The usual disclaimers apply. If for some legal reason you shouldn't read this...don't.
A special acknowledgement to Drew for encouraging me to tell a better story through his edits and suggestions. And a big thanks to Brad for his patient proofreading and editing. Finally, a shout-out to Trab for the final tweaks to get the story 'just right.'
I love to receive feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chapter 3, LOVE - AIN'T IT GRAND?
A blast of December wind hit Zach Carlson when he exited the Century Mall. The biting, cold wind from the lake temporarily distracted him from the hurt and anger he felt because of Gio's wandering lust. He pulled up the collar of his jacket and walked a couple of blocks to where his car was parked.
The nine-year old Ford looked cold, dirty and lonely under the stark streetlight. 'Thank God we haven't had much snow so far,' Zach thought as he opened the door. 'And I've got cloth seats.' He remembered his boyhood years in Minnesota during the ferocious winter months and his dad's car that had freezing leather seats. The engine struggled to engage when he turned the key and the headlights dimmed noticeably lower as the starter groaned. He turned off the headlights and tried the ignition again. The puny, inline engine of the Probe came to life...much to Zach's relief. 'Memo to self,' he thought. 'Gotta get over to Pep Boys this weekend and buy a new battery before I'm shit outta luck.' He figured that he could get another year of service out of the reliable ride that he had bought used while in college.
Because the car had been parked next to a residential alley, there was no problem leaving the parking space and easing out into the street. 'With no fresh snow the trip from the gym to our apartment shouldn't take more than ten minutes,' Zach judged as he turned north on Clark Street. 'I gotta figure out how to approach this topic of his wandering so that he knows I'm serious. But if I can't come to some understanding with Gio about a committed, monogamous relationship, maybe one of us should look for another place to live,' he considered. He loved Gio Lombardi but not to the point of sharing his incredible, tight, muscled body...with someone else.
Zach was a WASP from the Midwest who kept his emotions in check but had a warm, romantic glow in his heart; Gio was of Italian heritage from Philadelphia and was quite demonstrative and open with his temperament as well as his affection. Zach was reserved and reflective; Gio was gregarious and spontaneous. Zach was almost compulsive in neatness; Gio might forget to pick up his dirty laundry that gathered on the bedroom floor for a few days. One point of commonality was intellectual curiosity and academic achievement; both had graduated with high marks from Penn State. On most issues, the contrast worked and they were an example of proving that opposites attract. At night in bed, like two companion pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, Zach's smaller, compact gymnast build fit comfortably into Gio's tall, six-two, muscular, resting frame.
'Christ...we've been together four years and I still need to use a fuckin' rubber,' Zach thought while he passed the dark, imposing, architectural hulk that was Wrigley Field. He turned off Clark, preceded west on Waveland and automatically scanned for available, legal parking spaces. After Gio's slip back into promiscuity at the 'rocks' beach area the previous summer, Zach decided his health was too important to risk any unwanted STD gift...or worse. Along with telling his lover that trust was a big issue - and therefore the condoms until further notice - there was a discussion about being faithful and not screwing around with strangers. Gio pleaded that he was always safe and promised not to stray but Zach kept a short leash on his wayward lover all fall. After Thanksgiving, however, the flirting began again...this time at the gym in subtle ways with clients and random, hot members...and that was a bad sign. 'Promoting business is one thing...offering your asshole as a bonus is something else,' Zach considered. He found a parking space within a block before their apartment and walked the rest of the way to the weatherworn, wood frame three-story structure that was home.
A smile crept over Zach's face when he remembered Gio's rationale in choosing the place the summer of '04: "Just consider it as a temporary, lovers' flophouse that fits our budget. Look at it this way; neither of us needs to impress a blind date."
