Finding Love: A Journey II
By: Scotty
( 2007-2009 by the author)

Disclaimer: This is a fictional story dealing with love and consensual sexual activities between males.  If you are not of legal age, reside in an area where viewing such material is illegal, or are offended by homosexuality and/or homosexual themes, leave this site now.

The characters in this story do not always practice safe sex.  Remember this is fiction.  You should always use a condom for the your protection and especially for the protection of the one you love.  The author recommends only safe sex.  Be wise and follow safe sex practices.

Several songs are quoted in this story. The copyrights to these are held by the artists or their publishers and not by the author. They are quoted as a tribute to the artist and the piece.

All persons in this story are fictional and any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental.

All other disclaimers apply. The author retains all rights. No reproductions are allowed without the author's consent. Comments are appreciated at...


"Yes, dear, they do. But our agents aren't the same ones who serve the President. They're trained the same way, and after service here, they might be assigned to the President. No one knows for sure where they will end up. We'll have some of them tutoring you here so that you can finish your high school program and be prepared for college," his mother told him.

"That means I can't leave here. I can't go to school here. I can't go out to a movie or have friends over. I  don't even have to worry about friends, do I? How can I meet any friends if I can't leave the compound?"

Todd's mother had gotten up from her chair and returned to her son. "Sweetie, we know this is going to be particularly difficult for you because you had to leave all your friends and even more upsetting for you, leaving Tim without his knowing what has happened to you. But, Todd, your father and I will do everything in our power to get you and Tim back together. I don't know how we'll do it, but we promise you we'll make it happen."

Without saying anything more, Todd shook his head a little indicating perhaps that he wasn't sure of the outcome of the promise. He kissed his parents and went to what was to become his room. There he would ponder his new life. Already he was trying to devise a plan of  escape. His room and that place were, after all, much like being sentenced to prison.

Chapter 12

The short, confusing and demanding night had not provided much sleep for Father Jim.  Neither had Gary slept well, not even after a very fulfilling love making session with Jim.  He was worried about the young clergyman who had become preoccupied with the meeting that was to take place later that day.

Both men had awakened as the first light of dawn dimly lighted the bedroom. They had held each other, enjoying the body warmth and scent of their lover.  They had not spoken at first, but finally Jim broke the uncommon silence of the two lovers.

"A tough night?" Jim asked Gary.

A snicker escaped Gary as he told Jim, "Just about the same as yours."

"Forgive me for keeping you awake.  I just had so much on my mind that I couldn't really sleep.  I think I napped from time to time, but no good sleep.  I'm going to look like shit at the meeting.  That will probably give Arthur Coles Grantford more ammunition for his attack on Father Crowley and me."

Gary pushed a shock of hair away for his lover's face and leaned in and kissed him gently on the lips.  "From what I've seen of Father Crowley, you don't have to worry about him.  He'll take care of himself, and probably you, too.  Now kiss me good morning."

Jim obliged, and then slipped naked from the bed and hurried to the bathroom to relieve himself.  Gary followed him and relieved himself, too.  Together they climbed into the shower and enjoyed a warm shower, soaping each other's bodies, but keeping away from overt sexual activity.  They did kiss occasionally, but that was all.

They got out of the shower and dried each other's bodies.  After a quick kiss, Gary headed to the kitchen to brew a pot of coffee while Jim began shaving.  Both were still naked.  Gary called from the kitchen, "Baby, how's about I prepare you an omelet for breakfast?"

"Yeah, thanks, Lover.  I'm going to need all the sustenance I can get.  It's going to be hell."

"Toast or an English muffin?"


"Sure.  I have your juice poured, too."

"Be there in a minute.  Thanks, Gary."

"No thanks needed."

As Jim finished his shave and started to the kitchen, Gary was beating the eggs and a little ice-cold water for the basic omelet.  When Jim arrived in the kitchen, he went to Gary, who was now chopping ham and some peppers, moving his naked body against Gary's.  Jim penis began to plump as Gary pushed back against him.   "Wow!  You'd better stop that my friendly priest or we'll be on the counter making love.  You'll be late for your meeting," Gary confided.

"Sorry, I just feel naughty.  What can I do to help with breakfast?"

"Take care of the toast and English muffins.  Drink your juice. Get out the creamer and sweetener, kiss me, stroke me a bit, and if you're so moved, throw me to floor and fuck me good," Gary said with a giggle.

Jim ignored the last part of the instructions and did begin work on the other duties.  He, too, was giggling.  Gary had the eggs well beaten, had the shredded cheese ready, the ham and peppers chopped, and the omelet pan hot.

In what seemed like a couple of minutes, a beautiful omelet was on the warm plate waiting for Jim to devour it.  As Jim buttered the toast and got the English muffins out of the toaster and buttered, Gary was turning the second omelet on to another warm plate.  The two sat naked across the small table from each other.  Jim poured coffee for the two of them, and they ate in silence, smiling at each other.  Gary rubbed his naked foot up Jim's leg and onto his cock and balls which caused Jim to reach down and stroke the top of Gary's foot before he playfully slapped it away.

"Now, now, you dirty FBI agent.  Don't stop something we can't finish," warned Jim.

"But just think you'll be able to remember this when that fuck head Grantford starts to play his hand.  Doesn't it feel nice when I do this to you?  Well, remember the pleasure, and his shit won't be as bad as he thinks."

Jim laughed.  "Bullshit!  You just want to get into my pants, that's all."

Gary laughed. "Can't get into your pants, dufus.  You're naked as a jay bird."

"Huh, thought I would make it easy for you.  Sometimes you have a problem getting me naked," Jim said as he leaned across the small table and kissed Gary.  "Now come on, we have to get dressed, drive over and hopefully chat with Father Crowley before anyone else shows up."

"Gotcha, Lover.  I'm right behind you, and that's where I'll be throughout this mess, protecting and supporting you."

"That, dear Gary, is why I love you."


Father Crowley had also spent a sleep-deprived night; one filled with strange dreams.  It was obvious to him that he had kept Agnes awake most of the time.  He had what might amount to a small nightmare, Arthur Grantford swooping into the meeting like a giant black bird of prey, intimidating everyone in the room.  Bishop Goodfellow had cowered in the corner begging Arthur not to hurt him.

He had been alarmed by the image, but it motivated him to protect Jim.  Here was a good man, wholly devoted to his responsibilities as a priest in the church.  Jim didn't have an arrogant bone in his body, and he understood how important love was in the lives of his parishioners.  He also had a remarkable connection to young people, bringing many of the teenagers back into congregation by his friendly and caring attitude and by establishing activities that had appeal to the teens.  Not insignificant was Jim's sensitivity which allowed him to listen to a myriad of teenage concerns and by so doing, helping them to avoid serious problems.  In short, they loved him!

