SUMMARY: At a time of national turmoil, the lives of four boys become connected as each struggles to accept his sexuality and to address the challenges he faces in life. To the extent the boys succeed in coming to grips with those challenges, it may be in ways that prove surprising or troubling. This story is also being published on my blog and you can find a longer synopsis there. While some events, locations and features in the story have been moved forward or back in time for dramatic and other purposes, it takes place during an era when prejudice against homosexuals is rampant and the gay revolution in America is still in its infancy. Italics are typically used within the story to indicate what a character is thinking or saying to himself. Any resemblance to any person living or dead is purely coincidental.

WARNING: Sex is not the primary focus of this story. If you're looking for erotic content, you'll do much better with other stories on Nifty. While sexual content is secondary and incidental, the story does include some scenes that depict sex and violence, sometimes graphically depending upon the characters and circumstances involved. For that reason, the story is intended for mature audiences only. If you do not wish to read such material or it is illegal for you to do so, please look elsewhere. The story remains the property of the author and may not be reproduced in any form without written permission. It is protected by the copyright laws of the United States and other countries. You may download a single copy to read offline and to share with others as long as you credit me as the author, but you may not use this work for commercial purposes. You may not use any of the characters, bars or other fictional locations described in the story in your own work without my explicit permission. Nor may you use, alter, transform, or build upon this story in any way.

AUTHOR NOTES: This is my first effort at writing a story. As a general rule, I only plan to publish one chapter a week, usually on Thursdays. This story may or may not be moved to a different section than this one in the near future, but I can't tell you where or when because I don't make those decisions. If you don't find it here, you'll have to look around for yourself. The latest chapter will always be posted on my blog before being published here. You may want to bookmark the location of my blog in the event you cannot find the story here at some point in the future and you wish to continue reading it: As always, comments and constructive criticism are welcome. Flames will be ignored. If you would like to let me know what you think, feel free to contact me at Thanks for reading the story. I hope you enjoy it.

THE PREVIOUS CHAPTER: In Chapter 29, time has passed and Tommy finds himself reflecting on the last five years of his life in Washington. A lot has happened. Physically, he is bigger and stronger; he also considers himself emotionally tougher as well. He has moved in with Ray after Danny found a sugar daddy and moved out to live with the guy. While still hustling, Tommy has other sources of income as well, from his webcam, escorting, modeling, and dancing at a bar in southeast Washington called Head & Tails. In terms of hustling, Tommy now has regulars so he no longer needs to work the streets unless he wants to. Being a top, he has selected his regulars carefully so they're compatible with what he is willing to do sexually. But the five years has taken a toll as well. He finds himself restless, edgy and moody at times. He isn't enjoying the sex as much as he wants. To try to get more zoom in his life, he had found himself a girlfriend. But that hadn't worked out very well because the sex was never as intense as with guys. He had also tried having sex more with boys around his own age. But they were just as jaded about sex as him or had other problems that proved frustrating. To sum it all up, life as a hustler had been a financial success. But even though he doesn't consider it a problem, something seems to be missing for Tommy. He just can't seem to figure out what.


Part III - Desperation, Degradation and Despair

Chapter 30

The whole thing had been Danny’s idea. He was the one who suggested the party.

Not that I saw Danny all that much anymore. It wasn’t because he didn’t want to see me or the rest of the guys. But his fucking daddy, Barrett, the twerp with the horn rimmed glasses and the itsy bitsy cock, didn’t like Danny hanging around with us very much.

Only Washington’s trash went to bars like the Palermo he liked telling Danny. We were a bad influence on Danny. If Danny spent time with us, he might be tempted to go back to his bad old ways. It would be much better for him if he stayed away from the whole neighborhood. He was making an investment in Danny and Danny should be grateful for everything he was doing for him. He had lots of friends and all of them liked Danny. Those were the people Danny should hang out with, not with all the trash the Palermo attracted.

