by Tim Mead
It's Raining Men
Cedric didn't want to wear a suit to the party upstairs, so he chose his navy blazer with medium gray tropical worsted slacks.
Jay, who stopped on his way, had chosen a khaki-colored suit, rust colored shirt, and gold tie.
"You look marvelous! That outfit is perfect with your skin color."
Jay's face lit up at the compliment. "Thanks. You look pretty good yourself."
A moment or so later, as they rode to the top floor in the elevator, Cedric said, "I have a suggestion."
"Let's split up when we get there."
"What, you mean have a public falling out?"
"No, nothing like that. I just thought we could maybe meet more people separately than if we're together all evening. Besides, I don't think we're at the stage where we want to be thought of as a couple, are we?"
Cedric grinned. "No. You might find some hunk that really turns you on this evening. You wouldn't want me to hold you back."
"And then if you haven't been invited home with anybody, we can go back to my place and . . . compare notes."
Jay brightened. "Oh, I'd like to compare notes with you." He licked his lips. "And other things."
When they stepped off the elevator, they found the doors of both Tom's and Adrian's units standing open. There was a sign on an easel in the middle of the hallway. It said:
Drinks to your right, Food to your left.
Be sure to circulate.
Except for a stocky man in a chef's white jacket putting pastries on a table, there was no one in Tom Nielsen's place. There were sounds of conversation coming from Adrian's where the drinks were, so they went in there.
It appeared there were a dozen or fifteen guests in the room. Tom greeted them just inside the door.
"Hi, guys. Glad you could come."
"Thanks for the invitation. I've heard enough about this group to be eager to meet everyone."
Over Tom's shoulder Cedric could see Adrian Lynch talking earnestly to a Gallic-looking man who was about 5'10" with black hair and a mustache. Both were wearing dark suits. Adrian put his hand on the other man's cheek briefly, smiled at him, and then turned toward the door.
He came toward them.
"Cedric, Jay, thank you for coming."
Jay, who looked mesmerized, found his voice. "Our pleasure."
Adrian looked at Tom and said, "Albert's a little skittish, as he sometimes is before these affairs." He turned back to Cedric and Jay. "I don't suppose you've met Albert. He's my chef and partner in the business. He's supposed to be here as a guest. One of his sous-chefs is handling the catering tonight. But he never seems to relax."
Tom chuckled. "You know what he needs."
Adrian nodded and smiled. "Pas devant les enfants," he said.
Cedric understood from the exchange that Albert needed a man, or at least a good fuck. And from Jay's grin he knew that Jay understood, too.
"Well, guys," Tom said, "I see some friends of yours coming this way, so we'll let them introduce you around. Or you can introduce yourselves. You'll find this a friendly group."
"Thomas, what are you thinking? They'll want drinks."
"We'll take care of that," Adam said.
Someone else had come in the door, so the hosts excused themselves. Adam and Blake shook hands with Cedric and Jay and then steered them toward the drinks table.
Before they got there a good-looking, well-built college-age guy in white shirt, black bow tie, black vest and trousers, with shined black leather shoes, came by carrying a tray of champagne glasses.
"Anybody want champagne?"
"You don't have drinks yet either?"
"No, we just got here."
Blake helped himself to a glass from the waiter's tray. "Thanks, Casey," he said. When the others declined the champagne, the cute little hunk nodded and moved on.
"Cedric and Jay," Adam asked as he steered them toward the bar, "what'll you have?"
Having given that some thought, Cedric replied, "I think I'll stick to wine this evening." He knew this was a chance to make contacts who might turn out to be clients . . . and a chance to make friends as well. He didn't want to get tipsy. Particularly not since he knew his boss would be present.
Jay asked the bartender for tonic, no gin or vodka.
Adam had bourbon on the rocks and Cedric asked for red wine. Which turned out to be a particularly fine cabernet.
He noted that Tyrese and Digby had arrived. Tyrese wore a dark suit, looking very lawyerish. Except for the diamond ear studs, which Cedric knew he would never wear at work.