The good pastor had long worried about Jim as he had contemplated the reaction of the church when they knew of Jim's sexual orientation.  After Jim had told the members of the church about his homosexuality and his strong relationship with Gary, few had been alarmed.  None of the young people cared at all.  If parents were disturbed, they had yet to act upon it.

There was, however, Arthur Coles Grantford and his few crazed followers who wished to destroy Father Jim, and to bring Pastor Crowley to a reckoning.  For them there was only one sexual orientation and that was heterosexual.  No one would be able to dissuade them from their self-appointed holy mission to rid the church of any priest who was gay.

It was not that he himself wanted to see the church filled with gay men as clergy; however, his sense of fairness enabled him to understand  that one's sexual orientation did not destroy the otherwise holy and sacred performance  of their duties.  Jim had proved that he knew that and accepted it.  But just as important to Crowley was that Jim would not abandon the man he loved, not even to remain a member of the clergy and St. Augustine's.

That fortitude, that sincerity, that depth of love was what was important.  What Jim did in the privacy of his bedroom, was his own business.  If the good Lord had a problem with it, then He would attend to the punishment.  Crowley harbored a sincere belief that God would not disapprove of such deep and abiding love.

Finally the rays of the rising sun spilled more light into the bedroom.  Crowley watched the growing intensity of the light in the bay window at the foot of the bed.  He moved his legs around again, probably the fiftieth time since five this morning.  He jumped a little when his wife Agnes spoke,

"Why don't you get up and shower.  By then, I'll have the coffee ready.  Maybe some strong coffee may help to steady your nerves.  You've been spinning like a top.  For heaven's sake get a hold of yourself."

"Aggie, have I kept you awake?"

As she rolled toward her husband and pecked him on the forehead, she answered him,

"Not really.  I've been awake for a mere half hour of your dance welcoming the rising sun.  It wasn't pretty."

They laughed together, both knowing how serious the meeting would be, and attuned to the possibility that he might be left without a position or a church.  Agnes Crowley knew the score as they had discussed it openly.  She had told him to be strong and to maintain his beliefs, his sense of fairness.  She reminded him that almost everyone in the congregation knew that Grantford was a bigoted fool.  Also, she had told him, it was still conceivable that Grantford could destroy him, Jim, and indeed, St. Augustine's.

"Don't forget," she assured her husband, "that fat loser of a bishop, Goodfellow, would fold up like a tent, denying his support for a few bucks.  He's a damn Judas!"

"Now Aggie, try to understand how upset he is.  I mean Jim is gay and he can't accept that.  To him it's wrong, very wrong."

As she slipped out of the bed, Agnes Crowley thought her husband would be up to the task.  "Get going," she said, "you don't want to be late for your hanging."

She laughed again as she left the room, headed toward the kitchen.  Crowley threw his legs over the side of the bed and sat up.  He had watched his wife move out of the room, amazed at her agility and the speed and fluidity of her walk.  However, he did not laugh.


Tim as the first to awake.  He felt like the icing in an Oreo cookie.  He was in the middle, his body tight against Adam's back.  He could feel Devon's morning erection pushing on his ass cheek.  He moved slightly and as he did, Devon's cock slid into the crack of his ass, but not in a fucking motion, but rather as a place to rest.  He liked the sensation, but didn't want it to go any further.  Nothing had happened last night after the rather hot session in the shower.

When they had returned to the bedroom, there was a short discussion of where each would sleep.  He had volunteered to sleep on the cot, but that was quickly denied by his two roommates.  Adam had decided that they would share the big bed.  He ordered Tim into bed, then told Devon to sleep on one side of Tim and he would take up his place on the other side.

"Have either of you two guys ever had anal sex with another guy? asked Tim.

"I haven't, well not exactly," said Devon.

"Not that I wanted," whispered Adam.

Tim had a concerned look on his face.  "I didn't mean to pry and I'm a real asshole, Adam, not to have suspected that you were abused at the Colony."

"It's okay.  I'm beginning to come to terms with it.  Devon has helped me and I love him for that."

Grabbing Adam's hand, Devon quietly told Tim about his experiences, and the long difficult time he had coming to terms with it.

Tim sat up in the bed and pulled his legs back Indian style making no attempt to hide his cock and balls.  Although the other two looked, they did not anticipate any real action.

"Look, you two need to spend a lot of time together getting to know each other's bodies well.  You need to be ready for anal love making or someone might be injured.  Neither of you want that.  Although I could show you things, what you really have to do is discover for yourselves when you're ready to fuck.  Don't hurry about it.  There are so many other ways to show your love for each other, some things I'm sure you have already done.  Enjoy this time; experiment; read about it on the web."

Adam leaned across to Tim and kissed softly on the lips.  "You are the right person to be with us tonight.  Thanks for being straight with us, and there's no pun intended.


Devon kissed Tim, too, saying, "Right on, man.  You hit the nail on the head.  We have time and Adam is young.  We can wait, even if at times we would rather not.  I'll the older one, so it's up to me to keep things on an even course.  Adam says I'm a horny dog, and I certainly am, but I really love him and I would never want to hurt him physically or emotionally.  Thanks for being frank with us, Tim.  It means a lot.

Soon there was some feeling up, some stroking of cock, even some kissing and more fondling.  But as they were very tired, first Adam and then Devon fell asleep.  The three were a tangle of arms and legs.  Tim finally turned enough to pull Adam against him, ass to cock.  Devon turned, too, his cock rubbing Tim's great and tempting ass.  But no sex play followed, just steady breathing as the two others slept.

For Tim, sleep was elusive.  His thoughts were of Todd; and his prayers, more than he could ever remember, were supplications to God to keep Todd safe.  He imagined the most terrible situations; some included terrible gang rapes, and others deranged and terribly pornographic situations.  He only saw Todd with other boys and men, never alone.  And he always saw Todd as the victim.  He wondered why that would be so, but before he could fathom the solution, he had fallen asleep.

Now in the morning light, he felt Adam's hand on his penis which caused it to grow even harder than his morning piss hardon had been.  `You devil,' he thought, `still intent on taking care of my sexual needs.'  He moved his own hand to cover Adam's hand, squeezing it gently.  Adam slowly moved his hand up and down on the surface of the penis, but he didn't clasp the throbbing cock in his hand.  `He's a terrible tease,' thought Tim, but he didn't mind as he really didn't want to get involved with Adam and Devon in any extended sexual encounter.

But in the next moment a strange thing happened.  Adam moved slightly and then guided Tim's hard cock into the warm, moist crack of his ass.  Tim gave an involuntary little gasp.  Then Adam rubbed Tim's cockhead up and down the sexy young man's ass crack, stopping momentarily at his pucker and pushing back gently so that Tim's erect member slightly penetrated the forbidden territory.  Adam turned his head slightly, gave Tim a silly little smile and whispered, "Do you like that, Cowboy?"