'Let's keep it that way.' Zach inserted the key in the building's front door. Once inside, he pulled off his gloves and cap before checking the mailbox. 'Gio's definitely been here,' he decided when he discovered the box was empty. Although it was a little early for Christmas cards, junk mail and bills were part of their daily lives. While walking up the stairs to the next floor and their rear apartment, Zach decided to let himself in, very quietly, to romantically surprise his lover. Chances were that Gio was in the bedroom either reading the latest issue of Muscle and Fitness, watching CNN or a combination of both.
He muffled the latch re-engaging as he closed the door and looked about the lighted living area. Voices coming from the bedroom were not part of a TV program. Zach gritted his teeth and sudden heat pounded his head when he noticed the clothes strewn about the floor. 'Fuck,' he thought. 'Two sets of briefs and a smaller pair of jeans.' He took a deep breath, surveyed all the tossed-about apparel, picked up the unrecognized Lucky denims and pulled out a wallet. The driver's license said that the guest - make that Gio's fuckmate - was Sebastian George Gray with a Lake Shore Drive address. 'Hmm, 1980. Makes the trick 26. Not a bad looking dude from the picture. I've seen him at the gym...guess he goes by his middle name. I remember him being called George.'
"Oh, Gio, you are a dog," a voice said with a chuckle.
"Yeah...a dog that wants to fuck. Let me get you wet. We gotta get outta here soon cuz my roomy will be back," Gio said with a raspy tone.
"Shit, you really know how to work that hot tongue of yours. Ahhh..." The sounds of moans and slurping continued for a few minutes. "Need to get stretched and open...um, a couple of fingers should do."
"Let me get some lube," Gio replied.
"You have some rubbers?"
Zach could only imagine that Gio was playing around with George's hole before slamming that big Italian dick into it. 'That's funny...Gio always wants to get fucked,' he thought, a little puzzled at the role reversal.
"In the drawer. Condoms are something we, um...I've got plenty of."
A rustling sound coming from the bedroom left no doubt in Zach's mind what was happening. He realized that the easiest thing was to force a lively confrontation but the flash-in-the-pan approach was not his style. Instant anger created problems that resulted in saying and doing things that they may regret later. 'I gotta get Lombardi by himself after this blows over,' he decided while grinding his teeth. 'But it's going to blow over on my terms,' he decided as an idea of how to deal with the situation began to germinate.
"Hey, stud, wrap your legs around me," Gio growled.
"Go slow until I get used to..." George grunted for a few moments before letting out a long sigh. "Hold it...oh, oh...a little more...ahhh..."
"Nice and hot. Man it feels good in there."
"Just give me a sec until I get used to your fuckin' tool. Um, this guy, Zach, your roommate...are you guys a couple? Oh, yeah..."
"We have, yep...a couple. That a problem for you?"
"Not if you don't mind. That cock of yours is too good to pass up. Go in ju...just...there," George said. "Ohhh...that's the spot."
"Man, um...ahhh...let's see what my cock can do...for both of us."
"That's it. Work that monster." George groaned deeply as his demands were physically answered.
'See if you get my monster anytime soon,' Zach thought as he went about and collected all of the clothing and shoes he didn't recognize. In the pocket was a Lexus car key and remote lock control. 'This guy's wheels shouldn't be too hard to find.' He bundled up everything he could find that was probably George's property - except for the winter jacket and the solo car key detached from the remote - and quietly left the apartment. He could hear Gio yelling his trademark 'dirty talk' when he closed the apartment door. Zach went downstairs, out the front and onto the sidewalk. He shook his head at the bedroom bullshit he had just heard. Gio and he were both at a respectable six inches; neither qualified to be registered in the 'monster' category. 'Flattery will get you fucked every time.'
He quickly strolled west on Waveland and pushed the remote every time he approached a Lexus. In the next block, a piercing beep and flashing lights announced he had found Gray's car. 'Not bad,' Zach judged when he approached the late model sedan. He quickly opened the trunk and tossed in all the clothing and shoes. After he wiped the wallet and remote clean of any fingerprints, the remaining items joined the wadded apparel. As much as Zach wanted to dispose of everything into the nearest dumpster, he only wanted Georgie boy to hurt a little and remember not to fuck around with someone else's man. 'For Gio, this will be a major message,' he thought while closing the trunk.
