XOXO NIGHT TEMPEST
Read My Mind Playlist
Playing for Keeps - Elle King
Put The Gun Down - ZZ Ward
WAtching You Watch Him - Eric Hutchinson
Give me love - Ed Sheeran
Pray On Me - Kill It Kid
Bloom - The Paper Kites
Black Sheep - Gin Wigmore
Wicked Game - Phillip Phillips
I Will Wait - Mumford & Sons
If I Die Young - The Band Perry
Same - Snow Patrol
where Does the Good Go - Tegan and Sara
Entwined - Tim Myers
Tornado - Little Big Town
Thin Line - honeyhoney
Change - Churchill
Lazy Eye - Silversun Pickups
Stay - Rihanna
Lost In My Mind - The Head and the Heart
Sleep When We Die (feat. Keith Richards) - K'naan
READ MY MIND: PART 2
Pop Olivette sat on the porch with his shotgun across his lap, watching the headlights of a truck pull up the drive. Sheriff Beauchamp waved to the driver, before turning around to watch the road. Todd had finally given up for the night and gone home. But the Sheriff knew he’d be back. The crazies always came back. At least they could breathe a little easier until he did.
With the sun gone at least an hour ago, the heat of the night swallowed them all. The crickets called to one another in the woods. A few birds rustled here and there. All was peaceful for a nice Kentucky spring night. Noah was careful not to slam the door to his truck, and waited for Jamie to walk around. The blonde carried a plate in his hand, definitely courtesy of Miss Merna. That boy didn’t know how to cook, despite his best efforts, Pop smiled.
Grunting around a bit Pop got to his feet. The business end of his shotgun pointed to the ground. “Evenin boys.”
“Pop.” Jamie smiled. “I thought you could use some brownies. Or Miss Merna did, but I kept them safe for you.”
“My wife might beg to differ on that.” Pop rubbed his belly, chuckling. “She don’t think I need any sugar.”
“Aw, but Miss Merna made your favorite.” Jamie tilted the plate a little. “Double fudge brownies.”
Pop looked from side to side before taking the steps to the grass. “Now don’t you tell Willa about this. If she asks, I didn’t see no brownies.” He grinned, wiggling his big fingers under the saran wrap until he gripped a small brownie.
“What brownie?” Noah smiled.
Pop’s mouth was too full to answer. He closed his eyes, chewing the chocolate goodness with a groan. Jamie patted him on the arm. “Told you he couldn’t resist,” he said to Noah.
“You’re gonna get him in trouble. Got keep this on the down low.” Noah looked around pop. “Did we miss all the excitement?”
Jamie followed his gaze, finally seeing Matt and Sam asleep in their own rocking chairs on the porch. “No wonder Mason couldn’t get a hold of him. Damn, is he snoring?”
“Leave them be,” Pop whispered, licking his fingers. “It’s been a long day. Let em rest.”
“I’ll call Mason. He was kind of worried.” Jamie handed the plate to Noah, and pulled out his cell phone.
“How did the show go, boy? Ya’ll only been gone one day and it’s too quiet around here without ya.” Pop slung an arm around Noah.
“Got quite a few offers. Nice folks too.” Noah smiled. “This lady from New Orleans wants us to work with her on an estate being built just north of here. She owns a bunch of bed and breakfasts around Kentucky and Louisiana, and liked our style. This could be huge. On top of the online store, and the custom jobs and showings, we’re going to have to hire someone else to help.”
“Well, damn, boy. That’s great news.” Pop hugged him. “Real proud of you boys.”
Noah shook his head, a little embarrassed. “Thanks, pop.”
“Aw, don’t blush.” Pop ruffled his hair.
They opened the door as Mason leaned his head back, and snored so loud, he sounded like a sleeping bear. Pop covered his mouth. Noah hissed into his elbow to keep from laughing. Jamie grinned, taking up the rear, and pushing them inside.
“Mason’s on his way to come and get sleeping beauty,” he whispered.
The door shut, and Jamie and Noah stopped dead in their tracks. Pop cleared his throat, eyeing his wife. Willa kept her lips pressed together, laughter in her eyes as a woman waved a smoking bundle of sage around the room. A man stood in the middle of her little circle, humming to himself.
“What the fuck.” Noah’s eyes almost popped out of his head.