Just as Tim was about to answer, he felt Devon pushing his hard cock further into the crack of his ass.  This time it was not accidentally, it was purposeful, and again, much to his shame, Tim liked the feeling, both of his cock becoming intimate with Adam, and now Devon attempting to pleasure Tim by finding his anus and rubbing it with his engorged cock head.  Tim's mental processes told him to bring this to a halt.  However, all of his sexual desires were pushing him to continue and to enjoy, and finally to climax, releasing all his pent up need and energy. His good intelligence won.

"Adam, Devon, please.  I'm flattered that you want to pleasure me, but, I just can't.  I'm promised to Todd, at least from my point of view.  If Todd wasn't so prominent in my life, I would have been all over both of you by now.  You are both sexy, wonderful guys and super friends.  Let's keep it that way, okay?"

Adam rolled away from Tim and Devon moved back breaking his contact with Tim.  Adam turned and faced Tim, "Can you forgive me, please.  I have to admit that what was just happening was more for me than for you.  I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable.  And I do understand about Todd.  I feel that way about Devon."  He then kissed Tim lightly on the lips.

Devon had sat up in the bed and from his cross-legged position, he told Tim.  "You know, Tim, I admit as Adam did, that my foolishness this morning was more for my pleasure than for yours.  I'm just a horny dog, and getting off seemed like a great way to start the day.  I bet that's what Adam really wanted to say to you.  I know how horny he can get.  Anyway, please forgive both of us for taking advantage of you.  Last night we really wanted to do everything for you, Tim.  You were the center of our thoughts and caring.  This morning we just wanted to get our rocks off."

Everyone laughed, and Tim slipped out of bed and walked to the bathroom where he took a long strong piss.  He called to the two who were now wrapped in each other's arms, "Hey, guys, I'm gonna jump in the shower.  Oh, I see, you don't give a crap about that.  Carry on."  He closed the door to the bathroom.

Devon was on top of Adam kissing him firmly with his tongue working wonders in Adam's mouth.  Devon kissed his way down the body of his lover, and when he reached his junk, his lips quickly were wrapped about Adam's turgid cock.  Remembering all he had learned from reading on the web, he slowly took Adam's member deep and with only a slight gag into his throat.  That's when Adam exploded and shot burst after burst of hot morning cum drown his throat.  Devon had gotten so excited and stimulated that he had shot his load all over the sheets.   "There!" he said, "that takes care of our horny morning."

"Sure," giggled Adam, "and you get to explain the cum on the sheets to Sadie."

A pillow thrown at Adam's head was Devon's answer.


It was his usual morning duty to awaken his employer, Arthur Coles Grantford, but on this day Tobias was apprehensive about what reaction his awakening Grantford would elicit.  He was well aware of what was going to happen later in the he morning.  He was well aware of the intensity of Grantford's hatred for gay men.  He especially couldn't tolerate "fucking queers" as he called them, as members of the clergy.  His hatred for Bishop Robinson in New Hampshire was monumental.  Most who knew him, were aware of these views as he never tired of telling them.

As was the long established procedure, Tobias knocked softly on the door, entered the room and after pulling aside one of the window draperies, rang the small silver bell he had in his hand. There was a purposeful grunt from the bed, but nothing more.  Tobias took five steps closer to the large bed.  He again rang the bell.  The heap of blankets moved and the old body enclosed in them stretched, but there was no sound.

Again, another five steps closer to the bed.  Tobias rang the silver bell for the third time.  Soon two scrawny arms darted out from beneath the blankets, and the head of Arthur Coles Grantford made its appearance.  Tobias smiled inwardly, as his boss looked like a cross between a nearly drowned cat and a terribly frightened one.

"Good morning, sir," offered Tobias.  "It's not yet eight AM, your bath is drawn, your clothes are set out, and in twenty minutes your breakfast will be ready.  Is there anything more I can do for you?"

Grantford had struggled to a sitting position and was throwing off the covers.  He snarled, "No!  Get out of here, Tobias.  Oh, by the way, did anyone show up here last night before I came back to the house?"

"No one, sir," lied Tobias, "no one came here looking for you."

"Humph!  Hard to believe my heirs didn't come to try to talk me out of my plan.  Those four will never be able to agree about anything, let alone getting rid of the fag priest and his stupid and ultra left thinking pastor Crowley."

"Sorry, sir, no one came here.  Do you wish your regular for breakfast, or would you prefer something different?"

Grantford was now in the bathroom, Tobias following closely behind him.  At the bath tub, Tobias helped his boss to remove his nightshirt.  Holding on to specially installed bars, Grantford slowly lowered himself into the warm bath water.  Tobias took the natural sponge, and lazily washed the old man's toughened and wrinkled back, the product of his years.  Finished with that, he handed the sponge to his boss and began to exit the bathroom.

"Breakfast, sir?"

"The usual: oatmeal, dry wheat toast and green tea," he grunted at Tobias.

Somehow Tobias felt as if the sun had disappeared and that there was an enormous black cloud looming over the day.  `It was,' he thought, `the norm. This was much the same as many other days which had been bright and sunny, and yet seemed to fade into darkness once Arthur Coles Grantford was awake'.


Edgar Grantford was in the shower when the phone rang.  He knew his wife would take the call, so he continued.

"Edgar, it's your sister Elsie," called his wife.

"Tell her I'll call her back in ten minutes unless it's a really important matter that can't wait."

There was a lapse of a couple of moments until Connie, his wife, said, "She said it isn't earth shaking, but she does need to chat with you before the meeting."

"Gotcha, honey.  I'll be out in about two minutes.  Is my dark blue suit back from the cleaners yet?"

"Yes, they delivered it yesterday.  Which shirt do you want, and which necktie?" Connie asked.

"I think I'll go with a white shirt, but pull out a couple red ties.  I want my father to see that I am a power person," Edgar said as he came out of the bathroom and walked into the dressing area.  He dropped the towel and pulled a pair of white boxers off the shelf and was soon standing there in just those.  Connie came back into the dressing area carrying some neckties.  They were all bright red.

Edgar pulled a white v neck t-shirt on over his head and tucked it into the boxer shorts.  He smiled at Connie, who came to him and kiss him lightly on the lips.

"My, my, you're such a sexy man.  I'm lucky I caught you early on before some wench had stolen you away with her nefarious charms."  The both laughed.

"Bea will have our breakfasts ready in five minutes so move your handsome ass," Connie called as she left the bedroom suite, (and) dressed in a lovely silk robe, and made her way to the lanai where a small table was set for breakfast.  Bea was busy in the kitchen, but came immediately to the room and poured the cold Florida orange juice into the crystal tumblers.

Will Mr. Grantford be down shortly?" Bea inquired.