Next stop should be a cooling off spot, like the Goose Island Brew Pub for a beer. But first he called Gio's cell from the street. After four rings, the call was answered.
~~~ "Hi," Gio said a little breathlessly. "Whazzup?"
"Hi...it's me. Just wanted to let you know I've stopped off for a beer and maybe some chow at Goose Island. You wanna join me?" The street was very quiet and didn't disclose where Zach actually was.
~~~ " I dunno. It's, um, around 9:30 an' kinda cold," Gio replied before creating a sound that indicated he was placing his hand over the phone mouthpiece.
"Think it over. There's a b-ball game on TV that looks good. If you don' see me in a few minutes it means that I'll be here for a while. Gimme a call if you change your mind...or I'll see you at home." Zach thought that should add a little confusion to the issue. Gio didn't really know when to expect his roomie and partner. He was privately amused at the image of Sebastian George Gray - the weasel - not finding any of his clothing or keys in the living room. 'That fucker knew Gio and I were a couple and he didn't give a shit. All he wanted was a dick up his chute.'
~~~ "Um, yeah, I'll give you a call if I don't see you first. Bye, babe."
"Bye, bye." 'Babe, your lousy ass,' Zach thought as he walked towards Clark Street. 'Well, maybe the ass was not so lousy...but whadda whore.' He shook his head and considered the next step handling Gio. 'Is it worth the aggravation? Yeah, to a point.' But he felt that the final 'point' was being approached.
The bar was fairly quiet but Zach wasn't surprised. Tuesday in early December was not a great time for a sports bar or brew pub in Chicago. The Bears had performed winning miracles this season and it was too early to see if the Bulls were going to have another building year. He slid into a booth and noticed the televised game was from Denver. 'Well, I guess it's just a matter of waiting to see if Gio comes in...or calls.' A perky, big-bosomed waitress came over and took his order for a glass of India dry ale and a brat. After the beer arrived, he mulled over the evening's events - and the past couple of weeks - mentally running through his options.
'Do I love him? Yes,' he decided. 'Love him enough to turn my back to his horny messing around? Don't think so. The ball will be in his court.' Zach could only imagine what was happening back at the apartment. 'Probably complete chaos. Serves them both right for this mess.' The brat sandwich arrived and he was swiping some brown mustard on the char-scored meat when his cell rang. He took a sip of beer and pressed the "On" button of the cell. "Hay-lo," Zach said with an exaggerated vibrato.
"Something's happened at our place...and I think you know what it is," Gio said with a restrained, level voice.
"What...sorry, I can't hear you. Can you hear me?"
"I said that..."
"Can't make out anything. Let me go outside and call you back."
"Okay, we need..."
"Give me five minutes." Zach smiled at the small, first victory as he flagged over the waitress. "Miss, I need to get home. Give me the check and bag the brat. Okay?"
The woman nodded with a wink and took his plate away. In a few minutes, the server returned with a check and the 'doggy' bag. Zach finished his beer, placed enough money on the table to take care of the tab and left the bar. He pushed the speed dial button programmed for his home phone and stood on the quiet Clark Street sidewalk.
~~~ "Um, Zach?" Gio tentatively answered.
"I'm outside. I can hear you very clear. Whazzup?"
~~~ "I think you know. Ah, where did you put the other guy's things?"
"Other guy? Things? You have a houseguest?"
~~~ "We both know what the deal is - let's talk about it later. Yes, there's another guy and everything he has is gone. Disappeared."
"Everything?" Zach asked with a quick retort.
~~~ "Everything but his coat and car key."
"Then listen and listen very carefully...I'm only going to say this once. I suggest that you loan this gentleman some clothes - don't even think of using mine - and see if you can stay with him tonight. If he won't put you up, find a hotel. I don't want to see your sorry ass until tomorrow. Maybe lunch at EatZi's before we have to be at work? By the way, I have it on good authority that this guy's stuff and keys are in the trunk of his car." EatZi's was a deli on the first floor of the Century Mall. 'And it's public enough so both of us won't cause a scene...like me cutting off Gio's balls while he's screaming,' Zach decided.