Digby was the only person present who wasn't wearing a necktie. He had chosen a black suit with a black silk shirt, open at the collar. Around his neck were two heavy gold chains. He, too, wore diamond studs in his ears.
Cedric and Adam were chatting when they were approached by a tall Paul Walker lookalike and a slightly shorter but stunning guy whose ancestry was obviously at least part Asian.
"Hello, gentlemen," Adam said, shaking hands with each of them. "Have you met Cedric."
"No," Paul Walker said, "but we'd like to."
"Cedric Jones, this," he indicated the shorter man, "is Toby Taba. He's involved with IT at the University. He sees to it that we never have computer glitches, or on the extremely rare occasion we do, that it's taken care of instantly."
Cedric and Toby exchanged greetings and shook hands.
"And this is Ben Moss, who is a honcho in the Colby County Public Information Department."
"Are you the Ben Moss," Cedric asked. "The one who wrote Picking Up the Pace?"
Looking embarrassed, Moss admitted he was indeed the author in question.
"Man, that's such a great book! It really speaks to the gay experience in the twenty-first century. I've read it twice."
Ben chuckled. "Thanks, Cedric. I wish you'd been writing reviews when it came out."
"It was very well reviewed," Adam said.
Toby smiled and nodded.
Blake took Jay off to introduce him to someone he had to meet, and the four remaining men chatted a few minutes longer.
"So tell me, Cedric, what were you doing before you moved to Colby?"
Before Cedric could answer, two more hunky men approached their group.
They were introduced as Dave Cromer and Brody Cox.
"Oh," Cedric said to Dave, "you're Joe Hill's boss."
"That I am. How do you know Joe?"
"I was out to their house a few weeks ago. Micah's making some furniture for me."
"You couldn't have chosen better," Brody said.
"Well, it was Adam here who showed me the great stuff Micah made for him and Blake." Looking at Brody, Cedric asked, "You go to CSU, right?"
"I've also heard that you're connected with Cox Floral."
Brody grinned. "Yes. The Underground still works well. As a matter of fact, my family has a shop in Higgins, too, Petal Pushers."
"Yeah," Dave said. "And before you think anything about gay florists, you should know that my partner is a jarhead."
"Oh, you were a Marine?"
"I am a Marine, just not on active duty."
Dave nodded. "Once a Marine, always a Marine."
They talked a bit longer, and then the group split up. It was a fluid gathering, in which groups morphed into other groups.
Cedric was chatting with Jake Handley and Jim Grant when a tall, broad-shouldered redhead came up to them.
"Hi, Chief. Hi, Jake."
Despite the fact the guy was taller than he was and about the same age there was an endearing boyishness about him. Cedric thought he was cute.
Grant, who though pleasant had seemed reserved in Cedric's office, hugged the younger man. And then Jake hugged him.
"Ray, it's good to see you. But don't call me `Chief.' I wasn't chief long enough for it to count."
Ray turned to Cedric, offered his hand, and said, "I'm Ray Stonesifer."
"Ced Jones. Good to meet you, Ray."
"Sorry," Jake said. "We should have introduced you two. We just don't see Ray often enough. They keep him pretty busy at the cop shop."
"You're a policeman?"
"This," Grant said, "is Sergeant Ray Stonesifer."
"Yeah. This gentleman used to be my boss. My career, such as it is, is due to him."
"Nonsense." Grant said. Then, looking around, "Where's your better half?"
Ray looked across the room, caught someone's eye, and tilted his head in a come-here sort of way.
And then the best-looking man in the room, at least from Cedric's perspective, came toward them. As he got closer, Cedric recognized him. He couldn't have come up with the man's name, but he knew he'd seen him. He was a model for mags like GQ. But what the fuck was he doing in Colby? Living with a cop? Stonesifer was attractive enough, but this dream could have had anyone he wanted.
Ray introduced him as Jesse Croft.
"This is turning out to be quite an evening for me," Cedric said as he and Jesse shook hands. "First I meet a novelist whose work I really admire, and now I meet a famous model."