There were times when I wanted to strangle the asshole. He was like all the rest of the daddies: jealous, possessive, insecure, and clingy; and in Barrett’s case, so hung about his masculinity he wouldn’t even suck Danny off. I mean, give me a fucking break! The dude made Danny jerk himself off while he was fucking his ass!

Yeah, sure, I did that to some of the guys I went home with myself, but that was different. They knew the rules. They knew I didn’t suck any more. They wanted to be fucked. Danny didn’t want to be fucked. He was just cursed with a cock that everyone admired but no one was anxious to let near their ass. But that’s another story I suppose.

The thing is, Danny thought we should have a party to celebrate the fifth anniversary of my liberation from Vermont and my upcoming twentieth birthday. The boys who hung around at the Palermo really didn’t do parties like that, at least most of the time. Don’t get me wrong. There were times when we partied. But usually it was a spontaneous thing when business was slow or whatever and it never really focused on anything all that specific.

So I had been reluctant to do it at first. I mean, the thought of not being a teen any more, of turning twenty, made me feel old and I wasn’t sure it was something I wanted to celebrate. But then Danny enlisted Miss Teddy and Sean and the three of them began pestering me about the whole thing. I finally agreed to the party as long as no one made a big deal about it.

We had decided to do it on a Monday evening because that was usually the slowest night of the week. More of my friends would be able to attend. We had also decided we would do it at Exiles & Castaways. All of us liked the place and it would be dead on a Monday evening. Most of the bars in Washington were dead on Mondays, but Exiles & Castaways was small, intimate and the most convenient, just a five minute walk from the Palermo.

There wouldn’t be all the distractions that might pop up at the Palermo. I mean, it was all business all the time at the Palermo so we had to take that into account. There were always guys wanting to be serviced, even on a Monday, and having the party at the Palermo would put a crimp in the whole thing. And the lighting was more conducive to a party at Exiles & Castaways in any event.

If the party had been Danny’s idea, having dinner with him at McDonald’s before the party had been mine. Like I said, I didn’t see Danny all that much anymore and I wanted some time alone with him, just the two of us like it had been at the very beginning five years ago. I still liked Danny a lot even though I knew it would be hard spending time alone with him. He was always on my case about finding a boyfriend; and as much as I liked talking to him and catching up on the latest news, he could try my patience at times with the whole boyfriend thing.

What was I looking for in a boyfriend? What had I done since the last time we talked to find one? What about this dude or that one? Wouldn’t he be the perfect boyfriend for me?

He was never satisfied with the answers I gave him and I knew he would get on my case about it at some point that evening. I also knew he had my best interests at heart so usually I was willing to put up with his nagging, at least for a while.

And there it was, right on schedule, the moment we finished eating and were just finishing our Cokes.

“So how’s the search for a boyfriend coming along?” Danny asked, looking over at me.

“You’re so predictable, Danny,” I replied, smiling at him, “so predictable. I knew that would be the first thing out of your mouth after we finished eating and catching up on the news.”

“And you’re evasive, as usual,” he responded, grinning at me. “But you know I never give up, Tommy, so, come on and fess up. What’s new on the boyfriend front?”

I remember sighing. He was right. I knew he wouldn’t give up. Danny could be a real nag when he wanted to be.

“I’ve already told you a million times, Danny,” I said. “I’m not looking for a boyfriend. Why do you keep asking when you already know the answer?”

“Because I’m your friend, Tommy,” he replied. “Remember? You would have been sleeping on a park bench that night you arrived in Washington if it wasn’t for me. You would have been arrested and tossed in jail if it wasn’t for me. Boy, was that ever the biggest mistake I made. If you had been arrested, they would have sent you back to Vermont and you would have found yourself a boyfriend by now. So I keep asking because I need to atone for sinning by taking you in that night,” he added.

“You’re not the only sinner in Washington, Danny,” I said, looking over at him and smiling.

Both of us had a good laugh about that.

“You know, Danny, it’s not like I’ve never had a boyfriend before,” I finally continued. “There was Miss Teddy. If I ever decide I want a boyfriend, he’s going to have to be someone special like Teddy.”