~~~ "Hold on for a minute."
Zach started down Clark Street to be closer to their corner while he held the phone to his ear.
~~~ "Yeah, that seems to work. I'm, ah, sorry about..."
"I'll give you five minutes to be outta there. See ya at EatZi's at 11:30 a.m. and we'll figure out if this relationship should go any further. Understand?"
~~~ "We'll be gone. See ya at 11:30 tomorrow."
"See you tomorrow." Zach cut off the cell, turned at Waveland and walked towards the apartment. As he got closer, he saw Gio and George exit the front door. Zach ducked into the shadowy corner of a doorway and watched the two walk rapidly down the walk in the opposite direction to where the Lexus was parked. 'Good. Letting this mellow overnight is the best.' In the distance, he saw the dome light of a vehicle come on, followed by the headlights. He assumed that George had probably popped open the trunk to recover his 'misplaced' belongings. Finally the car - he knew it was the Lexus - started and swung into the street. Zach watched as the taillights got smaller and finally disappeared when the car turned the corner.
The apartment - furnished in hand-me-down, second-hand chic - was pretty much as he had left it that morning. There was no evidence that two guys in heat had been there recently, urgently screwing. 'Bastard,' Zach thought when he entered the bedroom. "At least the bed's been changed.' He knew the sheets were a different color than the last time he'd been in the room. 'One less thing I need to do or worry about.' The last thing he wanted to do was to see peter tracks deposited by a stranger. He quickly changed into his usual sweats, walked to the kitchen and placed the brat sandwich in the microwave for a fast warming. As much as he wanted another beer, Zach settled for bottled water to wash down the food.
Dr. Laura was right: one of the mistakes a person makes in a marriage is to think he can change the imbedded personality/moral flaws of the other person. Zach would occasionally listen to the radio psychologist while he drove in the city. While he didn't like her feelings towards gays and lesbians, she dished out some good, solid advice. He doubted that Gio could or would change. He was also aware that accepting some sort of open relationship was alien to everything he'd been brought up to believe. 'What a fucking conundrum,' he considered.
The brat tasted a little soggy and shopworn the second time around. Zach tossed out half the sandwich into the waste can along with the empty water bottle. He made a mental note to take out the trash in the morning - Wednesday was pick-up day - and turned off the kitchen light. A fast review of the living area didn't reveal the drama that had occurred an hour earlier. 'Christ, do I just tell that horn dog that it's all over and start from scratch?' he wondered as he walked back into the bedroom. 'Just chuck a four-year relationship and start all over?' He stripped down to 'nary a stitch' and did his bathroom routine. Gio and he slept in the nude even in the dead of winter.
The bed looked so non-threatening; nothing to suggest that two randy guys had been fucking not long ago. Zach turned off the lights and sighed as he pulled down the covers to crawl in. He loved the feel of crisp, clean sheets. However, tonight the reason the bedding had been changed was troubling. One thing was constant. Even with fresh pillowcases, Zach could breathe in the scent of Gio. 'That asshole,' he thought as he settled in and started stroking his needy, unsatisfied cock. 'I love you, babe but I just don't know...' The confinement of the sheets as he aroused himself became cumbersome so he tossed the bedding aside.
Skin rubbing against skin was the only sound to penetrate the quiet of the warm room. He looked down and studied his abs and navel that pointed the way to a growing erection that was usually reserved for his partner. When Zach became fully erect, he closed his eyes and slowly stroked the young manhood that Gio found so appealing. The moisture that oozed from his slit aided his hand as it moved on the cock like a piston. 'Oh, shit, babe, why are you pushing me to make a decision I don't wanna make?' The precum kept emitting; occasionally he'd use his thumb to redistribute the natural lubricant.
