"Well," Donna said softly. "That explains a lot."
"Donna," I said in a strangled voice, not even sure what I was going to say. She watched us with curious eyes. There was no censure there, not even any real surprise.
"I'd tell you not to bother stopping on my account, but the ceremony's starting and Mr. Thurlow is beginning to look a little frantic. I think he's wondering where the two stars of his show are."
"I --" Charlie had a glazed deer-in-the-headlight look.
I took pity on him and rubbed my good hand on his hip. "We don't want him to come looking for us, do we?"
"I -- We --"
"I think I'd better help," Donna said.
She stepped forward and put herself between the two of us. Then she gave Charlie a small shove that got him moving in the right direction. As he vanished around the twisted tree trunk I shook myself like a dog coming out of a daze.
"That's better." Donna vanished after Charlie and I brought up the rear. When I got back to the party I realized the press had arrived. Camera crews tripped over each other vying for the best sound bites. I realized how close we had come to potential disaster. If one of them had filmed Charlie and I kissing, would that have made a nice lead for the evening news? Rising young art star caught in the act.
I glanced over at Charlie, talking to Thurlow. He still had a glazed look on his chiseled face and I could tell he wasn't hearing a thing Thurlow said. I sidled past Donna and got close enough to eavesdrop.
"Perhaps when all this hoopla is over, we could discuss some sort of endowment. Does that sound like something you'd be interested in?"
I strolled up to them and watched Charlie jump when I stepped into view. He barely acknowledged Thurlow. He stared at me.
"Ah, Tyler." Thurlow was oblivious to the tension swirling around him. "How does this moment feel? Glad it's over?"
"Actually I feel a bit let down, sir," I said, never taking my eyes off Charlie. I edged closer. "It always feels like I'm leaving something when it's barely gotten started."
"Yes, well I seem to remember you telling me that it is only starting. That this is just a beginning."
"If things go like they should that's exactly what it is, sir."
Charlie eyed me feverishly. I caught a glint of passion in his storm grey eyes and got hard. My cock felt heavy between my legs. I wanted to reach down and adjust myself, but couldn't move.
I heard a sound check from the makeshift stage the TV people were setting up.
"I do believe it's time," Thurlow said. He practically vibrated with excitement. "Charlie? Tyler? Will you accompany me?"
We followed him. Show time.
I managed to stay awake during the ceremony. That's about all I can say about it. Everyone droned on, hoping to say the magic six seconds that would be captured forever in the late night news. I did my canned spiel about how we can rebuild the world if enough people care. Then Charlie spoke.
He came to stand beside Thurlow on the grass near the shrouded focus of our attention. He talked about the need to release the artist in all of us, that art was not some elitist game, but could be embraced by all. He talked about creating sanctuaries like this one and all the time he was staring at me. Measuring me. Openly wanting me.
I felt alternately hot and cold. Fevered chills raced through me, dotting my exposed skin with goose bumps. I began to imagine what the night to follow would be like. Bad idea. I got even harder. The anticipation was going to kill me. I couldn't imagine what the night itself was going to be like. Just Charlie and I...
While everyone clapped politely Thurlow signaled his assistants to draw aside the drop clothes. I took another step forward and held my breath. First to be exposed were the four paintings. The crowd gave an appreciative sigh.
I thought their reaction was grossly underwhelming.
I swallowed past the sudden lump in my throat.
The theme of the willow united the four paintings just like Charlie had said they would. There was the Blue heron in the river, one foot raised, poised to strike. A Great Horned Owl stared down balefully from the willow's bent branches. A herd of deer moved like living wraiths through an early morning mist and a solitary lynx stalked its prey under a blanket of fall leaves.
"Incredible," I heard someone mutter.
"Who is this guy? Is he someone famous?"
"Look at the eyes on that wildcat, whatever it is, you'd swear he's looking right through you."
Charlie never took his eyes off me. I knew he did more than look through me. He looked into my soul and all that lay buried under it.