Jesse smiled. "I assume you mean Ben. He's done something admirable. Picking Up the Pace is a fine novel. And that's not just my opinion. Have you met Adam Craig? He agrees. But me? I'm just another pretty face. Which is rapidly developing crow's feet."
Jesse's manner was more self-deprecating than self-pitying, and Cedric liked him immediately. The cute sergeant was a lucky man.
Cedric had put his empty glass on the tray of a waiter who was collecting empties and was moving toward the drinks table for another. Before he got there, though, two strong arms wrapped around him from behind, squeezed, and picked him up.
A very deep voice rumbled in his ear. "You clean up good, boy. You havin' fun?"
"Not as much fun as I had listening to you and your men play the blues. But it's a good party. Now, could you put me down before I get a hard on?" It occurred to him that he shouldn't be talking about erections with his boss's partner. "Besides, you're wrinkling my blazer."
Digby chuckled and released him.
"I won't tell him you said that."
"Too late for that!" It was Tyrese. "I can't take you anywhere, Digs. You molesting my associate?"
"The boy need molestin'," Digby said.
Amen to that, Cedric thought.
Looking across the room, he saw Albert, the chef, lightly pat Casey on the butt as he passed. And for some reason that made him smile. This was an extraordinary group. He hadn't seen a flamer, nobody queening around. Just a group of well-dressed, exceptionally good-looking men who seemed to know and like each other talking, laughing, occasionally touching.
As the evening went on, people began to move across the hall to Tom's place – where the food was.
For the first time since he'd arrived, he looked for Jay, whom he spotted engaged in discussion with Albert. Catching Jay's eye, he pointed toward the door. Jay nodded.
Now that the room was fairly empty, Cedric could see several vases of flowers. One was on the mantel of a large stone fireplace. It was then that Cedric noticed the penthouse units had twelve-foot ceilings and that Adrian's was a working fireplace. He realized that flues wouldn't be difficult to design for the top-floor units.
The flowers on the mantel were matched by those in other vases around the room. Mostly chrysanthemums, they were in shades of gold and very dark red. From Cox Floral, he guessed.
Across the hall, there were more flowers in the same color. And Tom Nielsen did have the same stone fireplace, though the furnishings were quite different. Adrian's unit was done in an eclectic style, with modern pieces mixed with what were clearly valuable – and tastefully chosen – antiques. Tom's was more contemporary. Understated but expensive.
The food was splendidly displayed. As the guests made inroads, staff in white jackets replaced what was taken. At one end of the table stood the man with a tall chef's hat Cedric had seen earlier. He was carving a roast of beef to put on small buns which, Ced was informed, were ciabatta buns. There was a horseradish sauce for the sandwiches, along with catsup and mayonnaise that Cedric was sure didn't come out of bottles.
On another table were miniature pastries and cups for coffee. A white-jacketed server was pouring coffee from insulated pitchers
It was Jay, nibbling on a piece of celery.
"I've met a lot of nice people."
"Nice is a good word. Makes you wonder if any of them ever pitches a hissy fit."
Ced laughed. "Yeah. Just about everybody is here with a partner. Odds are that they have arguments once in a while."
"I've heard that Albert can lose it in the kitchen from time to time. But he seems like such a sweet man. Sad, though."
"Sad? I haven't met him yet. I'll make a point of talking with him before we go."
"Have you met him?" Jay nodded toward a twenty-something who stood out because he was wearing jeans, a blue chambray shirt, a brown tweed jacket and a blue and brown striped tie.
"No. Haven't a clue who he is."
Cedric was just taking a bite of a petit four when Adam came up beside him.
"Have you met everyone, Cedric?"
"Just about. Everyone seems very friendly. And they're an interesting group. I hope I'll get to know some of them better."
"Well, keep coming to these gatherings, and you will."
"Adam, I've just missed someone. A couple of someones, as a matter of fact."
"Who? Or, I suppose I should say whom?"