“I’ll second that,” Jamie breathed.
“Boys, this is Rory Jackson.” Pop pointed to the man, who didn’t open his eyes, but raised a hand. “And this is his wife Dove.”
The woman swept by them, an orange tie-dye dress fluttering around her. “Very good energy.” She waved the sage in their corner. “Both of you,” she sang.
“Mm, I agree.” The man smiled with his eyes closed.
Pop put a hand over his eyes, groaning under his breath. Willa stood, careful to give Dove her space, and went to pop. “You boys feel like joining me in the kitchen?”
“Yes, Ma’am.” Jamie nodded, tugging his man behind him. Noah’s eyes were still wide as saucers, dragging his feet to the kitchen to get every glimpse of the craziness in the living room that he could.
Everyone gathered around the butcher’s block in the kitchen. Willa laughed behind her hand. Setting down the brownies, Jamie leaned over. “What in the hell is that?”
“Well, a lot happened while ya’ll were gone to the show.” Pop giggled into Willa’s hair, holding her around the waist.
“I’ll say,” Noah murmured.
“We don’t know any Jacksons around here, do we?” Jamie leaned back to look through the archway. Dove started to moan deep in her throat, waving her hands above her head. Slowly, Jamie looked back to Pop. “No way.”
“Ya’ll be nice. The Jacksons are here for the weekend. They came to see their son, Adam.” Willa slapped pop’s hand as it went for a brownie.
“We don’t know any Adams either.” A wrinkle appeared between Noah’s brows. “Do we?”
“By association, we do.” Willa sighed. “You see, it’s like this. Adam was visiting Todd Paola for the weekend, or some such. Found out his no good rat of a boyfriend was tramping around, and took off down the road mad as hell.”
“Todd has a boyfriend?” Noah threw his head back and laughed. “Good one, Willa.”
“Boy, you watch yourself. I’m serious as a heart attack.” She smoothed her hair back. “Poor baby. Sam hit his car coming down the road, fast a wild stallion, trying to get Perry to the doc. His car was totaled and he blacked out. Got some nasty bruises and a concussion. It’s by a miracle he made it out alive, let alone barely touched.”
“Oh God.” Jamie gasped. “Is everyone okay? Why didn’t anyone call us?”
“Ya’ll were headed straight to the show last night after the bar. That was your big thing. We didn’t need to go and spoil it. Don’t be mad at Matt, neither. We told him not to say anything. And yes, everyone’s alright. The boys are sleeping it off. They’ll be right as rain after a good rest.” Pop smiled.
Noah shook his head. “Let me guess, Perry got into it with Mayfield? Joe was starting crap when we left.”
Willa rolled her eyes. “You know my boy, trying to be everyone’s knight in shining armor. I’ve got good mind to beat him upside the head, but … I would’ve probably took a switch to Joe myself had I been there. Such hate for a boy of the Lord. His whole family, them people, should be ashamed of themselves. Ain’t no place for those kind of words under God’s blue skies. Makes me angry just talking about it.”
“We have to ignore them, Willa.” Noah put his hand over hers. “Words can’t hurt you if you don’t care about them.”
“True. I just hate that you boys ever have to hear that kind of slander, hurts my heart because you’re all such good people with hearts of gold.” She cupped his face. “But you’re right, being the bigger person is always best. Wish my own boy could understand that.”
Noah gave her a little hug. “He will, eventually. Give him some time. His heart is in the right place. The rest of him will catch up.” The little group was startled as Dove began singing down the hall. Rory came in behind her, pausing in the kitchen with another little wave.
“Where are they going?” Pop rounded the island. “Ya’ll leave them boys alone. Don’t you pull out that tambourine again! I done told ya twice!”
Willa covered her mouth, losing her composure. The boys didn’t know whether to run away, and save themselves from a tribal tambourine pow-wow, or to save Perry and the new kid from absolute humiliation. They settled for sniggering on their way to find Pop, if only to see the look on Perry’s face when he found people dancing in his bedroom.
Adam played dead, out of embarrassment, the entire night. He listened to Perry yell at his parents. He heard their shocked responses. More people came into the room, whispered furiously with Perry. He heard his name a few times, but he was actually too tired to care. Before the room went silent for the night, he felt a hand soothe over his hair, pushing his sweaty locks away from his face.