"Charlie," I whispered.
He read my lips. His eyes darkened. I was only able to drag my gaze away when someone clapped me on the back and offered me congratulations. Someone with a lot of blond, perfectly coifed hair and a camera trailing after them asked me a bunch of inane questions. I answered as best I could. It didn't do to alienate the press, not if I wanted my ideas to be heard by anyone.
When I looked back up Charlie was gone.
The ceremony dragged on. Finally the half ton granite boulder that had been inlaid with the dedication plaque was unveiled. I'd had a hand at designing the thing so I had made sure the name Charlie had first used in conjunction with the place was on it. Lynx Woods was now official.
I moved through the thinning crowd. The laden tables were looking a lot emptier and several of the iced punch bowls were down to dregs. The politician were the first to go. The news crews followed close on their heels.
Still not sign of Charlie. I didn't even know how he had arrived. I hadn't seen or heard his bike, and suspected he had found another means of arriving. Rental? Or had someone given him a lift? Thurlow?
I spotted Donna talking to Karl and approached them. I nodded at Karl and speared Donna with my gaze.
"You seen Charlie?"
She shook her head. "Not lately. Could he be back down by the river?"
I did a quick tour of the site. No Charlie. He was running again.
With an explosive curse I shoved the key into the rental truck's door and jerked the latch. The door popped open.
Thurlow strode up and stood impatiently by the driver's door. I stopped short of climbing into the cab and stared at him.
"You're a hard man to keep track of, Tyler," Thurlow said. "But I wanted to see you one more time before you got away. I'm impressed with the work you've done here. I have to admit I'm impressed with you. I've already spoken to several of my colleagues and some have expressed an interest in you doing some projects with them."
I didn't know what to say. I stammered out a thank you but Thurlow waved it aside.
"They have your contact information so I'll leave it in their hands to talk to you personally. I just wanted to make sure you got this, as an expression of my appreciation. You've outdone yourself here."
And he handed me a cheque. It was significantly larger than the bonus we had negotiated. My mouth fell open.
I stared down at the piece of paper in my hand. All those zeroes must have done something to my brain. I felt numb.
"Thank you, Mr. Thurlow. I don't know what to say."
"Don't say anything," Thurlow muttered. "Just enjoy your bonus and I look forward to the next time we can work together."
Then he turned on his heel and strode away.
I clambered up into the cab of the Explorer. The door shut on me with a solid clunk. I stared out at the lingering guests, noting many of them were still gathered around the four panels. Even from here the power of Charlie's work blew me away.
Charlie as an artist had a vision and strength that left me weak in the knees and in awe. But Charlie as a man was another story. I knew what he was going through was strong stuff. Wrestling with questions of who you are in something so basic as your sexual self-image was rough going at any age, but in an adult who thought he knew what he was it had to be that much harder. I wanted Charlie to be strong, but it wasn't happening. He couldn't seem to face himself down. His demons kept overpowering him. So he kept running.
I jammed the key into the ignition and cranked the engine on.
I was angry at his cowardice. Angry at his weakness. I know that's a harsh verdict but I had stood there and watched him practically drool over me less than an hour ago. He knew he wanted me. He knew exactly what he wanted to do with me. But he ran rather than face it.
"Screw you, Charlie Reid," I muttered, doing a precise three point turn and pointing the Explorer back toward Toronto. "I've had enough of your games. Play them by yourself."
The next day I paid my grateful crew their part of the bonus, went home and booked a flight to England.
I didn't have any formal plans. I spent two days in London, taking the tube to the Kew Gardens where I spent a wonderful seven hours. Then south to visit the equally famous Wakehurst Place. I strolled through the Himalayan Glade, loved the extensive water gardens and the little walled in gardens that dotted the landscape. But best of all, to my mind was the Loder Valley Nature Reserve which provided a refuge for the native flora and fauna of the Sussex Weald - whatever the hell that was. The British, I decided, had earned their reputation as skilled gardeners.