"Yes, as usual, Bea.  You can begin bringing in breakfast."

"Thank you, ma'am."

When Edgar came onto the lanai, he seemed slightly agitated.  Connie waited, hoping that he would tell her what the problem was, but he didn't.  He sat and drank his juice in a couple of swallows.

"What did Elsie want, dear?" she asked her husband.

Edgar snapped open his white napkin, reached for the newspaper, and almost shouted, "My father is at it again.  He tried to intimidate Elsie into voting with him today.  She told him no, but he angrily reminded her that her fortune could be easily taken from her.  She told him to kiss off, that her fortune was hers legally and that the major part of it was an inheritance from her husband's estate.  He didn't like that at all.  Then he tried to get her to tell him if his four children had gotten together to discuss an approach at the meeting.  She lied, beautifully as she told me, and informed him no.  He told her he didn't believe her and hung up on her."

Connie thanked Bea who had brought in the two warm plates with eggs, bacon, and wheat toast.  Then she went to the cadenza and returned with the silver coffee pot.  After pouring coffee for two of them, Bea left the pot on the table and returned to the kitchen.

Connie moved the food on her plate around, but really didn't eat anything.  She leaned back in her chair and looked at her husband who was reading the financials from the folded newspaper that was on the corner of the table.

"Your father won't do anything stupid, will he?  I mean he isn't dangerous, is he?"

"No, no!  Connie, don't worry about that.  We will outvote him four to one on everything that comes up for a vote.  Also, he can't get any large amount of money.  Our attorneys took care of that yesterday.  Again, four votes is a unbreakable majority.  There will be a furor like nothing we've seen when he discovers that he can't get access to more than ten thousand dollars without unanimous approval from the four of us.  And he can only get ten thousand dollars once a month, unless we approve."

"Pretty harsh isn't it."

"Connie, all his living expenses are covered.  He can travel anywhere he wishes at our expense.  He has clothing, food and miscellaneous expenses covered.  Tobias will be paid.  He'll be as comfortable as he is now."

"I bet he screams like hell" Connie said with a chuckle.


Everett and Evan had stayed at a luxury hotel south of the business district.  They didn't share a room because Frank was with Evan.  After a quick goodbye, they went to their respective rooms.

Everett surprised himself when his mind kept going to Evan and what he might be doing with Frank.  It wasn't that he was gay, but the thought of two guys having hot, passionate sex together, well, it sort of stimulated him.  He took a cold shower which rinsed away the idea and the stimulation.

Meantime when Evan arrived back at the suite he and Frank were sharing, he found Frank in bed watching television.  He was lying naked on the bed, his body and genitals a screaming invitation to Evan to join him.  Evan was out of his clothes in seconds, or so it seemed, and was on the bed making out with his lover.

Frank had nothing to say as they two began to make love.  After their love making had finished, they were soon asleep.


Todd was yet another who had had a restless night, tossing and turning, trying to figure out a way to escape from his new home and get to hold Tim in his arms again.  Today he would get more information from his father.  Today he had to understand why he was being kept a prisoner, not even able to leave the house.  At that very moment, he didn't care if his life was in danger.  What would his life be worth without Tim?  He turned again and punched his pillow into a small ball.

It was still dark outside when he was awake again. When would the sun rise, when would a new day finally begin?  `God, God,' he thought, `please let me sleep so that I won't think about Tim.  Help me, Almighty Father, please, please help me.'  Then he became aware of the light in the room.  He had slept.  The day had begun.  God had heard him.  "Thank you, dear God for answering my cry."

The silence was broken by his mother's soprano voice, "Todd, honey, it's almost nine.  You should get up and take a shower.  We'll wait you for breakfast.  You'll find clothes in the closet and in the dresser.  It's cooler here than in Florida, so wear a pair of jeans and a long sleeve shirt.  Hurry up, now."  The silence he was beginning to welcome returned.  He stretched and quickly was out of bed and on his way down the hall to the bathroom and a quick shower.  He noticed that the house wasn't as warm as their home in Florida.
Since he was thirteen, Todd had never been able to take a shower without jerking off.  This morning would be no exception to that habit.  Only this morning, his sexual fantasy revolved around his handsome lover.  He delighted in remembering Tim's well defined body.  As he stroked his prick, he fantasized about Tim's ample cock and balls.  He soon had one finger pushed deep into his hungry asshole, imagining that it was Tim pushing into him, loving him, fucking him . . . and  he blasted the shower wall with his stored up cum.  Without realizing it, tears were running down his face. How much he already missed Tim's presence from his life.

Desperate to find out more about what was going on, he rinsed his body and the shower wall, sending his seed swirling down the drain.  Back in his room, his hair still wet, he quickly used the deodorant, slipped on his boxers, pulled on a pair of jeans, and finding a sweatshirt emblazoned with his school mascot, he jerked that over his head.  He nearly trashed a bureau drawer trying to find a pair of socks, something he seldom wore in Florida.  Finally he found a pair of white athletic socks which he put on and then slipped his feet into his Vans which he left untied.  Finally, he pulled a belt through the loops on his jeans, tying it on the right side in a rebellious knot.

He bolted down the stairs and rushed into the small kitchen where he found his parents sitting at the dinette table apparently waiting for him.

"Mornin'," he greeted his parents.

His father put some papers down on the extra chair, and as he did he looked carefully at his son.  He smiled briefly and the asked, "How did you sleep last night, Todd?"

"I don't think I slept much, Dad.  I had too many questions about everything and I discovered I miss Tim more each moment I'm here.  Forgive me for being such a problem, because I really don't want to be."

His mother turned from the stove where she had moved as soon as he came into the room.  "You're not a problem, Todd.  We have some idea of how you feel, because our lives, too, have been upset.  We had to leave friends and neighbors and your dad had to leave colleagues who will know nothing except that he is isn't there anymore.  They'll ask, but no one in charge will tell them anything.  And my friends will be like Tim, they will be beset with wonder and confusion trying to understand what happened.  There will be no answers for them.  You father and I are really sorry for this, but we wanted to be sure that we could stay alive and be a family.  We have all make sacrifices, you especially since you were ignorant of all that was happened.

"I've tried to understand all of that, but I can't twist my mind around everything.  You chose to keep everything from me and I have tried to understand that.  I think you were afraid I would run or I would tell Tim and others and then I would probably be found and killed.  I guess I would have put Tim and anyone else I told in great danger.  You know I wouldn't want that to happen.  I am going to try to be calmer and try to understand what's happening and what will probably eventually come to pass.  I trust you and dad to help me get to Tim or for Tim to get here to see me."