“You’re parents are crazy,” Perry whispered near his ear, thinking he was asleep. “How the hell did you turn out so normal?” Controlling the smile that threatened to burst across his lips, Adam sighed and went to sleep.
The next morning, Adam awoke to pure chaos. Someone banged on the window behind his head. He thought he heard a scream with his name. He gasped, twisting in terror. The sound scared him half to death. Not a clue what was happening, he moved too far, and fell to the floor. Hit body lit up with pain, and for the first time in a long time, he cried. Not a crying mess, but enough to feel his emotions wet his face. Moving hurt too much, so he was glad to hear footsteps racing towards him.
“Adam!” Perry barked, crouching next to him. “Shit. Come here.” Hands slid under his back, gently lifting him into the air. “Mama! Shit. That’s right, she’s outside. Damn it.”
“What’s happening?” Adam hissed. His ass slid against the bed again. Perry laid him out, careful as he could.
“I don’t think you want to know. Truthfully, if I talk about it, I reckon I’ll punch my hand right through the wall.” Perry narrowed his eyes at the window. His fists balled on his knees as he sat.
“Where is everyone?” Adam groaned, rubbing his bare chest. The wrapping was coming loose on one side, releasing the pressure across his upper body. It hurt like hell.
“That crazy church group from Leighton caught wind of the accident with your car. Somebody heard the Sheriff call it in on one of them radios. You know those police fanatics with nothing better to do. Heard my name, your name, Todd’s name, and I have no doubt, Joe Mayfield got involved. One thing led to another, and apparently we got ourselves a gay shelter in Shermin or something. The religious hooligans are out there on the street yelling and trying to scare us.”
“What?” Adam shot up, groaning immediately.
Perry relaxed him back to the bed. “Fuck, boy. Lie back down before you give me a heart attack.”
“I don’t know who Joe is, but I’ve heard of the Leighton group before. They’ve picketed in Frankfort several times. One of my friends was beat within an inch of his life, but they could never pin it on them. I wrote an article on it for work. The Leighton Assembly, as they call themselves, targeted me for a while, but I think after the attack, they had to lie low. Scary mother fuckers.”
“You one of those fancy writers for the paper?” Perry looked at him.
Adam tried to smile. “Not a fancy writer. I blog for an online, gay magazine.”
“Blog? You lost me.”
“The magazine has a bunch of different writers all over the country. Each of us has our own blog, a personal website, that the magazine features when we post a new article. Everything from fashion, lifestyle, gay friendly businesses to food, personal experiences, and religion, we write about it all.”
Perry nodded, understanding for the most part. “What do you write about?”
“Personal experience. Most of the time, I write about my own life, romance, being in a relationship, and my everyday routine. My followers ask questions and I give them advice.”
“You make money off that?” Perry whistled low. “Man, that’s something. I can barely work a computer, let alone make a career off it. That’s cool, though. Sorry about your friend. That’s some messed up shit.”
“Yeah.” Adam looked away, overwhelmed by not only Perry, but the entire situation outside. “Uh, are my parents okay? I know they’re a bit crazy, but, you know?”
Perry grinned. “I got to give it to your mama. I think that woman done shocked the pants off them church crazies. Out there since this morning, doing this thing she called yogi, yona, or something.”
“Yoga,” Adam corrected.
“That’s it. Yeah, she was doing yoga. Then she and your daddy started playing guitar and singing, dancing the Kumbaya. Lord, was that a sight to see. Told them people they needed to step off the property because she done cleansed it, and she didn’t want no bad energy near her baby.” Perry slapped his knee. “You should’ve seen their faces! Like the devil was prancing around their first born naked. Good God all mighty, it was funny.”
“I’m sorry if they freaked you out. My parents mean well. They just don’t understand the meaning of normal.”
“Hey now, they took me by surprise last night. Coming in here while we were sleeping and what not, scared me a bit. But you know what? They ain’t so bad. Loved you enough to come all the way here and fight off Todd, and now, the rest of them. They do mean well, and they aren’t hurtin anybody. If your mama and daddy think waving smoke around the house and twirling around the front yard will fix you, then that’s all that matters, right?”
Adam finally smiled. “Right.” He took a deep breath. “What about Todd, what happened to him?”