Then I wandered north, ferreting out small Bed and Breakfasts in tiny medieval villages where charm seemed to be part of the package and they made me feel at home.
It would have been perfect if I'd only had someone to share it with.
Edinburgh, the Athens Of The North was where I found Randy and the Leith Walk.
I had stopped for coffee at the Blue Moon Cafe‚ and was trying to decide if I wanted to do some pubbing for a change. Leith Walk, I had been told, contained the best of Edinburgh's gay scene.
I was lonely. That I was horny too goes without saying. It had been weeks since I'd had my cock up Charlie's delicious ass and I was beginning to feel the lack.
He couldn't have been more than twenty-one. Even younger than Michael, though not by much, I confess. He was gorgeous. Five-ten, streaked short blond hair and the bluest eyes I had seen in a long time. When I first saw him he was standing at the bar at CC Bloom's I zoned in on his tightly packed ass that just about had me begging to bury my nose in it. He glanced over his shoulder as though aware he was being watched and caught my eye.
His face lit up and less than two minutes later he was sitting at my table, his hand on my knee, asking me where I was from. The accent always does me in. A Scott's man and a set of bagpipes and my honor is shot.
"Canada!" he squealed. "I love Canadian men. So virile." His hand moved higher on my leg, brushing my swollen basket. "Are you virile, Tyler?"
His pretty face went slack as he reached between my legs and squeezed my cock."So big." His eyes were dilated and he licked his lips. "Will you have your way with me, Canadian? Do you want to fuck me? Only ten quid."
Shit, I should have known. A hustler. He seemed to sense the changed atmosphere. He kept trying anyway.
"Why dinna we go someplace quieter and see what comes?" He took my hand. His slender fingers were warm in mine. He glanced at the sleeve hanging empty on my left side.
"What happened, Ty?"
"Car accident. It's nothing. Listen, Randy --" I took a step away from Randy, who cocked his beautiful blond head at me.
Randy suddenly looked uneasy. He rubbed his hip with the palm of his hand.
I swore under my breath. Randy flinched as if I'd hit him. For some reason I suddenly remembered Michael telling me how safe he had felt with me for the two years we lived together. Is this what he had endured before that? Picking up strangers, never knowing what they might want. Taking whatever they gave you because you had no choice, you had to survive.
I suddenly felt nauseous.
Randy began to look panicky. What the hell did he read in my face? Disgust? Anger? How to tell him it wasn't directed at him?
"Listen, Randy," I said. "You're sweet and I'm sure it would be a lot of fun to take you to bed and find out if your ass is as delicious as it looks but I have a policy never to pay for sex. Call me old fashion, but it's the way I am."
"But, Ty --"
"Don't interrupt me, Randy." I handed him ten pounds then held up another ten. "What I am going to do is pay you to spend the rest of the night with me. We'll hit a few pubs, and grab some dinner, then I'll drop you off at home. The night's on me - but I want it understood that I'm not going to fuck you."
"Am I that disgusting to you?"
"What --? Hell no. Christ, you're the sexiest thing I've seen in a long time. It's me. Don't worry about it. Well, are you up for it? A night of hot music and good food? I'm relying on you to tell me where we can find both. Deal?"
He thought about it a minute, his eyes glued to my crotch. He looked almost wistful then he grinned.
Randy knew Edinburgh, I'd give the little queen that. According to him he'd spent all twenty-one years of his life here. They'd been dirt poor and there was a lot of violence in his home world so his decision to cut out at seventeen had seemed natural at the time. It was only later that he had realized he had no particular talent or skill and had somehow fallen into hustling. When you're young and terminally cute the men fall all over themselves to bed you. He made a good living, especially off the gay tourist trade.
Nobody had ever wanted to pay him to pub crawl.
We had fun. Even if I did spend half the evening sporting a sometimes painful boner that I finally relieved in one pub in a bathroom stall. Randy laughed easily and had a sardonic wit that made him seem older than twenty-one.