On and on the physical stimulus went. When Zach felt a sharp, pleasant rumbling in his groin, he'd stop for a moment...until the potential release had passed. He thought of Gio's muscular body that was normally next to him. On the fourth approach to the sexual cliff, Zach pushed himself over into orgasmic bliss. "Oh, fuck," he yelled to no one. His swollen, agitated, red cock erupted sperm onto his face, chest and stomach. After resting a few moments, he smiled with satisfaction and reached down to the floor and grabbed the trusty towel. He wiped himself, tossed the anointed cumrag aside, pulled up the covers and slipped off into a deep sleep.
Gio arrived very early at the Century Mall. First on the 'things to do' list was go up to Bally's for a soak in the Jacuzzi before a shower and shave. He had much to resolve for the luncheon meeting with Zach. 'How the hell could I have screwed up so badly?' he thought as he got into the hot, swirling, pulsing water and found the most active water jet for his tense traps and deltoids. It was just after 10:00 a.m. and the only other occupant in the recessed tub was an older woman reading a crinkled National Examiner.
'I've always been pretty aggressive...well, since college when it was pretty easy to cruise and pick up signals from someone who wanted to get off. Shee-it. I have the greatest guy - a person who I love with all my heart - and I still have to screw around.' Gio arranged these thoughts in his mind while moving his back around the pounding, forceful water flow. 'I think I have it under control and then some hot fucker comes along. Zach has every right to be pissed.'
For the next 15 minutes Gio let the soaking and the aqua massage relax him. He thought back to the previous night and George's reaction when he discovered all of his clothes had disappeared. While his visitor stewed and fumed, Gio mentally beat himself for being so stupid as to have brought home a trick. And that's all it was: hosting on the sly a stud who had allowed Gio to 'top' for a change. Gio looked at the clock and saw it was just before eleven. 'Gotta take care of everything else,' he thought after he stepped out of the Jacuzzi and dried himself.
After a quick shower and shave, he dressed in the same jeans and sweater he had loaned George to get home 12 hours earlier. After Zach had told Gio what the deal was with the clothes, wallet and keys, the mood in the apartment became a little lighter. Gio apologized to George - not for the mischievousness but for his lapse in judgment that had caused this reaction. His sexmate for the night belatedly understood they had both been thinking with their smaller heads and felt a little guilty about coming between the two partners. George sympathetically agreed to allow Gio to spend the night at his place to defuse the situation. But sleep was all that happened. After the events of the evening neither was in the mood for further physical exploration.
The café area of EatZi's was still relatively quiet when Gio arrived promptly at 11:30 a.m. He saw his blond partner sitting with his back to the door. 'Here goes something, I hope,' he thought as he walked to the table. "Um, hi, Zach." He sat down and looked into his partner's blue eyes and winced slightly. "I guess saying I'm sorry is pretty feeble. I know I fucked up but I am really sorry."
"Hi." Zach stared back and said nothing for a few moments. "I'm not even going to ask you how you could have pulled this crap...it happened. I think we both needed to take some time to figure things out. I know I did."
"I did, too. Babe, I love you so much. It's just this friggin' thing of straying like an alley cat that happens once in a while."
"Um, I ordered the sandwich for both of us...figured we could split it. The extra bottle of water is for you, too. Whatever we're going to say, I don't want to be interrupted." Zach pushed the sandwich into the middle of the table, picked up the nearest half and bit into it."
"Thanks." Gio mimicked his partner's movements and chased down the first bite of the ham sandwich with the water. 'This is better than eating crow,' he decided. 'But all good things have to come to an end.' The quietness coming from across the table was not unusual. He knew Zach had a habit of being silent and sulked when he was really pissed. "I guess the first thing to say is that I want to figure out if we can still make a go of it."
"We've had this conversation before. Remember last summer at the 'rocks' and you said this wouldn't happen again?" Zach took another bite and looked down at the table. "You tell me; how can we be a couple - life partners - if I never know for sure what you're doing...or who?"