Incredibly cute, with a really hot body that was small, tight and smooth; and a total slut, I remember thinking to myself, then smirking. I really liked Miss Teddy a lot!

We had met just before I turned eighteen. He was fourteen at the time, just like I had been when I arrived in Washington. Maybe that’s why I was attracted to him. He was the same age. He was running away. He needed a friend. I felt like that kid in the movie; that Danny had paid it forward for me and now it was my turn to pay it forward for Teddy. So I did. And, the thing is, we almost got there, Teddy and me.

He was perfect, the only boy I ever really totally enjoyed fucking who I didn’t consider a loser. Danny didn’t count, of course. I had only done him that one time and I understood now why he had let me do it to him. Danny wasn’t no bottom anyway. I knew he didn’t like being fucked no matter what he said. Mother Nature had just dealt him a bad set of cards.

But Teddy was different. He didn’t just like being fucked. He loved being fucked and he wasn’t ashamed or embarrassed about it at all. I guess you could say he had the right attitude about sex. He thought it should be fun and he knew what made it fun for him; and if he didn’t know what made it fun for whoever he was with, he made it his business to find out quickly enough. I mean, Teddy was awesome in bed. He knew how to turn me on and he did.

He was everything anyone could have ever wanted in a boyfriend. I mean, he was the cutest boy in D.C., no doubt about it. But there was more to it than the fact that Teddy was cute and terrific in bed. He was also the funniest and the kindest and just the nicest kid in the world. He had the biggest heart of anyone I had ever known and you knew he would have your back in a jam. Say what you will about Miss Teddy, he was a tough little motherfucker. And, the thing is, he liked me. He liked me a lot. I never really understood why.

“So tell me again why it didn’t work out for you and Teddy?” Danny asked. “He was in love with you, Tommy. You do know that, don’t you?”

“Yeah, I know,” I replied. “Why didn’t it work out for us, Danny? Why doesn’t it work out for any of the boys at the Palermo? I mean, Ray wasn’t about to let Teddy move in with me and there was no way the two of us could have made it financially, just like there was no way you and me could have made it. I mean, you have to be practical about things, Danny. The sex was great for both of us. I told him we could still have sex. He just needed to be more realistic. But did he listen to me? No. All he kept saying was that we could do it, that it might take five or ten years but we could do it. We could be a real couple. I just didn’t want to get his hopes up that much.”

“You know what it’s like, Danny,” I continued. “You know you have to be realistic about things. The world doesn’t stop spinning because two people like one another. So I had to break it off. His expectations were just too high. And then Sean arrived in town and that was the end of that because Teddy fell in love with Sean really hard. I mean, you’ve seen it. He loves Sean so much it’s scary.”

“And Sean loves Teddy, too,” Danny responded. “I mean, Sean is head over heels in love with Teddy. They make a great couple, Tommy.”

“And I’m happy for them,” I replied. “I really am. God only knows, I’ve got a lot of faults, Danny, but I don’t have a jealous bone in my body. You know that. It gives me a warm feeling inside just looking at the two of them. They’re my best friends. But being in love doesn’t change anything. It’s not like they can live together or be a real couple.”

“I know,” Danny responded. “But they keep talking about being a real couple. They keep saying they’re going to make it as a real couple in five or ten years.”

“Yeah, right,” I interjected, “and Sean keeps talking about finding his perfect best friend in the meantime. The dude who’s going to help him finance that education he says he wants to get so he can support Teddy and they can be a real couple; the dude who’s not going to be jealous of his relationship with Teddy; the dude who’s not going to want to fuck him.”

“Give me a break, Danny,” I added. “I mean, it’s not like I’m going to piss on their parade, but how realistic is that?”

“Maybe it’s not realistic to you and me, Tommy, but they seem to think it’s realistic,” Danny responded. “They understand what it takes to survive on the streets, but they never get jealous when one of them goes off with someone. They’re not possessive. They support each other through thick and thin, come hell or high water. And even though Sean isn’t making very much progress in finding that best friend, the two of them cling to that dream they have of a better future together. What’s the harm? Who knows, maybe it’ll work out for them.”

