eccentric old character who had a reputation for running moonshine in the woods back there and hiding slaves bound for the underground railway to Canada. They caught him eventually and hung him right out in the front yard from one of his own trees."
"Don't tell me, his ghost still haunts the place after all these years."
"Nah," Charlie said. "His ghost is more interested in tracking down the stills he left out in those woods. When the wind's right you can still smell the sour mash."
I laughed. "So, where's your studio?"
He led me into a large room at the back of the house. Here the far wall was lined with newer windows that during the day would let in lots of natural light. There were no curtains on any of the windows and I felt strangely exposed. It didn't surprise me that Charlie made no attempt to touch me while we wandered around his work site.
The studio was filled with at least a dozen works in various stages of completion. Several easels lay shrouded in clothe and I remembered his admonition that no one see the four panels Thurlow had commissioned. I spotted some that I knew had been inspired by Lynx Woods, but there were others that drew their inspiration from somewhere else. I paused in front of an easel bearing a half finished study of a horse and rider in what looked like a show ring.
"Oh, that's a special request," he said when he saw where I was looking. My sister's girl, Katrina, is crazy about horses and does the local show circuit. Her dad just bought her this horse and now she's winning ribbons, so Trish asked me if I could do a painting of the two of them as a special favor for her. Katrina won a blue ribbon at that particular show."
I studied the painting, seeing a young girl on the edge of puberty who had fine golden hair and the translucent skin only the very young ever possess.
"Your niece, huh?"
"Told you my sister was a blond blue-eyed Viking. We don't even look like we come from the same forest let alone the same family tree."
"Does anyone in your family know... I mean --"
"That I'm gay?" He shook his head. "The college scandal never got this far and I didn't have the heart... then when I got married it seemed a moot point. It still did... until lately."
I held my breath as he studied the painting in front of us. He touched the surface, brushing a thick brown finger over his niece's rendering.
"Now I'm thinking why not tell them? I'm tired of keeping secrets and this thing with you..." He looked up to find me staring at him, mesmerized. "If this is going to be something meaningful then I want them to know. To be happy for me."
He suddenly looked scared as though it had just occurred to him that maybe they wouldn't be happy. That maybe he would lose them over this. I took his hand in mine, despite the open windows behind us.
"I don't want to have to live my life in secret, Ty," he said in a voice full of anguish. "I don't deserve that. We don't deserve that."
I pulled him to me and for a brief minute he stiffened and I thought he was going to push me away then he clung to me. I stroked his broad back and told him how much I loved him and I was sure his family loved him too.
Finally he drew back, collecting himself.
"Sorry," he muttered. "How was it with you? When you came out?"
I shrugged. "Uncertainty. Fear - this was after the AIDS thing hit us all hard so all they could focus on was that it meant exposure. I tried to tell them it didn't have to be that way, but it took a while before they could really listen. My dad still has trouble dealing with the whole gay thing. My mother's always been more accepting. But then I guess her background mandates she be more tolerant. They'd come and take her Haight- Ashbury posters away if she wasn't."
"But they're there for you if you need them, right?"
"Hundred percent. I'm sure yours would be too."
He didn't answer and I didn't offer any more platitudes. "Come on," he finally said. "Let me show you were the shower is. Maybe you feel like washing up. Are you hungry?"
"Not really. I had a snack on the plane."
I followed him out of the studio and up the rickety stairs that creaked ominously under us. He showed me a surprisingly modern bathroom with a large shower cubicle and bathtub sitting in the middle of the floor on clawed feet. It looked big enough for two people and my imagination went off again.
Then he led me down the hall.
"My room," he said simply, throwing the door open.
He had filled the room with beautiful old furniture. The four poster bed was done up in a deep teal and burgundy with a matching comforter. Along one wall was a fireplace that had seen recent use and an old grandfather clock that ticked away somnolently in the silent room. A Victorian love seat and matching chair graced the space opposite the bed and a bedside table held a bookmarked science fiction novel and under that the two pictures I had so impulsively sent to Charlie such a short time ago. He had printed them out on photo quality paper and it was obvious they had been handled quite a bit since then.
Charlie saw the direction my eyes took.
"I was looking at them last night before I called you. It's the main reason I did call."
"Well I'm glad you did." I came to stand in front of him. I could feel the heat from his bare chest where I stood. His eyes darkened and burned into mine when I lifted my hand and lightly stroked the skin around his nipples. He shivered under my touch.
"I'm glad you sent them."
We stood like that for several rapid heartbeats then he stepped closer and brushed his crotch against my stomach. His flesh was tattooed with goose bumps and I leaned over and planted my lips on the skin above his heart. I felt the savage drumbeat from it and his heat suffused me with desire.
My hands skimmed up his bare arms and back down his spine, settling on his hips above the waistband of his cut offs. When our mouths finally met it was like an explosion of pure lust. I had meant only to kiss him gently then suggest we go to bed, but one touch of his lips and I lost myself.