"Joe and Micah aren't here."
"That's a shame, too, since they're both such good guys. But I don't think they're comfortable when we're all dressed up. I've seen them at Dave and Brody's when they have a cookout and everyone's in shorts."
"But you think they were invited. They wouldn't be excluded because they're both, well, blue collar?"
"Oh, I'm sure that's not the case."
"Good. I'd hate to think that Tom and Adrian were snobs."
Adam grinned. "Well, Adrian's a food snob. But I'm sure he knows and likes Joe and Micah."
Adam moved toward the dessert table, and Cedric finished off the petit four.
They were in Cedric's apartment, having shucked jackets, ties, and shoes. Cedric had offered coffee, regular or decaf. Jay had thanked him and refused.
"No, thanks. I'm good."
They sprawled in the living room.
"So, what did you think?" Jay asked.
"Fascinating. All ages. But all sexy."
"Did you get to talk with Albert?"
"Briefly. We introduced ourselves and began to chat. Then Adrian wanted to talk with him about something, and the next thing I knew Albert was talking with that cute waiter you ogled earlier, and I was being introduced to the guy in the jeans."
"Oh, yeah. The one who didn't get the clothing memo. Who is he?"
"His name is Seth Newman. He's a graduate assistant in the Art Department. Working on an MFA. His art is photography." Jay put air quotes around art.
"Meet anyone else interesting?"
"Well, we met a lot of the same people. But there was James Agnello, the interior decorator. He wanted to know all about my sister's business. I invited him over some time to see what she'd done with my condo."
"Condo. You are buying it, then?"
"So tell me about James. How cliché to be a decorator."
"He's a nice guy. Cute, too, in a Mediterranean kind of way. But he has a partner. He lives with, wait a minute, let me think. A CSU prof, economics, named Horne. Darren, that's it! Darren Horne."
"Is he a bit on the portly side, receding hairline?"
"Yep. He and Tom Nielsen have the same hair problem. But Tom must spend his days working out, at least when he's not managing his portfolio. Darren's pretty soft. Seemed like a nice guy, though."
"Bald can be sexy. At least I think Tom is."
"There was another set of professors, a couple," Jay continued. "I didn't get introduced to them, but Brody Cox pointed them out. One was in botany, the other in English. I don't remember their names. You did meet Brody and Dave, didn't you?"
"Oh hell yeah! They're both gorgeous."
"Most of the men there were good looking, starting with our host, Adrian."
"One of our hosts. And you're right. He reminds me of a model I've seen, but I don't know his name. Tom's lucky."
Jay sat up straighter. "You know what?"
"Adrian scares me a little. But I'd do Tom in a New York minute."
"I know what you mean. He's really cute. And he's much more approachable than his partner. Of course, they've both got to be in their thirties."
"What's wrong with you, Ced? You have a thing about older men?"
A quick calculation told Cedric that Tim was now thirty-three. "No, I guess not." He yawned. "One thing I noticed."
"Unless I missed something, the chef and the grad student were the only ones there without a partner. Except for you and me, of course. I mean, for us it was more like a date. But all those other guys are together."
"Well, it was a good party. Blake told me there'd be another one during the holidays."
"I feel a little awkward about all that. They don't ask for anyone to help with the costs. And I don't imagine anyone else in the group is set up to entertain like that."
"I understand that Dave Cromer and his hunky Marine lover sometimes have the group over for a cookout in nice weather. And, I'm told, so do the old guys, Jake and Jim." He paused and then stood up. "I suppose I should go home."
"You don't have to."
"Now there's a half-hearted invitation if I ever heard one."
"I didn't mean it that way. Stay with me."
"All those sexy men have you turned on, and I'm the port in the storm?" Jay pretended to pout. Or was he pretending?
Cedric extended his hand. "Stay with me."
"You know, Ced, I'm happy as a bottom. But if you ever needed me to, I could . . . ."
Cedric thought again of his days with Tim. Tim, too, preferred the bottom's role, but he would occasionally feel the need to top. And never complained on the occasions when Cedric asked him to.
