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Note: Thanks to Tim and Rock for feedback on the draft chapters. I owe a special thanks to Robb for doing the final proofreading and catching all those silly little errors I missed.
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by Jeff Allen
Despite my still sore ankle, I felt like I was walking on a cloud. Michael was going to be staying with me for the week. We'd only been together three nights, but already I could hardly imagine being without him. I have to admit that my feelings for Michael scared me a little. Was I reading too much into this?
I managed to get my briefcase and crutches into and out of my little Subaru Forester. The briefcase banged against the crutch on my left side as I made my way through the parking lot and up to my office. It was awkward as hell.
My class was surprised when I crutched my way into the classroom. They all wanted to know what happened. Brandon Harris seemed especially surprised to see me on crutches; then I realized that I'd been seated the entire time he'd waited on us at Cantana's. The crutches had been hidden from view by the tablecloth.
After class, Brandon and Josh Locklear insisted on carrying my notes and papers down to my office as I slowly made my way along beside them.
"Dr. Madison, I'm really sorry that I didn't notice the crutches when you were in the restaurant Saturday night. If I had, one of us would have met you at your house or in the parking lot this morning to help you. Do you need any help at home? Josh could bring some dinner over to you this evening so you wouldn't have to cook or try to get out some place."
"Thanks, Brandon. I appreciate your offer, but I have some help at home."
I saw a look of understanding cross his face. "Ah yes, it's Mr. Crane, correct?"
"Yes." I felt myself blushing.
"Way to go, Doc! He's a hunk. The rest of the guys and I make sure we get a good gander of him every time we walk by that construction site. He also seemed to be a really nice guy from what I could tell on Saturday night."
A week before, I would have tried to find some way to change the subject or try to intimidate the student into dropping the line of conversation as being inappropriate. With Brandon and Josh, it just didn't seem to matter if they had figured out that Michael and I had been intimate.
"Thanks, Brandon. I think he's a really nice guy too."
"What time are you going to go home, Dr. Madison?" Josh asked.
"I'm going to work on a few things here in the office, but I'll probably leave around noon. It's obvious I won't be able to run for a while so I think I'll take the opportunity to finish work on an article I've been writing at home."
"All right. One of us will be here at noon to help you get your things out to the car. Don't leave until we get here, okay?"
"Thank you, Josh, but you don't have to do that."
"I know we don't have to do it, Dr. Madison. This is something we want to do. Someone will be here at noon."
They left, and I busied myself with some paper work in the office. Promptly at noon Josh and Isaac appeared at my door.
Isaac carried my briefcase while Josh made sure that I negotiated the stairs with my crutches. I tossed my car keys to Josh and climbed into the passenger seat while Isaac stored the crutches and my briefcase in the cargo area of the Forester.
At home they helped me get settled inside and then left after telling me that at least one of them would be by in the morning to help me get to school. I was deeply touched by their concern and caring. The truth was that my ankle was getting better rapidly. I was able to move around the house using only one crutch. I hoped I'd only inconvenience the guys for one more day.
I worked at my computer for the rest of the afternoon until Michael came home.
I heard him come in the kitchen door. He called, and I replied that I was working in the office. Michael came in and gave me a big juicy kiss. He was dirty and sweaty, and he looked tired. As we kissed I took in the scent of his sweaty body. Instant turn on! However, before I could begin to act on my rising lust, Tom emerged from his daily hiding place and began rubbing around on Michael's legs demanding attention. Damn that cat!
After satisfying the cat's sudden desire for human attention, Michael went to take a shower. I shut down the computer and joined him. We didn't get too energetic in the shower because of my ankle, but we did have fun. It was a long shower, and we were both very clean and very satisfied when it was over.
Michael fixed fajitas and a large salad for dinner. I helped him clean up afterwards before we settled ourselves on the sofa in the Florida room to cuddle, relax, and listen to music.
That night in bed our foreplay was gentle but intense at the same time. He reached for the condoms, and I moved to position my body for his entrance, but he surprised me.
"I want you inside me tonight."
"Michael, are you sure?"
"Definitely. I'm more of a top than a bottom, but I want this relationship to be one between equals. I've thought about this all day, and we can start by being equals in the bedroom. Now, let me put this condom on you."