I was surprised when he told me he was thinking of going back to school.
"I'm going to study marketing, financial planning - I'm pretty good with numbers, me teachers always said I was a natural."
"Sound like a smart move." I put my hand over his and squeezed his fingers. "Get educated. Get a real job -- then who you go to bed with is your choice. Do it for fun, not because you think you have to."
"And what if I said to you, 'I want to go to bed with Tyler McKay'? Would ye still turn me down?"
I raised his hand to my mouth, tickling the palm with my goatee. "Fraid so, pumpkin."
Randy sighed. "You must love him very much."
You know what? I didn't even bother denying it. I just muttered. "And I'm a damned fool for it."
At the end of the evening I tried to get him to tell me where he lived, so I could make sure he got back safely. He refused to tell me. Then he said he couldn't go back there, his 'roommate' had company and he'd been instructed to stay away. I wasn't sure I believed him, but I could hardly leave him to wander the streets of Edinburgh until dawn. Which is how we ended up back at my hotel room. Both of us were pleasantly buzzed and Randy lived up to his name as he amorously followed me around the small room and wouldn't stop rubbing up against me.
I put him away from me, my good hand firmly on his slender shoulder. "If you want to stay here, man, stop that. I'm not made of stone, but I really would hate myself in the morning if I gave in now. That side of the bed is yours. Keep on it and no stripping. I don't want to wake up to a naked man in my bed."
Randy grinned. "Why might that be, McKay?"
"Just go to sleep, Randy."
The next day he talked me into renting a car and led me on a exhausting day trip through the surrounding countryside. Again he refused to reveal where he lived, and this time I was just too damned tired to argue. We didn't crawl back to the hotel room until nearly midnight. I instantly fell into bed and was asleep.
So it shouldn't have been any surprise to wake up to the delicious sensation of Randy's mouth around my cock and his hand firmly wedged between my ass cheeks, his finger at the entrance to my back door.
I groaned when he slid it in. His mouth worked harder on my cock and seconds later I blew my load down his throat. He slid up my length and nestled his head against my shoulder. His fingers played with the light sprinkling of hair on my chest and abs.
"I hope you're not mad. I had to do that. You have been so sweet to me and I had to repay you somehow."
I kissed his upturned mouth. "I can't say I'm sorry. But you gotta stop thinking of it in terms of always paying someone else back. Do things for yourself."
He squeezed my balls gently and nibbled on my lower lip. "I did do it for myself."
It was only fair that I reciprocate so when I saw Randy's hard cock bobbing against the pale skin of his stomach I didn't have to think twice. I dove down and did what I'd dreamed of the first time I saw his gorgeous body at the bar. I yanked his legs apart and buried my nose in his ass. He grunted and raised his hips, his fingers sliding through my hair.
I fucked his hole with my mouth. Ramming my tongue down his tight sphincter, then working over the skin behind his balls. Sucked his tightly compacted balls. All the while I pumped him with my fist, my fingers wrapped tightly around his six inch cut dick.
With a cry he slammed his hips up, thrusting his cock into my hand. He shuddered as I pumped harder. He clawed at me then I felt the throbbing in his dick and he strained to unload himself, splashing hot cum all over my hand and his stomach.
Then his cock softened and slipped out of my grip. I lay back down on the rumpled bed and draped my arm over my face.
"What's wrong, Ty? I'm sorry, but I was so hard when I work up and you were too..."
"No, don't, Randy." I reached for him and cradled his unresisting form in my arms. "You were wonderful. I just don't want you to think you had to... I don't want you feeling obligated."
"Just fun, Ty. It's all just fun."
I held him until we both fell back to sleep. The next time I awoke I was alone in bed. He had gone out to get coffee and left me a take out cup on the bedside table. The coffee was still warm.
I drank it, showered and got dressed. Then I caught a train for Killarney.
[More to come]
If you like this story so far, let me know at Patrick I'm always happy to hear comments, suggestions, anything. You can also read all my stories at Archerland