“I hope it does,” I replied. “I totally support them and would do anything to help those guys. But come on, Danny? How realistic is it? You have to be practical about things like that. You know that.”

So that was another thing too. If I ever decided I wanted a boyfriend, he would have to be older than me and have a good job, a nice place to live and enough money to support both of us. I mean, I wasn’t going to be owned. I could carry my own weight financially. But it would work better if the dude was well off and could take care of the big stuff like cars and a place to live.

And be a nice little homemaker, too, keep the place clean, do the washing, and know how to cook. He was going to have to be a nice little wife, I remember thinking, and by now I was smirking. And like lifting and spreading his legs like a good little wife too. He was going to have to be a bottom, a total bottom, just like I was a total top.

And not be possessive and clingy like the guys Sean was checking out as potential best friends. That was important. No way was I going to limit myself to just one guy or just to guys for that matter either. It was going to have to be a totally open relationship. It was going to have to work for me and the dude was going to have to accept that if he wanted to be my boyfriend. If I decided I want a boyfriend at all, that is.

“Like I said, Danny, I’m not really sure I want a boyfriend,” I continued. “And it isn’t like I need one after all. Everything is going just fine. I have money in the bank. I can take care of myself. And I have friends too, lots of friends. Isn’t that what the party tonight is all about? Why do I need a boyfriend?”

“Come on,” I added. “It’s time to get over to Exiles & Castaways.”

The two of us got up and walked out the door. It was one of those beautiful Spring evenings in Washington that were much too rare for my liking.

We had just passed the Palermo when he raised it again.

“If you did want a boyfriend, what would be the one or two things you would be looking for in one, the most important things?” Danny asked.

“Two,” I replied, “that’s all I get? Two things?”

I didn’t want to hear this all the way over to Exiles & Castaways. The whole conversation was starting to get on my nerves, just like it always did eventually.

“If I ever decide I want a boyfriend and can only have two things, I guess she’ll need to be like that McDonald’s we ate at tonight, Danny,” I said.

“What do you mean?” he asked.

“She’ll need to be golden and have legs that are open twenty-four hours a day,” I replied, smirking at him.

I thought it would make him laugh, but Danny didn’t say anything at first.

“I don’t believe you just said that,” he finally replied, shaking his head in disgust. “I mean, I like you, Tommy. I like you a lot. You have so much going for you. But you need help more today than you did five years ago when you first showed up at the Palermo. You’ve changed, Tommy, and not for the better. It isn’t just about money and sex. You need to let somebody love you.”

“And you need to lighten up,” I shot back.

I remember being ticked off by his reaction.

“It was a joke, Danny. I was kidding,” I added, although deep down inside I wondered about that.

“And don’t give me that bullshit about love either. You’ve worked the streets, Danny. You know what it’s like out there. Love? Give me a break for crying out loud. Love is just a pretty four letter word. Does Barrett love you, Danny? Or does he really just love fucking that ass of yours? ”

It was cruel and I was sorry I had said it and I should have apologized, but I didn’t. I wanted him to get off of my case and I was hoping it would shut him up.

But Danny refused to back off. He could be just as hard-headed as me in some ways.

“You’re wrong about that, Tommy,” he responded, “about love just being a four letter word. And, no, my relationship with Barrett isn’t perfect. But he does care about me and the person I really loved . . . . ”

It took him a moment, but he finally recovered and got the words out.

“Well, let’s just say that person wasn’t available to me. But you, Tommy; you have so much going for you. You’re incredibly good looking. You have a really hot bod. You’re smart. You’re the best friend anyone could ever want. You succeed at whatever you put your mind to. All of the other boys look up to you. Everybody wants to love you. Why won’t you let someone in?”