He had the power to drive me to mindless distraction. I clung to him as he walked me backwards to the bed and began undressing me. Then he eased me back and knelt between my legs. I groaned when his mouth covered my swollen cock. He circled the fat head with his warm tongue and his hands gently moved between my ass cheeks, spreading them. When his mouth left my cock and moved down past my balls I held my breath, only to let it out in a deep guttural groan when he planted his mouth square on my puckered hole.
His tongue danced over my ass, flicking back and forth, stiffening to work its way inside then darting back to lick and suck at the super sensitive skin behind my balls. My hole opened to him, like it was begging for what it knew was coming. Amazing how I had gone from being such a dedicated top to yearning for Charlie's dick up my ass with such complete abandon.
I heard the zipper of his cutoffs slide open then cool air hit my pulsing cock and hole, only to be replaced with a lube covered finger seconds later. I rocketed up off the bed, engulfing his finger inside me after his first tentative insertion.
Then at last his cock head broached my hole. He slid in easily, gently working past the ring of muscle guarding my glory hole. Before long he came to rest with his balls almost touching my tail bone. He braced his hands on either side of my hips and began to thrust into me. At first with slow, measured strokes, then faster as our lust consumed us.
I wrapped my legs around his lower back, angling to get him in deeper. He leaned down and jammed his mouth over mine, catching my cries and shoving his tongue down my throat. He growled against my neck.
"Baby, you are so fucking hot. You were meant for this, born to have my cock up your ass. Ohhh, fuck. YESSS!"
He started slamming into me so hard the bed under us began to bounce on the floor. His face was a rictus of pure lust and his cock began to pulse and throb inside me. Head thrown back, he bowed his back and drove himself so far into me I swear he hit my stomach. His orgasm shattered him, exploding and draining him completely.
Almost simultaneously my own cock erupted, shooting its load across my stomach, chest and face. Charlie sagged into me, smearing us both with my own love juice. His shallow, gasping breath was hot on my sweat soaked skin. It was a long time before he raised his head off my shoulder and blinked down at me.
His smile was shaky.
"Wow," he whispered.
He pulled out from between my legs and carefully disposed of his condom. Then he drew me to my feet and covered my mouth with the softest of butterfly kisses.
"Let's go take a shower."
We slipped into bed after the shower and Charlie pressed into my back, his arms tight around me and his breath warm in my ear.
"Thank you for coming, Ty. Thank you for everything."
We drifted off to sleep.
Breakfast on the veranda. Blue jays screamed at us in the trees overhead and I saw a flash of black and white as a large pileated woodpecker crossed the back woodlot.
Charlie had put the cutoffs back on and I soon learned why. Tennessee this time of year was hot. A stifling breeze licked our sweat sheened skin even this early in the morning and it promised to get worse. I wore my lightest T-shirt but I hadn't thought to pack shorts and none of Charlie's would fit me. I sat and sweltered.
"I usually go into the studio in the late morning for a few hours. Can you entertain yourself for a while this afternoon?"
"Sure," I said. "I'll go into town. If you like I'll pick up something for supper and take care of the cooking."
"Wow. I got married when I wasn't looking. Do you wash windows too?"
"For you babe? Anything."
Charlie kissed me then slapped my butt. "Careful what you say. I might decide to take advantage of that. Who knows what perverse heights I might drag you to. First windows, then dishes, then before you know it, you're scrubbing toilets."
"See, what'd I tell you?"
Around eleven o'clock Charlie disappeared into his studio. I grabbed the car keys and headed in to see what Gatlinburg, population thirty-eight hundred, had to offer.
Actually I knew exactly what it had to offer. The Ripley's Aquarium. I spent the afternoon with the other tourists ohhing and ahhhing over massive tanks full of sharks, and rays and brilliantly colored tropical reef fish. I had lunch in front of a wall of glass and watched the leisurely flow of aquatic animal life beyond the wall while I nibbled on a salad and drank ice tea.
Before I headed back I found a casual clothing store and picked myself up a pair of trunks I could wear around the house that would also act as a bathing suit if we ever went swimming. I didn't think Gatlinburg was ready for Tyler McKay in his Speedos. I wondered if Charlie owned a pair. The thought was enough to give me a boner even in the middle of a crowded restaurant. God, what this guy did to me.
I found a market and stopped in to grab boneless chicken and half a watermelon. I hoped like hell Charlie had a barbecue. I didn't look forward to cooking supper in the house, even with the air conditioning.
Back at Charlie's I found the barbecue, tucked away on the veranda and had set the chicken to marinade in a bath of garlic, olive oil and fresh chopped oregano when Charlie appeared looking damp from a recent shower. That sounded like such a good idea I kissed him on the lips and left him to chop veggies for a salad.
I put the new trunks on and came back to find Charlie had cranked the barbecue up and it was smoking nicely, ready to cook. We ate on the veranda before moving in to enjoy the cool air conditioning while we watched a really bad movie about aliens on a feeding frenzy among an unusually stupid human population. Then we redeemed ourselves by watching Casablanca and squeezing out a few tears for the star-crossed lovers.
Then Charlie took my hand and led me upstairs where he blew my mind yet again with the power of his lovemaking. We slept the night through, wrapped in each other's arms.
[More to come]
If you like this story so far, let me know at Patrick I'm always happy to hear comments, suggestions, anything.