“As much as I hate that son-of-a-bitch, he’s right out there with our people, cussing and hollering at the Leighton folks. Got a mean broom hand too, swatting at them bastards if they get too close.”
“No.” Adam grabbed Perry’s hand. “Go out there and tell them not to retaliate. I’m serious. That’s what they want. If anyone from Shermin attacks them, they’ll press charges. They have the best lawyers in the state, Perry. Even if it’s your property, they’ll make bad things happen. They want to publically humiliate us any way they can.”
“Double shit. Stay here and I’ll go talk with Sheriff Beauchamp.”
“Wait, can you help me up before you go?”
“You need to stay in bed. You’re worse off than I was. Look at you.”
“How am I supposed to do that, exactly? I don’t have mirror, and I need to pee, thank you very much.”
“Oh, okay.” Perry eased his hands up Adam’s arms. Soft and warm under his fingers, he felt the man shiver under his touch.
Adam looked away. “I’m not made of glass. Just help me onto my feet, please?”
Perry cleared his throat. “I’m trying to be gentle here. You’re not made of glass, but you’re hurt. I’m not an asshole. You’re kind of sassy for a little guy.”
“I am not little. Fuck you.”
Grinning from ear to ear, Perry helped him up. “See what I mean? Sassy.”
“Oh shut up. I’m about to pee all over this bed if you don’t let me go. Sassy,” he muttered.
“You need any help? One time I pulled something in my back and I had to sit to…”
“Yeah, I don’t sit down to pee, princess.” Adam snorted. “And wasn’t it just last night you were defending your straight honor over a single word? Now you’re offering to help me go to the bathroom? Did you change your mind overnight or something?”
“I didn’t mean it like that.” Perry leaned back. “I was just…”
“I’m teasing you.” Adam dragged his feet across the room, his head throbbing from lying down for so long. “Don’t get your panties in a bunch, princess.”
Perry frowned. “Don’t call me that.” He watched the adjoining bathroom door close. “Damn it.” He slumped to the bed. “I ain’t no princess,” he whispered to himself. “I’m an Olivette. We’re men.”
“Who are you talking to?” Matt leaned in the doorway. “Having a midlife crisis a little early?”
“Man,” Perry groaned.
Relaxed in Pop’s recliner by the window, Adam watched the small band of protestors outside. Their peaceful gathering was permitted for the next forty-eight hours by local law enforcement. Until then, they had to endure the profanities and signs with slanderous hate. Then there was the fact that none of them felt safe enough to leave the yard, let alone the property. Everyone was tired, hungry, and not too happy, Adam especially. Across from him, sitting on the couch between Noah and Jamie, was Todd. Adam narrowed his eyes.
“Are you going to do that the entire time, baby? It was a misunderstanding. How many times do I have to say it?”
“Til you die, you liar.” Adam folded his over his chest. “Have fun with that, and don’t you call me baby one more damn time.”
“Language,” Willa and Dove said at the same time. They looked each other, smiling.
“I hate being stuck here with him. This is worse than hell!” Adam fumed.
“That’s low, Adam.” Todd pouted.
Jamie hit him upside the head. “You keep talking, and we’ll have to take a little trip to the barn for some Rihanna.”
The Shermin boys sniggered quietly. Todd stiffened before sinking back into the couch. He didn’t say another word.
“What, is that some code? Did you all get a go at my ex too?” Adam shook his head. “I need to get out of here. I’ll be on the back porch.”
“Wear a sweater,” Rory coaxed.
“Dad, it’s eighty-five degrees outside.” Adam struggled up from his chair, wincing as he went. His dad frowned. “Okay.” He sighed. “I’ll take a sweater.”
For his dad to frown meant he was being a dick. Rory Jackson was never anything but happy. His dad squeezed his hand as he passed. For as different as they were, he still loved his parents very much. The small gesture comforted Adam, but he wasn’t about to make a big deal about it in front of the small crowd.
Taking his phone off of the charger in the kitchen, he padded slowly to the back door. A series of floor to ceiling windows, framed in a rich, glossy oak, opened up the large dining room to the outside. Or just gave the appearance of doing so. The river wrapped around the back of the property, shimmering in the moonlight, surrounded by a thick patch of woods. The rest of the yard was nothing but open land, wide fields this side of the water that begged to be run through. Fireflies buzzed in and out of existence as he pushed open the slider, and inhaled the scent of the night.