“Give it a break, will you, Danny?” I replied. “This is getting old. You use to be fun. You’re one of my very best friends. And I really hope things work out for you. I really do. I hope you find love or whatever it is you’re looking for. But love is for other people, not me. Who needs it?”

By then we were at the door to Exiles & Castaways and I was glad about that. One thing I didn’t need any more right about then was this conversation; that was for sure. I mean, I wasn’t the one being kept by some daddy. I was in charge of my life. Nobody owned me. Everything was fine.

If anything was wrong at all, it was this stupid city. The only things people in Washington really cared about were money and power. Sex was just a means to those things. But even stabbing one another in the back and getting money and power wasn’t enough in Washington. No, once they had both of those, the fucking assholes insisted on being loved as well.

Give me a break for crying out loud!

So, yeah, maybe everything wasn’t perfect, but who had a perfect life? Maybe I just needed a change. I had the money now. I could do that. I wouldn’t have to take no stinking bus. I could fly. Hell, I could fly first class if I wanted. There was nothing keeping me in Washington. Maybe the only thing I really needed was a change of scenery, some place warmer, some place better. Maybe some place like California.

Enough, Tommy, I said to myself. Stop with all of this shit. Tonight is supposed to be about having fun, not having another one of these stupid conversations with Danny about boyfriends and love.

Most of the guys were already there when I pushed open the door and the two of us walked in. They stood up and gave us a round of applause. I remember smiling at that. It made me feel good to see so many friends. You didn’t really want to exclude anyone, but Danny, Teddy and Sean had done a really good job deciding who to invite and I was grateful for that.

There had been twelve of us when the celebration began and it turned out to be a hell of a party. Everyone had a good time. I even paid for the first round of drinks, which caused everyone to pretend they were having heart attacks because they knew how tight I was when it came to money. It made me laugh watching them falling down and clutching their hearts like that.

We began with toasts all around and I made a couple right at the beginning. I began by toasting Danny, Teddy and Sean for throwing the party and everyone whistled and stomped their approval. Then I toasted the rest of the guys who were there for being the best friends any guy could have. I even went around the room and said something personal about each of them so they would know how special they were.

They made a whole bunch of wise cracks while I was doing that, but I held my own and was pretty sure they felt good about being mentioned like that. And then, for my final one, I toasted Bob. Bob was the guy who had delivered me out of Vermont and I remember wondering where he was now and whether he was happy. Even after all these years, I was still grateful to him for the ride and the food.

The toast to Bob got me thinking about Vermont again and I wondered how Josh was doing. I hardly ever thought about him anymore. I knew he had gone to college and figured he must have graduated by now. I didn’t know whether he would be back in Vermont or somewhere else.

Wherever he was, I remember hoping he was still together with that kid from New York, whatever his name was. I couldn’t remember and I wasn’t sure the two of them would still be together, but I hoped so. Josh was a really nice guy and deserved someone special in his life.

After I had finished, the guys toasted me. Roasted me is more like it because they began telling tales out of school about some of the more embarrassing or weird things that had happened to me over the course of the previous five years.

Danny started the whole thing off by recounting the story about the john I had run into that first night.

“Are you sure he was looking for BJ, Tommy?” Danny asked. “Or do think maybe you missed a word? Cuz I kind of think that dude was looking for a bj myself.”

By then everyone was laughing and who could blame them. I was so dumb back then I didn’t have a clue the guy was looking for a blow job. Like I said, everyone got a real howl out of that. There was nothing I could do. I just had to sit there and take it.

But Danny wasn’t content with just one tale. He knew where all the early skeletons in my closet were buried and he brought every one of them out that night. It was kind of embarrassing for sure, but he did it in a way that really reflected how he felt about me. I knew deep down inside Danny still liked me a lot and I felt the same way about him.

Some of the guys actually had me in stitches, especially Sean and Miss Teddy. Other than Danny, they knew me better than just about anyone so they had lots of gossip to pass around and they did. I wondered if my reputation would be permanently damaged, but it was all in fun so I tried not to let it bother me. And then, when all the toasting and roasting was done, they brought out the gifts. Not real ones, of course, just gag gifts.