Mr. Collins looked perplexed.  He looked at the floor as he picked up the papers from the chair and sort of glanced through them.  His wife nodded at him signaling him to get on with it.  "About that, Todd.  We're leaving this place because our two governments can't agree on how to protect us here.  It's a great place to be since no one here has any knowledge of us so when we disclose our new identities, there will be no suspicions.  So later today, we'll be moving to St. Albans, Vermont."

Todd who was still standing, sat heavily onto a dinette chair.  He ran his fingers through his still-damp hair.  A look of confusion and perhaps even despair flashed across his face.
"St. Albans Vermont?  Where the hell is that?  And will it be any different than this?"

His mother had returned to the table with a platter of fried eggs and ham and a large plate of pancakes.  As she set the dishes on the table, she told her only son, "Sweetie,  it's not far from here.  In fact, it's close to the Canadian border.  It's a small city of 10,000 thousand or so.  The service is trying to arrange things so that we can go out to the store or movies, and there's even a chance that you can go to high school there.  Living in St. Albans may make it easier for Tim to visit us, but there will be limitations and special procedures.  We'll know more in a short time.

"Will I ever be able to go back to Florida?  Will I?"

As he reached across the table and patted his distraught son's hand he said,

"Probably not, Todd.  Probably not."


Brad had awakened quite early which surprised him as he had been extraordinarily tired when he went to bed.  He supposed it was just the result of the stress with his father.  The eastern sky was bright with the sunrise and a shaft of light cut through the room and rested on the white sheets just a foot or so from Jacob's face.

That light made Jacob's face shine with a kind of brilliance that made Brad feel an emotional tide sweep over him.  Jake was handsome!  Jake was brave!  Jake had comforted him.  Jake had told him like it was.  Jake was always there for him.  Jake loved him.  Jake was sexy.  Jake was a perfect lover.  But as all these ideas flashed through his mind, he knew that most important of all, Jacob Neilson was his friend, his soul mate.

Brad had turned on his side and was staring at Jacob's face.  He wondered about Jake's birthday bash and all that would mean to Jake and to him.  He wondered if it would have to be postponed because of his father's serious condition.  He didn't want that to happen.  His father had already caused Jake enough heartache and pain.

Then he thought of his gifts.  The GPS would be happily accepted especially after receiving his father and mother's gift of the jeep.  But how would Jake react to his second gift, his most important and personal one: the pendant with the Chinese symbol and the engraved "Ai" which meant "Love."  What would Jake think of the inscription that he had engraved on the back of the disk?  Would he understand what it really meant?  A lonely tear ran down Brad's ruddy cheek as he asked himself if Jake would recognize it was a proposal to be a couple for life?  He knew in the deepest recesses of his heart that he would marry Jake in a moment if it were possible.

Brad's heart beat a little faster as he thought all this.  Jake moved slightly and opened one eye.  He half smiled at Brad who he saw watching him.  In a sleepy voice, he said,  "I love you, Brad."

That was all Brad needed to hear and to know.  Today would be fine; the future even more promising.


Father Jim and Gary arrived at the rectory about forty-five minutes before the start of the meeting.  Jim had called Father Crowley for permission to arrive early as he wanted to discuss some matters with him.  Crowley had happily approved.

Agnes Crowley answered the door and greeted Jim with a huge hung and a whispered good luck in his ear.  Gary received a hung, too, but not as encompassing as Jim's had been.  She led them to the study where she left them at the door.  Jim knocked softly and waited.  "Come in, come in," came the cheerful invitation from Crowley who was on his feet and walking toward the door when Jim came in followed by Gary.

"Good to see both of you.  Have a seat and we can chat about the meeting or anything else you have on your mind.  You both look pretty good for what you've had to handle these last few days.  How is Travis?"

"Improving," said Gary.

"Good, good.  I'm glad to hear that.  Jim, that whole incident must have taken much out of you.  Are you up to this damnable meeting?"

Gary put his arm around Jim's shoulders and squeezed.  This brought a smile to the old priest's face.

"It was an ordeal for all sorts of reasons.  But to see how those young men had been treated and how badly they had been abused sickened the heart and made you realize how little you could do to change the damage done.  Nonetheless, I thank God that I did the little I was able to do in such a short time.  To think that such a place could exist in a time of enlightenment such as we enjoy, baffles me.  Then I think of Mr. Grantford and I understand much."

"Bigotry and hatred are poisons of the mind.  Some, and Grantford and Travis are prime examples, get so poisoned that their better spirits are dashed and destroyed.  What remains is that terrible need to destroy those who have a different belief or idea or point of view.  In the end, as Travis discovered, he was the one who was destroyed.  I don't wish tragedy on anyone, especially Grantford.  What I do wish and pray for is that he might recognize how terrible his hatred and bigotry is.  That would bring peace to many of us."

Jim finally sat in the chair in front of Crowley's desk, while Gary stood behind the chair his hands on Jim's shoulders and he squeezed the muscles in Jim's shoulders occasionally, hoping as he did so, that it would provide comfort and support to the man in loved.  "You're so right Father.  I have also prayed that the bigots might be enlightened and understand more about fairness and acceptance.  I doubt, however, that we will ever see that.  I suspect that the bigots offer all of us some moments to be better human beings who try to understand and more importantly to forgive them."

The room fell silent as each of the three men present had escaped to the privacy of their minds to contemplate what had been said.  Gary, perhaps more than the two priests, had a difficult time in reconciling the two contradictory ideas, but the two priests would find a way, through their faith, to understand and to accept the contrariness of the ideas.

Father Crowley stood up and in a soft, cautious voice suggested that they take the short ride together to the Grantford building and to the meeting  Jim didn't move immediately, but reached back with his right hand and patted Gary's hand in recognition of many things, the small massage not the least important of them.  Then he stood and the three men left the office.  Crowley called out to his wife that they were leaving, which brought her out to the entry where she hugged her husband and gave him a wifely peck on the cheek.  Then the men were gone.


Edgar was the first to arrive at the office and the board room.  His secretary, Candice Brownlee, had everything in order.  There was coffee and a variety of breakfast breads, donuts, and Danish.  Pads and pens were placed at every seat.  Candy even had placed names at the various places.  His father would not be pleased that his name was not at the head of the table.  Edgar was to be seated there.  He sighed deeply and said a quiet prayer that all would go well.

Elsie entered the room and finding her brother in thought, said nothing at first.  She coughed slightly and Edgar looked at her and smiled.  "How's my beautiful sister this morning?"

Elsie laughed as she threw her light wrap over a chair.  "I'm fine and ready for a fight.  By the way, I'm not as beautiful as I once was, but I'll pass, especially if the gentleman concerned is desperate for some companionship."

Edgar grabbed the wrap and moved it to another chair just as Elsie was aware of the place name cards.  As she moved to the buffet table, Everett came into the room.  He looked tired and a bit cross.

Elsie couldn't restrain herself as Ev often razed her.  "What's the matter, Ev?  Did you have a tough morning?  You look like last night's dinner leftovers."