He rolled the condom down over my hard dick, then spread more lube over my latex enclosed length and into his entrance. When we were both prepped, he straddled my hips and slowly lowered his body down until my cock was completely engulfed in his hot body. He locked his eyes onto my face and then began to move his hips up and down. We continued to look into each other's eyes as he moved. I got lost in his eyes. I don't know how long we made love. It seemed like a long time, but way too short also. His climax was sudden. Cum flew from his pulsing cock and landed on my chin. Still our eyes remained locked together. Moments later my own release happened. Only then, as I thrust upward to put as much of my erection as possible into his love canal, did we break eye contact.
Before I went to sleep I remember thinking that it just kept getting better and better.
And through the rest of the week, everything kept getting better and better.
Having Michael with me was wonderful. He was kind; he was smart; he had a sense of humor; he was a good cook and enjoyed doing it; and he was a fantastic lover. I was certainly developing some strong feelings for my construction hunk.
My ankle got better. By the weekend, I could walk without the crutch and had actually been able to walk to school on Friday. As promised, each morning and afternoon Brandon, Bart, Josh, or Isaac appeared at my house or office to help me negotiate the trip to or from school. I was amazed at how attentive and genuinely caring the four young men were.
I decided that I wanted to thank them in some way. I talked with Michael, and he suggested that I invite them over for dinner on Saturday. I wasn't sure about that. I'd never had students as guests in my home before. Finally Michael convinced me by telling me what he planned to cook for the dinner.
I had a small panic attack Saturday afternoon when it struck home that not only would Michael and I be hosting the dinner as a couple for the first time but that the dinner would be one more step out of the self-imposed closet I had kept myself in. Michael eased my panic with a mid afternoon romp in bed. Did I mention that he was a fantastic lover?
Michael's dinner was a huge success. He grilled salmon with an incredible citrus and mango glaze which he served along with roasted vegetables, wild rice, and a salad. Brandon, who had managed to change shifts with another server so he could come to the dinner, contributed more delicious cannolli from Cantana's.
While we were all enjoying the cannolli and some coffee I addressed my four students, "Guys, I want to thank you again for your help this week. I was deeply touched."
Isaac responded, "It was our pleasure. We've all enjoyed your class, and it was just a way for us to say `thank you' for being such a good prof."
"Thanks, Isaac. There's one more thing that you guys can do for me before you leave tonight."
"What's that, Doc?"
"I'd like your home addresses. I want to write to your parents to tell them how much I've appreciated your help. I'm sure your parents are proud of you, and it would be nice for them to hear that, in my opinion, they've raised some fine young men."
I'd thought about that. I figured it would embarrass the guys at first, and I expected that reaction. I didn't expect the reaction I got. The guys all looked at each other and then broke out in peals of laughter.
I looked over at Michael. He seemed just as puzzled by their reaction as I was.
Finally Isaac gained some control of himself. "Doc, I'm sorry for laughing like that. I think maybe we'd better tell you a little about ourselves. Then I think you'll see why saying that our parents would be proud of us hit our funny bones.
"My real dad beat the crap out of me on a regular basis. He and my mother cooked up meth in our trailer and sold it to truckers at a truck stop on the interstate. By the time I was fourteen my dad was using me as the runner to deliver the meth to his regular customers. If the trucker wanted a quick blowjob or a fuck, I was supposed to deliver that as well, for an extra charge of course. When I was fifteen he beat me up so badly that I passed out in the middle of school and vomited up blood all over one of my teachers. In the hospital the doctors saw all the bruises and alerted the sheriff's office. When the deputies went out to our trailer either my mom or my dad opened fire on the deputies. Cooking meth involves using some highly flammable materials, and during the gunfire the trailer exploded and burned. My parents were killed.
"The teacher I barfed on was also my soccer coach. His name is Parker Arnold, and he took me in when my aunt and uncle refused to have me. He knew about the prostitution, and he still took me in. Parker Arnold, the man we all call Coach, saved my life. I wasn't the first boy he took in. He already had his nephew Trey living with him when I came along. There've been others since me. If you're going to write to someone, you need to write to Parker Arnold. I'm just trying to be the kind of man that Coach is and do what he would do."