I must have gotten two or three dildos that evening, a pair of silk panties and a couple of bras because of my exploits with the girls, a pair of handcuffs, and some other stuff as well, including five previously used condoms from Percy to use as proof when the dude I was fucking wasn’t worth the time or the effort. Talk about nasty!

Like I said, it was a hell of a party and I was glad we had done it. In all the years I was growing up in Vermont, my parents never gave me a party, a cake or anything really. So, yeah, it felt good. But slowly everyone began drifting off.

Danny was the first one to leave. He had insisted on coming despite Barrett’s objections. But he had promised to be home early so I knew he would have to leave like that. It was a long walk back over to Georgetown for him. He had money enough for a taxi, but I knew he would walk. He said walking helped him clear his head and he pretty much walked everywhere now.

I followed him to the door and told him how much I appreciated what he had done for me over the years. He kind of smiled, but I could see a couple of tears in his eyes and then I could feel some welling up in my eyes as well. I don’t know why exactly, but seeing Danny was always tough; watching him leave that night was even tougher. I mean, the thing is, he knew the real me, at least I hope he still did. I didn’t know the real me anymore, that was for sure.

Everyone needed to make a living, of course, even on a Monday evening. So by 11:00 it was just me, Miss Teddy, and Sean. And that was okay with me too because Sean and Teddy were my two very best friends now. The three of us were tight, really tight.

We were just sitting there talking about nothing at all when the guy walked in off the street. He looked around the place, saw how empty it was, and then tried to figure out whether he wanted to stay. Finally, he walked over to the bar, bought himself a beer and sat down at a table across the room from the three of us. I remember being surprised anyone would be at the place on a Monday evening.

“Hmmm,” Sean finally said, breaking the silence, “not bad. Not bad at all. That could be the best friend I’m looking for.”

Both Teddy and I laughed at that. I mean, Sean had hustled for a couple of months when he first arrived in Washington. After that he had begun his quest for that perfect best friend. By the time of the party he had run through a whole slew of them and still hadn’t found Mr. Perfect.

I looked over at the guy and knew why Sean had said it though. He wasn’t half bad at all. Like me, smaller rather than taller but in pretty good shape it seemed. Nice looking. He was also wearing some really excellent clothes; the kind that spelled m-o-n-e-y, not the kind you usually saw all that much in our neighborhood. You could tell he didn’t belong, but I remember having a hard time pegging his age. Usually I was good at that.

“How old do you think that dude is?” I asked Sean and Teddy.

“24, maybe 25,” Teddy responded, and Sean just nodded his agreement.

“Which is just the right age, at least for me,” Teddy continued; “old enough to have a paycheck coming in every week, but still young enough to have fun in bed with. And he must have a pretty good job, too, because those clothes he’s wearing don’t come cheaply either. Have either of you seen him around before? I sure haven’t.”

“Me either,” Sean replied. “With those clothes, he’s definitely not from Outlaws or Phil’s. From the look of things, I expect he usually hangs out at Hide & Seek or The Pier with the rest of Washington’s beautiful people. I wonder what brings him over to this part of town.”

“Maybe he’s looking for some fun with a bad boy,” Teddy suggested, smiling and starting to get excited. “I sure hope so because I’m up for some fun myself right about now.”

I had to laugh. Other than Sean, there was nothing in life Teddy loved more than having fun so his reaction wasn’t all that surprising. Teddy loved having fun with anyone; and, the truth is, if you went to bed with Teddy you were almost guaranteed to have fun. Lots of it!

“I don’t think so,” Sean replied. “I mean, if he was looking for fun, why would he here? This place is totally dead. Plus he’s not that bad looking. He doesn’t really need to pay for sex with a bad boy. Hell, there are plenty of bad boys like you that would do him for free, Teddy.”

“I do you for free, Sean, so don’t be jealous now babe,” Teddy responded, sticking his tongue out at Sean. Both Sean and I laughed at that.