Bare feet kicked up the table with his back to Adam, lounged Perry. The tip of his cigarette glowed orange in the dark as he inhaled deeply, relaxing his broad shoulders into the back of the chair. Adam stopped for a second, studying the country boy in all his glory. The scent of Turkish vanilla enveloped him. The way the moonlight shaded his features in a whisper of blue made Adam weak. This place and these men were unlike anything he’d ever encountered. Shermin Heights wasn’t just southern, it was magical.
Adam found himself entranced as Perry absently grabbed his longneck off the table and took a swig. The way his neck tilted back made Adam step to the side. He had to watch those lips wrap around the bottle. He had to watch the slow swallow of cold beer go down. He had to…
“You gonna stand there and watch me all night, or you wanna take a seat?” Perry wet his lips, putting the bottle down for another drag on his cigarette.
“I didn’t want to bother you.”
“Uh huh.” Perry leaned to the side, rummaging through a bucket of ice before he produced another beer. “Want one?”
Adam took the other seat, propping his legs up on the wooden railing. “Sure.” He took the icy bottle, twisting the top off for a nice long chug.
“Had to get out of there?”
“Yeah.” Adam wiped his mouth on the back of his hand. “I hate Todd.”
“You and me both.” Perry took another sip. “He used to be with Noah a while back, cheated on him too. Then when Matt and Mason were dancing around each other, the bastard tried to swoop in on Matt. He really has a thing for our boys.”
Adam looked away. “Really?” His voice was a bit shaky. “How long ago?”
“This past summer he tried to get with Matt. That would mean he was…” Perry looked over. He saw Adam shut his eyes. “I didn’t mean to make you upset. I’m sorry. The bright side of all this, is that you know now, and you can move on.”
“How am I supposed to move on from that?” Adam whipped his head around, needing to get it off his chest. “He was perfect, Perry. Now every time a guy seems interested, I won’t believe them. Two years is a long time. Most people get married after one. Not like we could get married if we wanted to. The law and all, but that’s two years that I trusted a man, and thought he loved me. How am I supposed to trust someone else? I’ll always be looking over my shoulder, so to speak, wondering what they’re doing when they’re not with me. He’s ruined me, Perry. And I hate him for that, but I still … I still love him for some reason.”
Perry put his beer down. “No you don’t.”
“How can you say that? You didn’t wake up next to him almost every morning. You didn’t share a bathroom with him. You weren’t there when he brought me lunch. You weren’t there when he leaned over and kissed me just because. You weren’t there when he held me all night. You don’t know what love is until you’ve had it.”
“I know that you can’t possibly love a man that ripped your heart from you. I know that you’re a good person who deserves better than that. I also know that you’re strong enough to tell the world about who you are, and help them other boys that are lost, try and find their way on that website of yours. You’ll find what you’re looking for, eventually. It’s just going to take some time.”
“I don’t want to wait anymore. I’ve waited long enough.” Adam wiped tears from his face. “Do you know how hard it is to find a guy like Todd, or the idea of him? With all the guys out there that only want to party their early years away and fuck around? No. You don’t. It’s different for you.”
“Is that so?” Perry nodded bitterly. “You’re wrong.”
“Oh really? Look at you,” Adam spat.
Perry snorted, shaking his head. “Boy, I might seem like I don’t care about all that or can get what I want, that I’m just some ignorant country boy that could care less about love, but I want it just like everyone else. I know what people see when they look at me. No college degree. No house of my own. I work in a lumber yard to pay for my booze and spend most nights at the bar because I ain’t got no-one to come home to, except my mama and daddy. I live in my brother’s shadow.
“He was the football star. He got himself a pretty little gal, Jenna. They’re getting married and my mama couldn’t be happier. She’s gonna get herself a grandbaby soon. We all know it. They don’t see me looking to settle down anytime soon, but that’s only cause no one wants me, because I’m just the ignorant country boy. Can’t provide for no woman much less make her love me. So, yeah, I do understand.”
“You’re not stupid, Perry.” Adam frowned.