Josh spoke next. "I'm one of the others that Parker took in. I was raised by a single mother in the eastern part of the state. I came here to school on a football scholarship. The first semester I became good friends with two guys in my biology class. One was Trey Arnold, Parker Arnold's nephew, who'd lost his parents in some freak accident. Parker raised him after that. The other guy was TJ Ladd who was Trey's best friend. TJ's father died and his stepmother took off with all the money leaving TJ and his younger brother high and dry. Parker Arnold had taken both of them in. Just after Thanksgiving my freshman year, my mother was murdered. Trey and TJ were there for me, and so was Parker. Since then he's been the father I never had before."
Brandon was next, "Bart and my story is a little different. We grew up in Utah. Our family are very conservative Mormons. Our dad has a bad temper. He sure didn't spare the rod when we were growing up. I was in a hospital recovering from wounds I'd gotten over in Iraq when I got the courage to tell my parents that I was gay. They just turned around, walked out of my room, and went back home. I haven't heard from them since that day. When I came here to start school, I met Josh. I liked him right away, but I was still having some mental problems that carried over from my experiences in Iraq and from my parents. Even though my parents weren't having any contact with me, Bart and I kept in touch by email. When they found out that Bart was gay too, they kicked him out. Josh was with me when Bart called me from Salt Lake City. I was ready to hop on the next plane to go out and rescue my brother, but Josh had a better idea. He called Parker, and Parker had a friend who was out in Salt Lake at that time. Parker's friend was the one who picked up Bart and got him back here to North Carolina. Since then, Parker and his partner have been great friends to both of us, and Parker's made it pretty clear that he loves us just like he loves all the rest of his crew."
The word "partner" caught Michael's ear. "Is Parker gay?"
Josh laughed, "He's just as gay as the rest of us here, but Parker doesn't just help gay guys. He's taken care of TJ's brother, Ryan, and also Nacio Gutierrez. Those guys are straight."
"That's amazing," I interjected. "I'd like to meet this guy someday. He sounds like a unique person."
Bart spoke up, "I think the world would be a lot better if there were more Parker Arnolds."
Later that night when the four guys had gone home and Michael and I were getting in bed, he turned to me. "I really liked all of those students of yours, and that was an incredible story about that Parker fellow."
"It does seem pretty incredible. I don't know if I'd have the energy or patience to do what he's done."
"I'm not sure I would either. Right now, I hope you have the energy to make love to me. Remember that we won't see each other for a week."
Michael and the entire Crane Construction crew were going to be working on a job over near Asheville all week. The road job in Adams was way ahead of schedule, and the Cranes had decided that by putting the men from the Adams job over on the one in Asheville they could get that job completed ahead of schedule as well.
"I'll miss you next week." That was the truth. It scared me to realize just how much I would miss him.
"Then roll over here and show me how much you're going to miss me."
And that's just what I did.
Michael left for Asheville late Sunday afternoon. I had the house to myself, but I wasn't happy about it. Neither was Tom. He sat looking out the front window as if he was waiting for Michael's truck to appear in the driveway. I knew how he felt.
I thought the week without Michael would be a quiet time for me to think about the nature of our relationship. What did he want from it? What did I want from it? I'd never felt that way about any other man. In fact, I'd constructed a lot of defenses to keep other people at a distance. In less than two weeks Michael had managed to tear down nearly all those carefully constructed walls. Were we building anything together, or was I just opening myself up for hurt and disappointment?
The week, however, was anything but quiet.
By Monday morning I was able to walk without limping, at least not limping very much. Bart Harris showed up at my door intending to help me get to class, but my ankle felt good so Bart and I walked together down the street toward campus. Brandon, Josh, and Isaac joined us when we went by their house.
Before class I went into the department office to check my mailbox. Esther Glarrow, the office manager, was sitting behind her desk with tears in her eyes.
Esther was a stout woman in her mid-fifties with dyed black hair and a no nonsense manner. She and Roger Boden, the department chair, had run the department almost as a military operation for going on twenty years.
"Esther, are you all right? What's wrong?"
"Oh, Dr. Madison, it's just so sad."
"What's so sad?"
"About Dr. Boden."
"What about Dr. Boden?"
"Oh, I didn't know he was even thinking about retirement. He's been chair for a long time. I assume that he'll stay as chair through next year when he retires."
She broke into a new round of tears. "No. He's retiring next week. He just told me this morning."
That was unusual. Retirements from academic positions and departmental chairs didn't happen that quickly. They were normally announced a year, even two years, in advance. Something was fishy.
"Is he ill?"