"No, Jay, thanks. I appreciate the offer, but let's just keep on the way we've been going."
It's easy to lose track of how much you've drunk when you're mixing with people. The cabernet had been exceptional and the supply plentiful. But red wine occasionally gave him a headache, and he had one now.
Jay was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, being a non-drinker. He was there, in Cedric's place, and horny.
Angel always taught me to be mindful of the needs of others.
So Cedric took Aleve and brushed his teeth. Then they wound up naked in his bed.
"Are you okay, Cedric? You don't look right. Are you drunk?"
"No, man. Well, a little fuzzy, maybe. I hate to say this, but I've got a headache. Red wine does that to me sometimes."
"Like when you've been drinking it for three hours and haven't kept track?"
Cedric nodded and then wished he hadn't.
"Yeah. It was a great red. I meant to ask Adrian or Tom what it was."
"You probably couldn't afford it."
"True. But the point is, it went down easy. And I was caught up in meeting all those interesting guys . . . . Are you gonna lecture me?"
Jay chuckled. "Alcohol is a poison. There now! End of lecture. So. I could go home. Or I could stay here and maybe make you feel better."
"Oh, I didn't mean to pull the old `I've got a headache' routine." He cocked an eyebrow. "What would you do to make me feel better?"
"Just lie back and let me show you."
He awoke and opened an eye. It was daylight. He was in the bed alone, but he could smell Jay's sandalwood scent. By moving his head slightly he could see the bedside clock, which told him it was just after 9:00.
Poor Jay. He must have conked out on him. He closed his eyes again, trying to remember. It came back vaguely. It had started with Jay rubbing his forehead, nuzzling his neck, planting kisses on his cheek. And then moving down to the closest nipple.
Ah, yes! And it culminated some time later with Cedric on his back and Jay riding his upright pole.
He heard the guest toilet flush.
A moment later Jay appeared, still naked. He tiptoed over to the bed and looked down at Cedric.
"Oh, hi. I didn't want to wake you. How do you feel this morning?"
"Great! You worked some powerful therapy on me last night."
"Glad it did the job."
"Someone should tell all those bored housewives that sex is better than aspirin for headaches. But, hey, I'm feeling guilty, too."
"I can't remember doing anything for you. I just lay there like a limp dishrag."
"Oh, parts of you weren't limp! My only problem is my thighs are a little sore this morning. I'm not used to doing that many squats."
"Get in here!"
He pulled Jay down next to him, put him on his back, spread his legs, and crawled between them. Once in position, he lavished lingual attention on Jay's pucker, taint, balls, and cock, eliciting a variety of squeals and moans.
After Jay had copiously rewarded Cedric's efforts, the two lay side by side.
"Thanks, Ced. I needed that. I had a hard on the whole time we were upstairs last night."
"I'm sorry, li'l dude. I should have taken care of you last night. But you got me so relaxed, and then got me off, and then let me go to sleep. Not that I'm blaming you or anything."
"So what about you? Did all those sexy men turn you on, too?"
"Aren't we a little too old to spring wood just because we're around a lot of hot guys?"
"Cedric, I hope I'm never too old to do that."
"Speaking of those guys, did you notice that only two of them were unattached?"
"Uh huh. The photographer guy and the chef. Albert."
"There have to be a few gay guys at Colby State."
"Yeah, but they wouldn't have been invited."
"If I heard right, Brody Cox and Jesse the model are students. So is Adam's Blake."
"Yeah, but they're all older. And they were there with older partners who aren't students."
Does that mean there aren't any available twenty- or thirty-something men in Colby? That I'd have to dip into the student pool? College boys are hot, but they get up to some silly shit. As I well know.
Jay's stomach rumbled and Cedric laughed.
"Yeah, I'm hungry, too. Wanna go to IHOP?"
"We could do that. But I bought croissants at Kroger's yesterday. And Smucker's strawberry preserves. How does that sound?"