Everett sagged into a chair and nearly put his head on the table, but he didn't.  He straightened up and told his siblings,  "It's Evan.  Damn, he just won't hurry.  I kept telling him to hurry and he kept telling me he was busy.  You know what that means don't you?  He and Frank were involved in some hanky-panky, if you ask me.  They both can be pains in the ass."

"Now, now, Everett, don't be critical.  You sound like a wife who thinks she is being cheated on," replied a giggling Elsie.

Before anything more could be said, Father Crowley, Father Jim, and Gary came into the room.  Edgar moved quickly to them, "Welcome, fathers and Gary.  We're waiting on Evan, my father, and the bishop.  Ah yes, our attorney Karl Benjamin will also be here just to make sure everything is legal.  Actually, our father doesn't have a leg to stand on financially so if he uses that approach on the bishop, we'll put a stop to that immediately.  We're not entirely sure what other tactics he'll employ, but with votes of four to one, he shouldn't make much headway."

Two handsome young men made their way into the room.  Elsie ran to them and kissed both of them.  "This is my brother Evan," she said as she hugged the older of the two."

Evan broke in instantly, "And this is Frank Collester, my partner for the last ten years.  Father doesn't know and hasn't met him, so this ought to be a wonderful meeting.  I finally get to tell him that I'm gay and that I don't care what he thinks of it.  Frank and I import art objects from all over the world and we're extremely comfortable.  If father pulls my share of the business and fortune away, it won't matter."

Walking to the two, Gary and Father Jim were smiling.

 "Congratulations to both of you.  Ten years, that's wonderful!  We hope you have fifty more happy love-filled years.  This is my partner, Gary.  We've been together about a month or so.  We're hoping for a lifetime together," said Jim.

The four men were shaking hands and exchanging small talk when Bishop Goodfellow came into the room.  He wore the magenta dickey which indicated his rank.  Father Crowley went immediately to him greeting him with a huge hug and a face-filled smile.  Goodfellow beamed.

"Welcome Bishop! Edgar, please introduce everyone," said Crowley.

In a moment, the slightly pompous Bishop had met everyone.  If he had a serious problem with homosexual couples, nothing in his demeanor revealed that when he was introduced to Jim and Gary and Evan and Frank.  It was already apparent to all those in the room, that the cagey Bishop Goodfellow was here because of a promise made by Arthur Coles Grantford.  Most speculated that it was money.

Karl Benjamin, a middle aged and portly gentleman just about ran into the room.  He was out of breath, but still apologized profusely for his tardiness.  He related that a last minute problem at the office had delayed him longer then he had intended.

Edgar urged everyone to help themselves at the breakfast buffet, not waiting on his father.  The three other Grantford children all rejoiced inwardly that Edgar was really in charge.  If their father got too unruly, Edgar would probably have him removed from the room.  No one actually expected that to happen.

Everyone was chatting amiably and enjoying the good coffee and tea, when Arthur Coles Grantford, strode into the room.  Surveying the room, he was disquieted by two of the people there who he did not know.  He knew of Benjamin the attorney as he had given him some business in the past years.  `But who,' he wondered, `was the man with Evan?' He suspected the guy with Father Jim was his gay lover.  He didn't like it that he was here.  Then he noticed Edgar sitting at the head of the table.  His body stiffened and he nearly shouted,

"Edgar, that's my place.  Please move."

Edgar sat quietly and firmly, then he stood and told his father,
"This is where the CEO of the company sits, and I'm that CEO.  You can sit here to my right.  Are you ready for the meeting?"

Arthur Grantford strode to his place, pulled out the chair and nearly tipped it over.  He sat heavily in the chair and maneuvered it into position.  He glared at everyone, but especially at Father Jim and Father Crowley.  It seemed to everyone that Bishop Goodfellow was shrinking in his chair.

"I'm ready to get rid of these despicable human beings.  They'll be gone in two minutes.  So let's start," he said as he leaned into Edgar, his spittle hitting his son in the face as his father hissed the words at his son.

"Let's begin then.  Father Crowley, I believe you had some words for all of us to hear.  Please begin." Edgar said.

Father Crowley stood, and holding himself erect, looked around the room at those in attendance, but he left his gaze on only one individual in the room: Arthur Coles Grantford.

"I believe," began the good priest, "that we should not be here this morning.  No one in this room is guilty of any wrongdoing.  What we are confronting this morning is two points of view, one of them is neutral, and because of that accepting of the different life styles that exist in our world.  These lifestyles have existed since the beginning of recorded time.

"The other point of view is much more restrictive.  That point of view will not accept anyone or anything that doesn't meet certain standards.  These standards are capricious and inflexible.  They are based on old thinking and misreading of scriptures and other holy writings.  They are held in immutable fashion which is dismissive of other ideas and beliefs.  They are held by bigots!"

There was a gasp in the room which came from the area where Goodfellow sat.  No one else made a sound.

The old priest continued, "Our church accepts the homosexual lifestyle, disapproving of promiscuous behavior, but not committed relationships between adults of the same sex."

"RUBBISH, DAMNED RUBBISH! shouted Arthur Grantford.  You see Bishop, that's why we need to get rid of Crowley like I told you on the telephone.  He's dangerous, dangerous.  And that priest behaving like a whore with his playmate in front of our children...  he's got to go!"

Gary had sprung to his feet, "Listen you old son-of-a-bitch, don't you dare call Father Jim a whore!  He's a wonderful caring man, steeped in his religion and always ready to help anyone in need.  So watch your damned tongue, you old fool, or I'll punch your false teeth down your throat!"  
Jim pulled Gary back into his chair holding his hand which was shaking with anger.  He whispered his thanks.

"Okay, okay, let's try to keep this civil.  Father, you have to watch what you say and you should only speak when you get permission from the chair, and that's me.  So be good.  Gary, please try to control yourself so that I don't have to ask you to leave."

"If he leaves, Edgar, I leave," Jim said quietly but firmly.

The old priest surveyed the room again, and then continued.  "Do you see where hatred and exclusion leads?  It brings chaos.  It brings destruction.  It brings confrontation.  It destroys.  That is where we are today.  Bishop Goodfellow, did Mr. Grantford contact you before this meeting as he says he did?"

Goodfellow squirmed in his chair.  "Yes," he murmured.

"And what did he promise you?  What he threatened me with was no more financial support for St. Augustine's; that is unless I sent Father Jim away.  Well, I won't do that.  So, what was his deal?"

Goodfellow said nothing, his head was bent as if he was examining his fingers to find some small injury or a miss-manicured nail.  The room was silent.

"You should answer that, sir," Karl Benjamin suggested.

"He doesn't have to answer anything.  This isn't a court of law.  And you should keep out of it anyway.  I don't even know what you're going here." Grantford sputtered.