"I don't have any excuses. I could say it's a family thing. I dunno, maybe I picked it up from my dad? He's had something going on the side for a long time. And my older brother keeps wandering off course from one bimbo to the next."
"Yeah? What does that tell you? Your brother had gone through two divorces before he was 32 and your wonderful mom just puts up with it. I'm not goin' to put up with it. And, if we can avoid it, I don't want a divorce or whatever happens when two guys separate."
"I was wrong - completely wrong - and I don't want a divorce either. You're looking at the biggest 'dumb shit' of all time. Here I sit, with the most marvelous, utterly hot, smart, loving guy and I let my dick steer me off course.
"How many times have you, um, gone off course since we had our last discussion?"
"I swear, Zach, this was the first time. I, um, listen...here's the deal. If you can let me back in your life I promise I'll do everything possible to be faithful and get back your trust."
"And how's that going to happen? I want to believe you but I've been burned...a couple of times." Zach shrugged and took another bite. "I mean, what can I do? Shit...do I need to work on my end of our sex life? You've told me why your dad strayed...your brother, too, for that matter, because they wanted more, um, variety and frequency. Let's start there."
"Well, I guess we haven't talked about, um, that stuff. Okay, here goes." Gio took a deep breath, sighed and continued, "Frequency certainly isn't an issue. But, yeah, I think that we need to spice up what happens in bed. We're both to blame for not talking. Point is, I'd like to be a little more versatile in bed. I don't know why...you've just always assumed that I wanted to be on the bottom and I haven't said anything."
"You mean that you'd like to, ah..." Zach said in a lower tone. He looked around and added," fuck me?"
"Yeah. I really would. That bottom of yours is very sexy. And I think we should experiment with some other things that might add a little more fun to making love." Gio sat back, smiled and took a drink from the water bottle.
"Anything battery-operated?" Zach asked with a chuckle.
"That's a possibility." Gio felt a little more relaxed. 'This seems to be going well.' He took a few more bites of the sandwich and contemplated the direction of the conversation.
"I take this suggestion very seriously, buddy. I'd love to explore and experiment stuff with you...and you, only...but you may have to be the teacher. Now, let's talk about the other shit. You get the picture that I don't want to share you with anyone? If you don't, we need to get some counseling...guidance from a psychologist who can offer some effective suggestions on how to make this relationship work...for both of us."
"If it's something that would get us back on track for the long haul, I'd do anything. Believe me, Babe, when I tell you that I love you very much and don't want to lose you." Gio reached across the table and placed his hand on the back of Zach's hand.
"I love you, too." Zach rotated his hand around so that the two hands were palm to palm. "We'll take it one step at a time. Maybe we can find someone through the Internet in who counsels gay couples Chicago. In the meantime, there's some things that I want to make very clear." He looked into Gio's eyes and squeezed the hand tighter.
"Let's take a few days to kinda re-establish ourselves with each other. I promise that I will be more open to talking things out before we get to a point of getting into troubled waters. But here are three things that I want you to consider. One, don't even think about screwing around at the gym. Number two; our apartment is off-limits for anything if you should fall off the wagon. And number three; if that dick starts leading you around, figure out in advance if that trick means more to you than me...cuz I'll be outta here so fast you won't know what hit you." Zach squeezed the hands even harder.
"Buddy, I get the picture."
"I hope you do. Let's go slow in the bed department. It's going to take a few days for me to digest what happened and what we're going to do about it. My WASP, Minnesota, buttoned-down mind needs to be let loose...and so does accepting new ideas. But I'll try. No, strike 'try' and replace it with "I'll do it."
"That works for me." Gio moved his hand up to Zach's forearm and rubbed it for emphasis.
The two men toasted with their plastic water bottles, cleared the table of trash, and left the deli for a day at the gym but a new day in their relationship. Gio knew what he had to do to clean up his act. And once the dust settled, he would bring Zach to advanced levels of enjoyable lovemaking.
TO BE CONTINUED
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