“Yeah, I am.” Perry stood, finishing off the last of his beer. “I’m done moping around. I’m gonna go for a swim. It’s too hot out here and it’s been one long ass day. Nothing like a night swim to get over shit.”
“You shouldn’t do that. You’ve been drinking. You’ll cramp up.”
“If that’s the worst of my concerns, I think I’ll be just fine.” Perry pulled his shirt over his head.
Adam’s mouth opened a little at the sight of a well-toned chest, and dark hair under Perry’s arms. His mouth watered. He looked away. “Then I guess I’ll babysit you. Your mom would kill me if you drowned.” The chair squeaked over the deck.
“You just want to see me naked.” Perry pulled another beer from the bucket and took the steps down into the yard like that was that.
“I do not!” Adam groaned his way down four steps.
“Sure you do!” Perry wiggled out of his jeans, leaving them on the grass. “And you know what? I’m man enough with myself to let you. I’m an Olivette, damn it. We don’t care about all that.”
“Shit,” Adam hissed. He watched the man run across the yard in nothing but a pair of boxers. “Perry!”
As he followed the drunk, half naked hottie out to the water, his phone buzzed in his sweatshirt. Adam answered it, trying his best to maneuver the uneven slope of the yard. “Hello?”
“Where have you been, Adam? I’ve been calling you for two days,” Kurt, his boss, relayed with concern.
“Shit. I mean, sorry, I had a little situation.”
“Is everything okay? It’s unlike you to not meet your deadline. When I couldn’t get ahold of you, I freaked out a little.”
“I’m okay now. I went to visit Todd and got into an accident.”
“Oh my God! Adam, are you hurt? Did he hit you?”
Adam groaned. “No, Kurt. I meant car accident. I’m a little banged up, and I had to get some stitches, but that’s the least of my worries now.” He covered the phone. “Perry! Don’t get in that water!” Perry flashed him a smile, spotlighted by the moon. He yanked his boxers down over the perfect swell of his ass, did a drunken shimmy, and splashed into the river.
“Damn it.” His fingers splayed, almost dropping the phone. His boss’s voice reminded him of where he was. “Adam!”
“Yeah, I’m here. I’m not sure if I can put anything on the site this week, Kurt. I’m still out of town, my parents are here, and the Leighton Assembly showed up. It’s a fucking mess.”
“Holy crap, Leighton is there?”
“Yeah, they think this town is running a gay shelter or something. I’ve basically been a hostage in the house all day.”
“Adam,” Kurt almost whispered in his thinking voice.
“I know that tone.”
“Where are you?”
“If I tell you, will you tell me what you’re thinking?” Kurt was an activist through and through. Telling him where he was would only lead to one thing, an all-out battle royale between his people and Leighton’s.
Adam sat on the side of the river, squeezing the phone between his ear and shoulder as he rolled his pants up. Bending over made everything hurt, but he didn’t want his jeans wet. “Shermin Heights, Kentucky.”
“Isn’t that where Todd’s from?”
“Yes,” he grit.
“And I know that tone. What happened?”
“You guys were right. He was fooling around on me, Kurt.” Adam swished his feet in the warm water, watching Perry’s wet head and shoulders emerge to the surface. Seeing the country boy turn and smile at him, washed away some of the anger he felt for Todd. Perry looked happy as a clam, but that was probably from the alcohol. Though, whatever it was, the feeling seemed to be contagious. Adam raised a hand and shook his head.
“I’m so sorry, man. You doing okay, bruises aside?”
“I’ll be okay,” Adam admitted quietly, eyes fixed on Perry Olivette as he kicked away from the shallow end of the river. His strong calves cut through the water, hypnotizing Adam with every move.
“You will, huh?” Kurt chuckled. “You sure you didn’t hit your head? What are you doing over there?”
“Nothin,” Adam murmured, leaning forward. Perry’s naked ass appeared for a fraction of a second before he disappeared below the surface.
“I repeat, what are you doing?”
“Uh,” he cleared his throat, looking away, “talking to you.”
“Mm hmm, more like, what are you looking at?”
Adam searched the trees, paranoid suddenly. He turned and looked around the yard. Groaning, he knew Kurt was hours away. They were good friends, not just coworkers. Kurt could call it like he heard it, a gift that sometimes made Adam squirm in his seat. “Nothing, now what was this plan you were working on a few minutes ago? I heard the cogs turning.”