"No. It's all the dean's fault. She forced him to do it."
Something definitely was going on. Not wanting to get mired in a long litany of the dean's shortcomings which I'd heard from Esther before, I thought it best to get ready for my class so I made my exit. Interesting development.
When I returned to my office after class, the message light was blinking on my phone. I punched the play button.
"Dr. Madison, this is Celeste Wilson from Dean Hamilton's office. The dean would like to see you at your earliest convenience. Please call extension 1095 to schedule the appointment."
A lowly faculty member like me doesn't keep a dean waiting. I returned Ms. Wilson's call. She told me that the Dean was available if I could come right over.
Five minutes later I was ushered into Dean Sarah Hamilton's office. Dean Hamilton was a handsome, stylishly dressed woman in her mid-fifties. She wore her gray hair just a little too long for the business world, but it fit right in with academia. She'd come to Adams State two years before, and according to the scuttlebutt in the department, she was a force to be reckoned with. I knew that Roger Boden didn't think much of her, but then he really didn't think much of anyone.
The Dean rose from behind her desk when I came into the office.
"Dr. Madison, thank you for coming on such short notice. Please have a seat." She indicated one of the wingback easy chairs in a corner of her office.
I settled into one of the chairs, and she perched on the other.
"Dr. Madison, I'm sure you're wondering why I wanted to talk with you. I won't waste your time. Are you aware that Dr. Boden has decided to retire immediately?"
"Yes, I heard about that this morning. It seems like a very sudden decision."
She smiled slightly. "Yes, it was. We'll start a search for his permanent replacement as department chair when the fall semester starts, but of course we won't be able to fill that position on a permanent basis until sometime next spring. In the meantime, I would like you to serve as acting chairperson for the next year. You would, of course, be eligible to apply for the permanent position if you chose to do so."
I'm sure my jaw dropped open. "This is a complete surprise. Are you sure you have the right person? I've never gotten too involved in departmental politics."
"And that's one of the reasons I thought of you. As you know, your department has at least three major factions. You aren't aligned with any of those. You are a neutral party, and according to my sources you are respected by most of your colleagues. I would like to see a healing of the factional split in your department, and I think you're the person who could begin that healing."
"Dean Hamilton, I'm stunned. I don't think I can give you an answer right away. I need to think about this."
"I understand, but there isn't much time. Dr. Boden will have his office cleared out by the end of this week, and I want to have an acting chairperson named well before that. There are some delicate personnel issues involved, and I want someone over in that office who will bring the History Department out of the Dark Ages."
"May I ask what personnel issues are involved?"
"If you accept the position, I will tell you everything. Right now, let's just say that Dr. Boden's retirement was not entirely voluntary. He was given the choice of retiring or facing removal as chair and a hearing before the Faculty Disciplinary Committee."
"I see. Dr. Hamilton, I need to tell you something that may affect your offer. I'm gay."
She didn't bat on eye.
"All right. I'm glad you told me, but that doesn't change my mind. This university has a long history of non-discrimination, and I am fully committed to equal opportunity. In fact, the new permanent chair of the Biology Department is openly gay, and he was unanimously recommended for the position by the entire department."
"With all due respect, the Biology Department has a different departmental culture than History. Quite frankly, Dr. Boden was openly homophobic."
"I realize that. Let's just say that I hope Dr. Boden's prejudices will disappear from the History Department as quickly as he will. When do you think you can give me an answer about the job offer?"
"I'll give you an answer tomorrow morning."
She smiled more warmly than before. "Thank you. I hope you'll take the job." She handed me her business card. "I've put both the number for my private office line and my cell phone on the card. Call me if you have any questions at all."
I left the Dean's Office and walked back toward my office.
Roger Boden has been a tyrannical department chair. I had an opportunity to repair some of the damage he'd done, but was I capable of doing the job? Even more than that, did I even want the job? It would mean less time for my research.
I had twenty-four hours to make my decision.
(To be continued)
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Some of the characters who play parts in this story were previously introduced in "When Love Comes" (last posted in the College section on Sept. 6, 2001), "Love of a Lifetime" (last posted in the College section on May 19, 2003) or "Finding Family" (last posted in the College section on June 5, 2008). While not necessary, readers may find it useful to read the earlier stories posted on this site. All of the Adams State/Carterville stories listed above as well as my other stories are also posted at www.crvboy.com.
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