By Tim Mead
Jake awakened to the taste of minty fresh breath . . . he was being kissed . . . not Digby's lips. He opened his eyes. Grant! Oh, yes, of course, Grant.
"Sorry, Jake, but I have to go to work. Archie's had his walk and I fed him, so he shouldn't bother you. Coffee's made. Orange juice, eggs, bacon in the fridge. Pecan rolls on the counter. Oh, and clean towels in the bathroom. Take your time. Make yourself at home."
Grant kissed him again. Jake worried about his breath, but Grant didn't seem to mind.
"I'm sorry I didn't wake up."
"Hey, you were a pretty busy guy last night." The skin around his green eyes crinkled. "Now, gotta run. I'll call you."
"Yeah," Jake said, grinning sleepily, "that's what they all say."
When Grant was gone, Jake lay there in the strange bed. It was still dark, December 26, after all. Surprisingly in no hurry to get up, he snuggled down under the covers and lay there enjoying being in Grant's bed, enjoying the lethargy that comes after a satisfying session of sex. He felt so good he was almost convinced he'd done the right thing when, as they lay panting together, he'd told Grant he wanted to see what sort of relationship they could forge, even if it meant they had to do it secretly. Or as secretly as they could, considering that the women next door would know, as would Digby and Tyrese. But they were going to be spending their together time either here at Grant's or at Jake's place. Appearances at concerts, restaurants, sporting events, and the like would have to be rare if they were to keep Grant's colleagues from figuring out that he was gay.
Jake had taken his time after that evening nearly a month ago when he'd told Grant he was strongly attracted to him but didn't know if he wanted a secret relationship. Grant had been understanding and patient, not calling or pestering him. That, Jake thought, just wasn't the way Grant would do things.
But because he knew Grant would wait for him to make the next move, he spent a lonely holiday weekend. Digby was away. Jake had invitations for Christmas dinner, but they were from married couples, and he would have felt like an extra wheel at their celebrations. So he'd been holed up in his condo, wishing he were with Grant. Since he didn't know what Grant's plans were, however, he was reluctant to call. He didn't want to intrude. Perhaps the nearly three-day isolation had been good, for it made Jake realize how much the policeman had come to mean to him in the short time they'd known each other.
Thus when Grant called on Christmas afternoon and more or less ordered him to come to his house, he did so eagerly. He was greeted eagerly as well. The two had eaten together and then talked all evening, side by side on the sofa, Christmas music playing softly on the stereo, holding hands, snuggling, and learning more about each other's history.
Then he walked up and down the long driveway countless times with Grant and Archie. Soon they were ready to get into bed. Jake wore his boxers, though he usually slept naked. He chuckled when Grant got into bed in the raw.
The next three hours had been at times tender, at times exciting. They explored each other's bodies, becoming more heated, more urgent as time passed.
And, Jake was happy to learn, Grant wasn't insistent on being the "top." He'd said he'd be a little rusty whichever way they did it, but he was enthusiastic, and this obviously wasn't his first time. Actually, there wasn't a literal "top." Jake was happy to accommodate by doing it on their sides because both doggy and missionary positions were difficult for Grant.
`Now,' Jake wondered, `will this secrecy thing work?' He knew he wanted it to.
When he awoke for the second time it was daylight, though it was obviously going to be a gray day. Receiving urgent messages from his bladder, he got up, urinated, dressed, and headed for the kitchen. He'd shower when he got home, where he could put on clean clothes.
Later that day he was at his computer when the phone rang. He picked it up eagerly, thinking it might be Grant.
"Yes, this is Jake."
"This is Adrian Lynch. How are you? Did you have a nice Christmas?"
"I'm fine, thanks. And my Christmas was so-so. How are you?"
"Very well, thanks. Sorry your Christmas wasn't stellar."
Jake didn't want to explain that it had been bad until the point when Grant had called, so he merely said, "Thanks."
"Maybe I can brighten your New Year's weekend a little. Tom and I are having a New Year's Eve get together at my place, and we'd love it if you could come. It will be the usual crowd, the Colby Queers, as someone has dubbed us. You're welcome to bring a guest, of course. Think you can join us?"
"Gee, Adrian, I'm not sure. I'm committed to someone for the weekend, and I'd have to check with him first."
"Jake, has there been an important change in your life, something I don't know about?"
"Nothing for publication, but maybe."
"Okay, check with this mystery man and get back to me, okay?"
"Yeah, thanks. I'll do that."
"Oh, I've tried to call Digby. Is he out of town?"
"Uh huh. But he'll be back by New Year's Eve. Maybe you could leave a message on his machine."