"Let me shower first, and then I'll be down."
"I'll leave the door unlatched. Come on in. I'll put on a pot of coffee. If I'm in the shower, make yourself at home."
One evening in early November Cedric was reading something he'd never have admitted to Tim: an on-line gay romance.
When he got to the end, he left the site, turned off his PC, and sighed.
And they lived happily ever after. Perfect. Too bad it doesn't turn out that way in real life. Well, there are all those guys in the CQ group. They seem happy. Yeah, but seem is the operative word. You don't ever really know, do you?
The phone rang.
"Angel! I was just thinking about you."
She laughed. "I don't believe that, child. If you were thinking about me, you would have called."
"Okay, okay. But I was going to call you, honest."
"I couldn't resist bustin' your chops."
"So how's Dad? And what's the news with Keesh?"
"Your father is fine. He's getting to the age where I worry about his heart, but his doctor says he's as healthy as a man his age can be. Your sister has her hands full with the children. I tell her they're a blessing, that she should wait until they're teens."
"Right, like Keesh and I gave you and Dad so much trouble.
"There were moments, boy."
Cedric chuckled. "Uh huh."
"In case you hadn't noticed, Thanksgiving isn't far off. Now that I know you sound all right, that's what I want to talk about. Keesha says she, C. B., and the babies will come here for Christmas, but they're going to his family's for Thanksgiving. It's a shorter trip."
"It'll be good to see them at Christmas
"So I'm assuming you will be here for Thanksgiving."
"I was counting on it."
"That's good. Now, tell me, are you still seeing that Indian boy?"
"Angel, he's only Indian the way we're African. He was born and raised in Cleveland."
"I knew that. What's his name again?"
She sighed. "Then let me start over. Are you still going out with Jay?"
"And staying in with him sometimes, too, I imagine."
"I take the fifth."
"It's not a crime."
"It certainly isn't. Now, why are you asking about Jay?"
"Is he coming back to Cleveland for Thanksgiving?"
"You know, I hadn't thought about that. He may have to work some of that weekend. But since his parents are both out of the country and his sister's in Pittsburgh, I don't know whether he has any place to go or not."
"Well, he's your friend. We don't want him to be alone for Thanksgiving, do we? So long as he understands I don't make curry." Cedric could hear the smile in her voice.
"Angel! University Heights, remember? I'll bet his family had the traditional turkey and trimmings for Thanksgiving. Come to think of it, he's never said anything about Indian food. I wish there was a good Indian restaurant around here. I'll have to ask him about that."
"You just make sure you invite him to come home with you for Thanksgiving."
A few days later Cedric and Jay were at Nellie's, watching the passing parade. Cedric had a beer, Jay a Virgin Mary.
"That's probably the only virgin thing in this joint," Cedric said, chuckling.
"Oh, there's a couple of hopefuls at the end of the bar who may qualify," Jay responded.
Cedric looked. "Oh, yeah, you're probably right about them. They're cute but kind of pathetic. You wanna pick `em up?"
"No. I'm not into chicken, even college chicken. I like older men. Like you?"
Cedric wasn't sure he liked being called an older man, but he knew what Jay meant.
As they were chatting, he remembered his mother's phone call.
"What are your plans for Thanksgiving?"
"I don't have any, so I thought I'd volunteer to work that day."
"Have you done it yet?"
"Why don't you spend the day with us? You don't want to be alone on Thanksgiving. And I promise the food will be good. Angel--you know that's my Mom, right?--is a great cook."
"And your folks won't mind?"
"She's the one who suggested it. You can stay the weekend if you want to."
"I'm on duty that Saturday and Sunday. But I'd like to meet your folks. Okay if I spend Thursday with you guys, stay over, and come back to Colby Friday?"
"I'm sure that'll be just fine. You know I have my own apartment, so we can be as noisy as we want and won't bother Angel and Dad."
If you want to email me about
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firstname.lastname@example.org . Be sure to put the name of the story in the
subject line so I'll know it isn't spam. Thanks. --Tim