"Father, keep quiet!" warned Edgar.

"Did you just tell me to be quiet?" asked the angry father.

"I did and I mean it.  Karl is here to make sure that everything is legal and that's there are no funny things happening.  Now, Bishop, I think it entirely fair that you let us all know what my father promised you."

Goodfellow stumbled to his feet, his face red with shame.  He began his confession of deceit and avarice.

"First, let me say that I never agreed to do anything.  Arthur offered me certain things if I would do certain things, but we did not have an agreement."

There was an audible gasp from the small group,  Arthur Grantford glared at the timid bishop, trying it seemed, to intimidate him enough so that he wouldn't tell too much.

"Go on, Bishop," urged Edgar.

"We agreed, at least in principal, that it was not a particularly good idea to have a homosexual priest in any parish in my diocese.  This is a conservative area and it wouldn't be politically wise to have a priest of that persuasion leading the children of any parish."

"My dear bishop, apparently you and my father seem to have a problem of definition and understanding," Elsie said.  She continued, "Being a homosexual or pedophile are not the same.  Statistics show that the vast majority of pedophiles are heterosexual, not homosexual.  It is a disservice to perfectly law abiding homosexuals to misrepresent them as pedophiles."

"Three cheers," shouted Frank.

"Who are you that you have anything to say about this matter.  You have no right to be here," argued Arthur.

Evan Grantford jumped to his feet and glared across the table at his father.  "Frank is my lover and partner, Father.  We're both gay men, and in a few weeks we are going to be in New England, either in Massachusetts or Connecticut where we are going to exchange marriage vows and be happily married.  I've been gay, and knew it, since I was twelve years old.  I never acted on it in those early years, but I knew what I was.  I have never been promiscuous.  In fact, Frank and I have been together for the last eighteen years.  So get used to it, Daddy, get used to it!"

Arthur Grantford's face lost all its color and Jim feared he might collapse.  It was Elsie who led the cheer, "Hurrah!   Hurrah!  Good for you Evan.  My blessing on you and Frank."

With no restraint, Arthur Coles Grantford screamed, "You're a damned queer, Evan.  You're gonna go to hell!  Hell's too good a place for the likes of you and Father Jim.  You're all gonna burn in hell for all time.  Get out of here Evan and take your friend with you.  Get out!"

Edgar pounded on the table with his fist and shouted at his father, "Evan is not leaving, Father.  We're about to settle this matter now.

Edgar looked at the trembling Goodfellow, a slight smile on his face as he said, "Bishop, please continue."

"Well, well, Arthur promised me $500,000 for use as I saw fit, with some of it had to go to St. Augustine's if I would get rid of Father Crowley and Father Jim.  I told him I would force Father Crowley to retire.  My problem would be with Father Jim.  He's well liked, more accurately loved, by the parishioners and the young people of St. Augustine's.  I had decided to send him to Africa as an emissary of the diocese.  No one would object to that, and I knew that Father Jim would not hesitate to take on such a responsibility.

"I had thought about my plan carefully and felt that no one would be hurt by this action, at least not in a long-lasting way.  In addition to that I knew how much good all that money would do in the diocese.  It seemed the right thing to do."

Edgar said, "First of all Bishop Goodfellow, our father has no funds to give to you.  He's been put on a limited amount of discretionary money, but he is well taken care of.  He has his mansion, his servant, his cars and chauffeur, and in addition, if he needs or wants anything, we'll be sure that he gets it.  But paying you off to get rid of Father Crowley and Father Jim will not happen.  We, his four children, he made us legally the owners and management of Grantford Industries.  I have been CEO for more than five years.  My two brothers and my sister have been on the board for longer than that, and together we control everything."

The meeting room had fallen silent.  All eyes were on Arthur Grantford, especially the good bishop's.  Most participants in the meeting were squirming slightly in their seats.  Finally, Arthur Grantford spoke,

"You cannot do this, Edgar.  It's not legal.  I'm sure my lawyer will challenge everything.  You had this all planned didn't you?  How could you do this to your father?"

"How, Father, could you do what you planned to do, to destroy the lives of two people, and now that you know about Evan, you would do everything to disown him?  There is little joy in what we had to do to stop this mean and bigoted action of yours.  Your children rose above the low-minded intolerance of the day.  Father, I for one am ashamed of you for what you planned to do.  And, Bishop Goodfellow, I believe that if we sent this information to the council, you would soon be without the power to harm again," Everett said.

"How dare you address me in that manner, Everett.  Don't you understand that I am the bishop.  I am in charge.  In terms of the church, I am the one who decides." 
"Bishop, shut up, shut up, shut up!" shouted Arthur.  "Everett is right on all scores.  And you, bishop, you were willing for a few hundred thousand dollars to do as I told you.  So don't say that you're in charge of anything, you fat ecclesiastical crook."

"Please," the good Father Crowley asked, "let's stop this name calling and name blaming.  In a sense we're all guilty of a kind of tolerance for the lack of criticism for you Arthur, and you Bishop.  We let the two of you almost destroy a good priest.  At my age if you had removed me from my post, I would have survived comfortably waiting for Jesus to call me to my reward.  I support these couples, trying to remember the power of love and the good it brings into the world.  I hope that all of you in this room can join me in forgiving Arthur and Bishop Goodfellow.  In forgiving them, we join Jesus in forgiving those who harm us, or in this case try to harm us."

Arthur Coles Grantford was on his feet again, "You old fool, don't you know how the real world runs.  Forgiveness? rubbish!  I won't forgive my wanton children for what they have done, never.  And Father Jim and Evan and your bitches . . ."

Gary flew across the room and grabbed Grantford my the collar of his suit jacket and began rather violently shaking him.  Jim was trying to stop it, but Gary would have nothing to do with that.  "Look, you old bastard, don't you ever call me a bitch again, understand.  And don't you call any of us queer again.  We are good people with jobs and careers and we care about each other and we love each other.  We don't want anything from bigots like you except that you let us live our lives in peace."  Finally, Jim was able to stop any more shaking.  Edgar had watched in astonishment as did Everett and Evan.  Elsie had smiled broadly as she had noticed that none of her brothers had come to their father's assistance.

During the scuffle, Bishop Goodfellow had slowly moved toward the door, hoping to exit unobserved by anyone.  As he reached for the door handle, Karl Benjamin's strong voice stopped the bishop in this proverbial tracks, "Bishop, I don't advise that you leave this room before this is all legally settled.  If you do, I wouldn't be able to stop a report to your superiors being sent, and then the inevitable court business that might follow.  Best you wait here with the rest of us."