"Thanks, professor. I'll do that. I assume Digby isn't the person you have to check with."
Jake chuckled. "You'd be right in your assumption. Digs and I are close, but we have no plans for the weekend."
"Oh, okay. Can't blame a guy for wondering. So, look, I hope you and your friend will be able to come to our little affair."
"Thanks for asking me, Adrian. Give Tom a hug for me."
"Will do. Bye."
The idea of the party at Lynch's penthouse was appealing. The luminaries of the Colby gay community would be there. The food would be superb, as would the liquid refreshment and the conversation. Adrian's interest in "the mystery man," however, signaled exactly why it would be a mistake for Grant to attend, given his unwillingness to come out.
However, he'd promised Lynch he'd ask. Although he had Grant's work number, he didn't think he should call him there. Since Grant had promised to call him, he decided he'd wait.
His phone rang as he was having a glass of cabernet and a piece of white cheddar.
"Hey, lover, I hope it's you."
He heard laughing from the other end.
"Honest to God, Jake. I can't believe you. Suppose it hadn't been me?"
"Chill, Captain Grant. Everyone knows I'm gay, so what's the harm?"
"Well, I suppose you're right, but you still jolt me sometimes."
"A jolt once in a while could be a good thing."
"So what are you doing?"
"Drinking wine and eating cheese. Mostly waiting for you to call. I haven't started supper . . ."
"Oh, waiting for me, were you?"
"What if I stopped and picked up something?"
"Like what, a bit of rough? I didn't know you were into threesomes. Kinky!"
"You know that's not what I meant," Grant huffed.
"Then what did you mean?" Jake asked, trying to sound innocent.
"Supper, of course."
"You mean you'd bring it here?"
"Yes, unless you don't want me to."
"Well, if we can't have a threesome, that'd be okay!"
"I'll ignore that remark. So what's your pleasure? Burgers? Pizza? Chinese?"
It turned out to be a lamb dish, with couscous, wonderful vegetables, and baklava from Colby's only Greek restaurant.
When they'd moved to the family room with second cups of coffee, Jake said, "Have you thought about New Year's Eve?"
Grant raised an eyebrow. "I was hoping you'd spend the whole weekend at my place. We could eat, drink, talk, and make love."
"Is that the right word, Jim? Make love?"
"I think that's two words, professor," Grant said with a smile. "But I understand your question. I just didn't want to say anything about fucking. Besides, I think there may actually be some love involved somewhere. I know it's pretty early. Too soon, you may say. But I can't think of a way I'd rather spend the weekend than with you, doing whatever comes naturally."
Jake took a deep breath. "Wow! The `l-word'! I – "
Grant put down his coffee and leaned forward. "Look, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to push. But I honestly think I'm beginning to feel that way. So you set the pace. I'll back off if you want me to, but I won't pretend to be happy about it."
"No, Jim, you didn't understand. I'm just thinking how quickly we've moved from acquaintances to friends to guys who are both thinking maybe there's something real between us, something that might actually involve love."
"So you're good with all this?"
"I have to be honest with you. I'm not happy with the clandestine nature of it, but I'm willing to do it for now. And I think spending the weekend together sounds great. I'll have to work a lot this week. I'm writing another paper for a conference this spring, and I have to get organized for the new term that begins next week. But I'll be ready."
"Yum." Grant moved to sit next to Jake on the sofa.
"Oh, speaking of this weekend, I – " Grant began nuzzling his neck. "Oooh, that's nice!"
Chuckling, Grant pulled back. "I'll let you tell me whatever it was you were about to say concerning the weekend. But make it quick. I want to get back to what I was doing."
"I assume you know Adrian Lynch."
"Sure. As I told you, Albert, my ex, works for him. He runs the best restaurant in the County. And I hear he's the divo of the gay community."
"Oh, right. Well, he called today. He and Pinky are throwing a New Year's Eve party. He invited me to come and bring a guest."
Grant frowned. "What did you tell him?"
"I said I was committed to someone and that I have to check and let him know. I didn't figure you'd want to go, but I didn't want to make that decision for you."
Grant seemed to tense up. "Did you mention my name?"
"Oh, Jim, relax! Of course I didn't. Give me some credit for discretion."
Grant put his hand behind Jake's neck and stroked the hair there. Jake shivered.
"Sorry. I know you wouldn't have. That just popped out."
"It could be a lot of fun. The group sometimes call themselves the Colby Queers, and they're smart, funny, and mostly pretty hunky."
"Yeah, and like a lot of gay guys, they love to gossip, I'll bet."
"You're stereotyping, Captain Grant."
"Yeah, I suppose I am. But I wouldn't trust Lynch not to gossip about us if he knew."