That was pretty much the end of it until a couple of minutes later when Teddy piped up again.

“Oh, crap,” he said, “he’s looking at you, Tommy. I’ve been keeping an eye on him discreetly ever since he sat down and he’s been focused completely on you. Hasn’t even given me a once over. Or Sean for that matter either.”

I glanced over and caught the guy staring at me. He looked away quickly and I could tell he was embarrassed at getting caught like that.

“Now give him your very best little boy smile, Tommy,” Sean chimed in, trying to egg me on. “Let him know you’re interested and available, babe. If the price is right, of course,” he added, smirking. “Because from the way he’s staring at you, I think he might actually pay for your company.”

“Forget about it,” I replied. “This shop is closed for the evening. If I was interested in making a buck, I would be over at the Palermo.”

“So go ahead and celebrate then,” Teddy replied, trying to be helpful. “It’s your anniversary, babe. Loosen up and treat yourself nice for a change. He’s more than not bad. He’s actually very good looking and definitely available for the asking. Go ahead and have some fun for a change. You’re way too serious for your own good lately, Tommy. It doesn’t always have to be about money, does it?”

“No, it doesn’t,” I agreed. “And don’t you get started on me either, Teddy. I’ve already had that lecture from Danny tonight. But we don’t really know that dude is interested in me, do we?”

“I know he’s interested in you,” Teddy replied, nodding affirmatively.

“Me too,” Sean added, smiling at me. “That isn’t a once over he’s been giving you, Tommy. That’s a please come over here and let me suck your cock look. He wants you, dude, and really badly too. It’s almost pathetic how desperately he wants you.”

Sean and Teddy were right. I knew it. I had known it from the moment he first looked over at me. When you had spent as much time as I had on the streets, it was pretty easy to tell when someone was more than just interested. But I wasn’t sure I was interested myself.

“He could be like Ray,” I mused, trying to deflect their efforts on my behalf. “You know, into looking, not touching.”

“No one is like Ray, Tommy,” Teddy replied, rolling his eyes. “He’s probably just shy. I’m sure if you returned his smile he would come over, Tommy. Please smile at him, babe. If you’re too lazy to make the effort, I’ll certainly offer myself up as a suitable consolation prize.”

“No,” I finally responded, firmly.

“He needs to suffer more,” I added, grinning at the two them and turning away momentarily so the guy would think I was ignoring him. Both Teddy and Sean laughed at that.

Later, when I looked up again, he was still staring at me. But he looked away quickly enough when he realized he had been caught once again.

“You’re a cruel master,” Teddy piped up, finally aware of what I was doing. “Just a total bitch, that’s what you are. I guess that’s why everyone loves Tommy so much, isn’t it Sean? Because he’s not only the cutest dude in Washington, he’s evil, just totally evil.”

“Well, yeah, for sure, but what else is new,” Sean replied. “In affairs of the heart, timing is everything.”

“Well, if that’s the case, I think Mr. Tommy may have overplayed his hand,” Teddy said. “Because I think our mystery man may be about to leave us.”

I glanced over just in time to see him stand up. He looked toward the door momentarily, then sat down again, placed his elbows on the table, and buried his head in his hands as if he was trying to figure out what to do next.

“Go on, Tommy,” Sean said. “This is the perfect opportunity. Go over there and make the poor dude’s night just by smiling at him. He’s in pain from wanting you so much. Put him out of his misery.”

By now the two of them had worn me down and I had to admit all of their talk had gotten me a little horny, maybe even more than just a little. It seemed like they were determined to make sure I got off that evening and by then I wasn’t really about to object. Apart from my customers, I had been spending way too much time with Mr. Hand lately and it was getting old.

“Okay, I surrender,” I replied. “I will. Just don’t abandon me, guys. None of us know this dude. I need you to cover my back in case things get nasty.”

But I already knew things weren’t going to get nasty. Not with this dude, whoever he was. He was hooked. If I wanted him, I just needed to reel him in.

[You may want to read this post on my blog before reading Chapter 31]