“Right! I know you said you weren’t going to be writing this week, and feel free to say no, but what if you did a work up on the Leighton Assembly in Shermin? Took some pictures, kept a diary, and posted every evening. You know? That sort of thing? It wouldn’t have to be a long post, but think it would be really well received after Will’s attack.”
Adam ignored all talk of Will’s near death experience. It scared him. “They’re only allowed to stay in Shermin for two more days.”
“And you can write about the aftermath on the locals. They’ll have an opinion on the matter. A tiny, southern town like that will want to scorn whoever they can for this. Says here they even have a few out couples, an artist by the name of Noah Pierson. His work is pretty cool. Have you seen this stuff?”
“I should’ve known you’d Google. You’re bad, Kurt.”
“I run an online magazine, Adam. I live on this computer half the time. Google is part of my daily life. Forgive me.” He laughed. “But that’s beside the point, have you met Pierson and this Matt Every guy? I’m sure getting their POV on the Leighton group would be a good read.”
“I’m kind of staying at one of their friend’s houses right now. They’re here at the moment.” Adam cringed.
“What! Oh Adam, you have to! I can see it now, your posts. Something like the life of a gay, southern gentlemen, living out and proud in the south. Brilliant!”
“Kurt, I don’t want to push these folks. They’ve been so kind to me. I don’t want to use them.”
“You won’t be. This is for a good cause, Adam. Be honest with them. I’m sure they have an opinion on the matter.”
Adam snorted. “Man, do they ever.”
“See? This is perfect, Adam. We should talk to their mayor, and see if we could organize an event next week. You do a write up for seven days straight, profiling the town and their stance on gay life, and we invite the town and a few media personalities that we know, and wham! We have a public event that shows tolerance, a community stand against Leighton. You know? A peaceful spit in their face hoe down or whatever.”
“You’re crazy. They’ll never go for that.”
Kurt ignored him. “And didn’t you say your parents were there? They know tons of people. What was that artist they boarded last month, the one you took to, Charleston, something or other, the gay painter who rolled his body across the canvas for charity? He’s blowing up around Frankfort. I’m sure we could even get him in on this. They seem to go for the whole art bit, what, with this Noah guy putting them on the map.”
“So you want me to write about the happenings around here with the Leighton debacle for seven days, get them on board with an elaborate, possibly in-their-face-fabulous event that will most likely get a lot of media attention, and maybe even put myself in the line of fire if this all blows up in our faces?”
“No, I’m sick and tired of Leighton blowing in like the wind, and leaving behind broken people. This is an opportunity to do something good, and give Shermin the attention it deserves. Small towns like that stick together, Adam. If they’re willing to rescue you from the religious crazies and take you in, have people living among them that are of the gay preference, and love them dearly, don’t you think they want to take a stand too? How do you know if you don’t ask? No question is a dumb question. Isn’t that what it says on your blog?”
Adam rubbed his eyes then looked out over the water where Perry… floated on his back in the water, naked as the day he was born. Flushed from head to toe, Adam diverted his attention to his lap. If Perry, the epitome of southern desperado, had been so friendly with him from the start, would the rest of Shermin band together to show Leighton they were stronger than hate?
“I’ll talk to them, Kurt.”
“Thank God.” Kurt exhaled into the speaker. “Adam, I know this is a big deal, and I know you’re secretly hurting right now, both emotionally and physically, but what you do is important work. Not only on your blog, but in the way you carry yourself. You’re a proud example to young gay men everywhere. This is an amazing chance to lead them, and show them to hold their heads high, that there really are good people out there that have their backs. That’s all I’m trying to do, and I know with all my heart, that’s all you want too.”
“Thanks, Kurt,” Adam whispered. “I think I really needed that,” he choked up a little.
“That’s what friends are for, buddy. Keep your head high, and don’t give Todd the satisfaction of your pain. No matter what he says or does, don’t give in to him. Loving someone that obviously doesn’t love you is a vicious cycle you don’t deserve. Someone better will come along, and when he does, don’t judge him for what Todd did to you. You feel me?”
“Alright, you get some rest, and I look forward to hearing from you tomorrow. Love you, buddy.”
“Love you too.” Adam put the phone down, taking a deep breath. Hands snaked around his ankles and he jumped. “What the hell?”