Jake grinned. "Come to think about it, he was awfully interested in who my `mystery man' was.
"See! That's just what I mean. So you won't mind if we don't go?" He paused. "Or, you could go alone if you want."
"No way! I love the idea of being holed up in your big old house, just the two of us, for the entire holiday weekend."
"Three of us."
"Huh? You aren't back to threesomes again, are you?"
Grant chuckled. "No, but there's the ever-present Archie."
"Oh, well, so long as he's not in bed with us, that's no problem."
"That's why the bedroom has a door."
Jake grinned. "So if we're making out on the rug in front of a blazing fire, I'm likely to have my butt licked by a beagle?"
"Now who's being kinky?"
Jake gave him a stiff bop on the shoulder. "I didn't say I'd like it. Damn!"
Jake was working in his office the next morning. Since not many of his colleagues were around between Christmas and New Year's, the building was largely deserted. He was surprised when Digby came in and flopped into a chair facing him.
"Digs, you're back?"
"Seems I am."
"How was Christmas? How's your family?"
"The family's fine. Christmas was fine. But my city is still in bad shape, Jakey."
"I hear they've made a lot of progress."
"Oh, they have, but they've got a long way to go."
"How was the flight back?"
Digby grinned. "I sat with a couple of hunky white boys from CSU. Both of `em tall, dark-haired, and built."
"Were they gay?"
"One of `em wasn't, for sure. Name of Coutrere. From Shreveport. He'd taken his friend home with him for the holidays."
"I don't think I know any students named Coutrere. Who was the other guy?"
"Stone. Funny first name. Barney? No, Bailey. From here in Ohio someplace."
"Both cute, huh?"
`Yeah, I'd a done either one of `em. But like I said, Coutrere's straight. And they definitely weren't boyfriends."
"Bailey Stone. Nope, haven't heard of him, either. But you think he might be gay, huh?"
"I didn't say that. Just not sure. But those were two studly little fuckers."
Jake chuckled. "I'll bet you were boned up all the way to Detroit."
Digby's laugh rumbled in the office. "Yeah."
They chatted a while, and then Jake asked, "Did Adrian Lynch get in touch with you?"
"There was a message on my machine to call him, but I haven't done it yet. What does Colby's fairy queen want?"
Jake had to wait until he quit laughing to respond. "Oh, that's cruel, Digs."
"You think so?"
"Yeah, Adrian's okay. And he throws great parties. Speaking of which, he and Tom are having a New Year's Eve party at his place, and I think he wants you to come."
"I guess I better call him. He and Tyrese are pretty tight. Maybe we'll check it out. It is on Sunday night?"
"Yep. That's New Year's Eve."
"Yeah, well, because it's Sunday, some places are having their parties on Saturday. I've got a gig at Nelly's on Saturday and couldn't go if Lynch's `do' was then."
"So you don't have a conflict. You can play on Saturday and live large on Sunday."
"You'll be there, won'tcha, babe?"
"I have other plans."
"Like I couldn't have guessed that. Who? Oh, don't tell me. You and your cop frien'."
"Why ain't you comin' to Lynch's soiree? All the Colby Queers'll be there."
"Think about it. Jim can't afford to be seen at a gathering like that. Hell, he can't even afford to be seen with me very often."
"Honey, are you thinking about having some sort of relationship with this dude?"
"Yeah. I really like him."
"This is the fuzz, fool! You ain't never gonna have all of him! You'll jus' get little pieces when he feels like it. No way he gonna come out for you. So why let the man hurt you? Fin' yourself somebody who got the balls to admit he a fag like the rest of us!"
"I know, I've thought about all of that. And I don't know whether this thing is gonna last. But I just feel so good when I'm with him, I'm willing to give it a try."
"Does he let you top him?"
Jake grinned. "None of your goddam business."
Digby flashed his teeth. "Well, baby, you know I want you to be happy."
"I suppose this means we can't make fucky fucky now?"
"Yeah." Then Jake raised an eyebrow. "You'll just have to settle for your big lawyer friend."
Digby rumbled with laughter. "Jakey baby, that's not settlin'." He stood. "Guess I'd better go call Tyrese and see if we goin' to this partay. Good luck with your poh-lees man." As he was about to go through the door, he turned. "You tied up all week, or you wanna come over for some jambalaya some night?"
"Sounds great. You know I love your jambalaya. But I think Jim and I are gonna be together each evening for a while."
"You could bring him along."
"Thanks. Why don't you pick an evening, and I'll ask?"
"He'll probably not want to. Nothing against you, stud, but he's really almost paranoid."