"You snake in the grass, leaving like the coward you are.  He only wanted money and he would have done anything I asked of him if the money was enough.  He didn't care for his church, his clergy, or the truth.  He's a worse sinner than I.  There's no question about how I feel and what I believe.  I won't change my mind and I won't apologize or seek your forgiveness.  And, you, sir, if you lay another hand on me, I will have you arrested," said the infuriated Grantford.

"Yeah, well remember what I said to you, don't you ever call me or Frank bitches again, or refer to us as queers.  We're gay men, homosexuals.  And, old man, just remember that all I did the last time was shake you a little, who knows what I might do the next time," cautioned Gary.

Frank and Evan were now in the group standing around Arthur, and it was Evan who probably bought the standoff to a close when he said,

"Look Father, I don't expect you to like what I am, but I do wish you would accept me for what I am and accept the man I love.  It isn't easy being gay and in love because many people, including you, think it's impossible to be in love.  You think it's all about kinky sex.  Well, it isn't.  If you offend us again with crude language, it won't be Gary who grabs you it will be me," warned Evan.

"You'll all have to knock me out of the way because I was an all-star football player in high school and college, so I could pick you up, Mr. Grantford, and throw you across the room," Frank warned. 

Grantford sunk into his chair, said nothing, and waited. Karl Benjamin was able to quickly get everything in order.  "Father Crowley and Father Jim would continue on as priests in the parish.  Arthur Coles Grantford would be involved in much of the running of the company, but his four children would be who would make the final decisions.  Bishop Goodfellow would not be reported to any authority if he continued to run the diocese in an upright and honest way.  And finally, everyone in the room would agree not to discuss anything that had happened or that was said.  Finally, the four Grantford children will remain with their father for a while.  I will stay here, too, as there is some paperwork that needs to be completed.  Are there any questions?"

No one answered.  Evan whispered into the ear of his black lover causing a smile and some plumping of another part of his anatomy.  Father Crowley left with the bishop.  Jim and Gary left in the company of Frank.  Before they got to the door, Gary suddenly grabbed Jim, pulled him tight against his chest and kissed him hard on the lips.  But it was Jim who spoke,  "You were so in charge, I really was impressed.  What a man!"

Frank smiled as the two kissed again.


Sadie had awakened Beth at an earlier hour than she would have liked.  However, there was a phone call from the hospital and the nurse could not convey any information to anyone except Beth.  When Sadie knocked on the door to Beth's bedroom,  Beth had jumped slightly.  For a moment she didn't remember where she was, then as she awoke more, things came into focus in her mind.


"Beth, it's the hospital and they want to talk with you.  There's a phone on your night stand."  Beth was suddenly wide awake,

"Thanks, Sadie."  Beth reached for the phone and spoke,  "This is Beth Mason."

"This is nurse Kent.  Dr. Stanley asked me to call you and report that your husband has regained consciousness.  If you wish to see him, you may.  Dr. Stanley thinks that by tomorrow afternoon, he'll be transferred to the secure infirmary at the county jail."

"Is he able to talk?" asked Beth.

"No, not really.  His voice, when he is able to say anything, is hoarse and almost unintelligible.  His voice will improve slowly as will his ability to swallow.  Dr. Stanley thinks that eventually all of that will return to normal.  He's alert for a man who was so close to . . ."

"You can say it, Nurse Kent, `death' is what you mean, isn't it?

"Yea, ma'am, that's what I meant.  I hope that doesn't offend or upset you."

"Of course it doesn't.  All of the family was aware of that last night.  I'll be there in a short time to see him.  Is there anything I should bring for him?"

"No, we have everything he needs right now."

"Thank you for calling, nurse Kent.  Goodbye."  Beth slowly placed the phone back into the cradle.  She sighed deeply as she contemplated what all this would mean to her and to the boys.  Maybe something good could come of it.  Already the boys had forgiven their father which was a major development.  She still had difficulties reconciling her happy early years with Travis to the last couple of years when he had effectively destroyed the family.

Beth Mason got out of bed and was quick to accomplish her morning necessities.  Dressed now in a very Floridian outfit of shorts and a decorated top, she made her way to the kitchen where she found Sadie preparing breakfast.  Doug was already there seated at the counter reading the morning newspaper.  Sadie looked up from the stove, acknowledging Beth.  Doug stopped reading the paper and asked,

"So, Beth, what did the hospital have to say?"

Just as she was about to answer, Diane came into the kitchen, followed by the Li's.  "How is Travis this morning?" asked an anxious Lorraine Li.

"He's improved and awake.  He still cannot talk nor swallow, but Doctor Stanley thinks all of that will return to normal over time.  They'll be moving him to the secure infirmary at the country jail.  After a quick breakfast, I'm off to see him.  I also have to call Craydon and let him know what's happening."

Sadie was pouring coffee for Doug and Diane.  "Beth, tea or coffee?"

"Tea, thanks."  As she poured the tea, Sadie inquired of the Li's what they would prefer.  They both wanted coffee which was a slight surprise to her.  "If you would kindly carry your breakfast drinks into the dining room, I'll serve the rest of breakfast there," said Sadie.

Everyone did as Sadie had suggested except for Diane who said she would help Sadie serve breakfast.  Lorraine recognized that Diane had something private to say to Sadie, so she did not offer to help.  Beth had enough on her mind that she didn't even think about helping.

Doug and John Li were the first in the dining room.  Both men waited for the women before sitting down.  They chatted about the market and the high prices of real estate in Florida, especially property near the ocean or inland waterways.  Beth and Lorraine sat opposite the two men, leaving a place for Diane across from Doug.

Diane and Sadie came into the room carrying platters of eggs, bacon, toast, and pancakes.  All the necessary condiments were already on the table.  Lorraine had poured orange juice for everyone.  After placing the platters on the table to the `ah's' of those waiting, Diane said,

"Sadie and I have been discussing something in the kitchen that we think should be settled as soon as possible.  We want to know if the fake party for the Li's and the surprise party for Jacob are going to happen, or because of what's happened, if it should be postponed or even canceled."

Beth spoke up immediately.  "Travis is much improved, and even if he wasn't, I think we need to celebrate Jacob's birthday.  After all, he's going to be eighteen.  And that's not all, just remember what he's been through because of Travis.  And Brad loves him and so wants to surprise him with the birthday party.  I vote yes, and I'm looking forward to a happy time for all of us."

"I second that," said Lorraine.

"Show of hands?" said Doug.

Six hands shot into the air, followed by some genuine laughter, and so it was decided.

The surprise birthday bash for Jacob was on!

To be continued...


"The measure of love is to love without measure"

Feedback always welcome:

Thanks to Peter for his intelligent and sensitive editing along with his insightful suggestions which add much to the story.  I also want to thank Alex for agreeing to translate from English to German, thereby assuring the best translation possible.

Author's Note: This and all my stories are also posted on along with several other great authors and stories, please stop by and check them out.