Perry’s head emerged from the dark water, a smile on his face. “Got ya!”
“Come on you drunk ass. If you fall asleep in there, Leighton will think I killed you. We don’t need to add murder to their list.”
“You need to lighten up.” Perry’s smile smoothed out, a calm, almost serene look to his eyes. “Have a little fun. God didn’t create this beautiful place for you to wallow in it. Smile a little, boy.”
“I’m trying,” Adam murmured. “I’m really gonna try.”
“What would make you happiest in the world, besides roasting Todd Paola on a pit?” That wide smile came back, and Adam grinned.
“For starters, you could get out that water, so I don’t have a panic attack.”
Perry pushed off Adam’s knees, swimming back a foot. “You just wanna see me naked.” He smiled, dipping his head back into the water.
“Would it make you feel better if I said yes?”
“Sure. Then you wouldn’t be no liar.” Perry howled with laughter.
“Fine.” Adam rolled his eyes. “Get out of the water so I can see that fine ass body all wet and what not.”
“See? That wasn’t so hard to admit,” Perry touched the grassy shore again, reaching for his beer.
“You are so full of yourself.”
Perry took a long drink, and set the bottle down. “Hey, I ain’t got nothing else but this body to show for my life. Why not?”
Adam barked a laugh. “And humble too.”
“Mm hmm,” Perry swallowed, “you said for starters. I assume there was more?”
Biting his lip, Adam clutched his phone. “About that, I want to run something by you, and maybe get your help if you think it’s a good idea. Since you don’t have anything better to do, you claim.”
“Shoot.” Perry pushed his body out of the water with his hands. He landed on his stomach, ass in the air as he fell into a fit of deep giggles.
Adam struggled to breathe, turning away with wide eyes. Holy shit. “I, uh, I…”
“Yeah, I know I’m stunning, but ain’t nobody ever lost speech over me.” Perry sniggered, stumbling a bit while crawling across the grass. “Spit it out.” He grabbed his boxers, struggling to get his feet through them. He had to roll over and Adam had to compose himself enough not to stare.
“What if I had to way to piss the Leighton Assembly off? To show them Shermin Heights doesn’t give two shits about their message?”
“I’m listening.” Perry sprawled out on his back, officially drunk. He patted the grass next to him, laughing quietly to himself.
Adam slowly leaned back, not because he was scared, but because his bruises hurt. The grass caressed him, and he ran his fingers through it, loving the soft blades on his skin. His eyes met the stars, clearer than he’d ever seen in his life. Millions of them lit up the sky as the warm body next to him moved a little. If this had been a date, Adam couldn’t imagine a more perfect setting. This place, how could he never have been to Shermin before? Magical, he silently repeated.
“You were saying something?” Perry whispered, his eyes closing.
“Hmm?” His muscled chest rose and fell with a slow, even rhythm. His arm reached out, snaking under Adam’s neck. Why, he didn’t know. But something about this man settled with him. It was like he was hanging out with one of his boys, only better. Adam didn’t poke him in the wrong places with those little jabs about his life. Nope. He was just like him, a little wrong, a little right, and not afraid to talk about it. He wanted some more of that.
“Perry?” Adam whispered, slowly easing into the man’s side with the command of the arm urging him closer. “You’re drunk.”
“And you’re snuggly,” Perry slurred. A high pitched noise of happiness sounded from his open lips.
“Shit.” Adam kept his hands over his chest, wedged into Perry’s side. He stared up, scared to look anywhere else. “Don’t blame me for this in the morning.”
Perry smirked, eyes closed. “I like you, Adam Jackson.” His hold tightened. “You’re good people.”
“I’ll remind you again, you’re drunk, and you don’t know me.”
“I will. Give me a few hours.”
Adam turned to see Perry fall asleep. His mouth opened a little wider. His face relaxed. His grip loosened, yet, Adam couldn’t make himself move. The right thing would be to get up and go inside. Maybe tell Pop that his son was passed out cold in the grass, but Adam knew he couldn’t, because as much as he wanted to do the right thing, sometimes, he wanted to be a little wrong. He rested his head on Perry’s shoulder and closed his eyes. Then again, Adam thought before he fell asleep, why did this feel so right?
TO BE CONTINUED….