Digby heaved a big sigh and rolled his eyes. "You sure this guy is worth missing my jambalaya?"
"It's a tough call, but, yeah, I think so. I'll check with him and let you know, okay?"
"Yeah, do that. Bye, man."
That afternoon Jake made a pot of beef stew which he took to Grant's house. He was greeted enthusiastically by Archie, who was even happier when Jake took him for a walk. As they walked along the road past Grant's neighbors' house, he noticed that the curtains twitched, as if someone had been peeking out at him.
When Grant arrived home, Jake had made a salad from ingredients he'd found in the refrigerator and was slicing a loaf of Italian bread he'd picked up at a bakery in town.
Grant put his overcoat in the front closet, stopped to give the dog some loving, and then came into the kitchen.
"So you're the stranger who was walking my dog!"
"My god, did she call you?"
Grant grinned and nodded. "Yep. Ricki called just before I left the office. She said she assumed it was you, but she thought I'd want to know, just in case."
"Just in case of what?"
"Oh, I don't know. But she looks after me."
"You don't find that the least bit, well, smothering?"
"Not really. Those gals love me, and since I live alone out here, it's not a bad idea that someone's keeping an eye on me and on the place."
Jake thought Grant sounded like an old man just then, but he had the tact not to say anything.
"Now, what's that I smell?"
"Stew. But it'll keep if you want to change into something comfortable."
Grant put his arms around Jake, pinning the smaller man's arms to his sides. Then he kissed him with gusto.
"You've been here long enough to make stew?"
"No, silly. I made it at home and brought it with me."
"Damn! I wish I'd met you a long time ago."
Jake put a hand on either side of Grant's face. "They say the way to a man's heart . . ."
"Don't get me wrong, professor. It's not just that you brought me supper. I'm beginning to think you're a pretty special guy. For an egghead, that is."
"Egghead? And what are you? Certainly not the stereotypical cop. You read real books, you listen to highbrow music, you've even been known in our short acquaintance to discuss an idea or two."
"Shhh! Don't tell anyone. You'll ruin my image." Grant gave Jake a quick kiss. "Now, I think I will go change clothes."
Jake poured glasses of merlot while Grant was gone and set the table, enjoying the domestic activities, even though it was someone else's house.
Grant reappeared in jeans, gray wool socks, and a faded navy Mud Hens sweat shirt, looking very sexy. Jake enjoyed seeing Grant in jeans, for, despite his age, he still had a nicely rounded butt that filled them out nicely. And then there was the rounding in the front, too . . . .
Over dinner, Jake said, "Digby dropped by the office today."
"Yeah. Just to say `hi' and see how I was."
"He has invited us for jambalaya Thursday evening."
"Why would he do that?"
"Because he's a nice guy? Because he likes me and wants to get to know you better."
"Because he's your ex?"
"Oh, shit, Jim! That was a long time ago. It didn't work. But he's still my best friend. You've got to get used to that."
"I don't think I've ever eaten jambalaya."
"Neat change of subject there," Jake said, looking steadily into his lover's eyes.
"Okay, okay. I guess I'm feeling a little ambivalent about Professor Gautier. He's bigger than I am. He's sexy as hell. And, as you say, he's your ex and your best friend."
"You don't need to feel threatened. He's a big teddy bear. He just wants to get to know you better. And you'll love his jambalaya!"
"You've said before he won't tell anyone."
"Right. Of course, Tyrese will have figured it out, but he's a lawyer and can be very close-lipped."
Grant grinned. "Except when he's blowing Digby, I suppose."
Chuckling, Jake responded, "Now there's an image! But I'm not going to let it put us off track. Can I tell Digs we'll be there?"
Grant reached across the table and covered Jake's hand with his.
"Jake, I know I've asked a lot of you. I know how much you're giving in to me to make our thing work. I'll do my best to make you happy. Besides, I've always admired your friend's playing. How could I complain about getting the chance to try his cooking?"
* * *
The evening at Digby's went well. Too well, if anything.
The meal was excellent, and Jake couldn't help grinning as Grant asked Digby for the recipe.
"Recipe? I don't have a recipe." (Jake was relieved that Digs had opted not to camp it up. Nor did he lapse often into an exaggerated Black dialect on this occasion. He was pretty much himself, with none of his defensive personae in evidence.) "I just make it."
"And it's never the same twice." Jake added.
"But it's always goood, isn't it?" Digby asked with a big grin.
"I'd come back for more anytime," Grant said.
A good part of the evening, especially after they'd left the table and were sitting with coffee heavily laced with chicory in the family room, was devoted to an ardent discussion between Grant and Digby about Stan Getz, Cannonball Adderly, Coleman Hawkins, Bird Parker, and John Coltrane, some of whom Jake had heard of, some not.
Grant had managed to one up Digby by mentioning that Gerry Mulligan had played in a quartet with Chet Baker. Even Jake knew Chet Baker, a popular trumpet player of the fifties, who, Grant told him later, was incredibly good looking – and gay. But Digby had been adamant that Mulligan and Baker had never played together – until they'd gone to his computer and looked it up. After that, Grant's bona fides as a jazz aficionado were no longer in doubt.
Then Digby had mentioned that later in the year a group called the New Century Saxophone Quartet was going to perform on campus, and he'd see they all had tickets. Grant seemed pleased.
Later that evening they were back at Grant's. Jake was sleeping over. The next morning he'd promised to take Archie for his walk before going home. Grant could simply get up, get ready, and go to work.
As they lay in bed, he said to Grant, "I knew you loved classical music, but I didn't have any idea you knew so much about jazz."
Grant nuzzled Jake's ear. "I love jazz, but I'm not quite that knowledgeable. I got online this afternoon and read up a bit."
"You dog! Why did you do that?"
"Well, I couldn't have Digby thinking I was ignorant, could I?"
"So when you one-upped him with that bit about Mulligan and Baker, that was just something you'd pulled offline?"
"Oh, no, not that. I have all of the Chet Baker recordings that have been released on CD, and I make a point of reading the notes. I never took music history at Oberlin. A lot of what I know about music is from reading the notes that come with recordings and from concert program notes."
"Captain Grant, you continue to surprise me."
"Age cannot wither, nor custom stale, my infinite variety?"
"Never mind," Grant said, as he pulled Jake closer to him.
Jake and Grant had agreed to spend the long New Year's weekend at Grant's house. It would be a good test, Grant said, of their compatibility. Jake agreed, except he said he needed to get to a gym. It had been too long since he'd had a workout. What he didn't say was that he wanted to look good for Grant. That's when he learned that Grant worked out at the police gym. He'd explained, however, that since his injury, there were a lot of things he couldn't do. So he concentrated on his upper body, and he also made a point of swimming whenever he could.
The first time the two had been naked together Grant had been sensitive about the scar from the operation on his left leg, but Jake had soon made it clear that he wasn't turned off by it.
So, apart from a couple of hours on Saturday morning, they were together for three days – and nights. They did some grocery shopping (at a supermarket in Higgins), and they walked Archie together. At lunch that day, Grant said, "Digby's playing tonight. I'll understand if you want to hear him and his group. I don't want you going stir crazy here."
"I don't suppose you'd consider coming with me? You're the jazz fan. We wouldn't even have to sit together if that would make you less tense."
Grant smiled. "As I recall, they're playing at Nelly's. Not a good place for me to be seen. Besides, cops might make some of that crowd nervous, and I wouldn't want to be responsible for reducing the size of Digby's audience.
"Well, if you won't go, I'm not going. Digs will understand."
* * *
Thus the only time they were out of the house again was to go to Sunday dinner at Ricki and Bobbi's.
Jake knew Ricki from the shop, but he'd never met her partner. He found the two easy to be with. They were obviously fond of Grant, and they seemed to accept him because they knew how Grant felt about him. By the time he and Grant went back to Grant's house, Jake had commissioned a wall hanging from Ricki. She'd shown him some 4 x 6' quilts that were the perfect size and shape for over his sofa, and he'd said he had to have one. They conferred about his preference for designs and colors, and she told him she'd get at it when she could. But no promises as to when that would be. Jake understood the hours of hand stitching that went into her work, so he offered no objection.
On Sunday evening, New Year's Eve, they settled together on the sofa. Grant had built a fire, and Jake was feeling well fed, warm, cozy. Grant must have felt that way, too, for he looked as if he was about to nod off.
Jake thought about the party at Adrian's, about all the men who'd be there. He'd been to Lynch's parties before, and he had enjoyed them. The usual attendees were diverse in terms of their occupations, all of them excellent conversationalists. Most of them were pretty hunky. And on the occasions when Jake had been there, they'd all drunk in moderation. Tonight might, perhaps, be different because it was New Year's Eve, but he doubted if anyone would be obnoxiously drunk. Another given, since the party was at Adrian's, was that the food would be excellent.
Grant's head fell over onto Jake's shoulder. He had indeed fallen asleep.
`Rest up, babe," Jake thought. `You're gonna need your strength later when we celebrate the new year.' He sat there, staring at the fire and enjoying the opera Grant had put on the stereo. As he listened, he realized it was the traditional New Year's fare, Die Fledermaus.
To Be Continued
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