Jaden pulled the cup of Ramen noodles from the microwave and blew gently over the top before sucking the first bite into his mouth. He wandered around the kitchen looking for any food that one of his house mates might have been foolish enough to leave unlabeled but didn’t find anything more appetizing than a dried pizza crust.
He was just about to finish his first semester of college and had discovered that the part time job at Starbucks didn’t go far enough to pay for all of his meals. His parents were already stretched to the limit just to pay his tuition, and he ended up scrounging from friends more often than he was really comfortable with. The course load he was taking was heavy on math and science and took too much time studying and in labs to afford working more than he already did. Jaden sighed, thinking that it would be a long, hungry four years if he didn’t find a way to earn more money.
Noodles finished, he took a large glass of water to the tiny room he rented in the converted house. The house looked as if it had once been elegant; wide crown molding and careful architectural details remained in some of the rooms. There was a shared kitchen and a decent-sized common room, but beyond that, the house was a maze of small rooms.
Jaden opened his laptop and books to work on his chemistry homework but found himself looking at pictures of his petite, dark-haired girlfriend, Nickie. She had stayed home to work, and he missed seeing her, missed being with her. Jaden wrote her a long e-mail, pouring out his feelings, telling her how hard it was to juggle school, work, and his meager income, but then erased it all and just told her that he missed her and that he was sorry he probably couldn’t make it home for Thanksgiving.
Curling up on the small bed, Jaden pulled the covers over his head, feeling sorry for himself. He tossed and turned throughout the night and woke up hungry with his feet hanging off of the end of the bed. The single bed didn’t really fit his six-foot, four-inch frame any better than college life seemed to fit him.
Pulling yesterday’s sweat pants on over his slim hips, Jaden padded to the kitchen. One of his house mates was sitting at the table drinking coffee and eating the most beautiful sticky bun Jaden had ever seen. Sprinkled with pecans, dripping with caramel, and absolutely huge, it all but called to him. He opened his cupboard and found a single box of cereal. Pouring it into a bowl, he was disappointed when it didn’t even reach half way. He had finished his milk the previous day, so he sat across from Kevin, spooning dry cereal into his mouth.
“Not hungry?” Kevin asked around a bite of sticky bun. Jaden knew that he was only making conversation; Kevin was older and they didn’t have any classes in common.
“No money.” Jaden shrugged. He only had to make it a few more hours until his shift at Starbucks when he’d be able to snag something.
“Goin’ home for Thanksgiving break?”
“Nah, staying here. You?” Jaden mumbled around a spoonful of Lucky Charms.
“Not home, but going to San Diego.” Kevin broke off half his roll and pushed it over to Jaden.
“Nice vacation. Thanks.” Jaden, too hungry to think about refusing, took a huge bite and moaned in pleasure.
Kevin hesitated, looking between his coffee and Jaden several times. “Not a vacation. Work. Um, you know they might have something for you. They pay pretty well.”
Jaden looked up at his house mate, eyebrows raised. Fly three thousand miles for a job? Over break? “What kind of job?” Jaden had noticed that Kevin always seemed to have money but didn’t appear to work. He had always assumed that Kevin’s family was rich.
Kevin looked like he was sorry he had ever said anything but pulled a notebook toward him and wrote briefly. “Check this out. Do me a favor, though. Keep it to yourself, okay? Seriously.”
Jaden stared at the notebook paper. The only thing Kevin had written was a web address; one he didn’t recognize: www.VictorHunter.com
Curious, Jaden ran up the stairs to log onto his computer. He opened his laptop and waited for it to connect to the college WiFi network. Before it connected, his cell phone rang, and he put the laptop aside to answer.
“Nickie!” Computer forgotten, he lay back on the bed to talk to his girlfriend. Listening to her, he slid his hand over his bare chest, down over his flat belly, and under the waistband of his sweats. Just the sound of Nickie’s voice was enough to make him hard.
He listened to her chatter about their friends from high school and her job, her voice becoming a pleasant drone as he brought himself closer to orgasm. “Jade? Jaden? Are you listening?” Her voice had grown sharp and demanding. Desperately, he searched for the last thing that he could remember her saying.
“Yeah, I’m listening! You were talking about the football game?” Not a statement so much as it was a question.
“That was ten minutes ago, Jaden. Ten minutes! I was asking when you are coming home.” Nickie was definitely angry and seemed to be launching into a tirade about his inattention, his thoughtlessness, and every fault that she had ever seen in him. Hard-on completely gone, he sat up and braced himself for her reaction when he told her that he wouldn’t be home until the semester ended.
“Sorry, Nickie. I just zoned out.” Jaden looked up at the ceiling, hopeful that she would understand. “Umm, I don’t have the money to come home over break. It won’t be until December.”
“Jaden! You promised!” He heard her take a breath, ready to start in again, and he knew that he couldn’t listen to her any more of her complaints.
“Nickie, if you want to see me, you’ll have to come here. I just can’t afford to come home now.” She had visited once and had sworn never to stay there again. Jaden, on the other hand, had loved fitting the two of them into his small bed, the closeness, and the adventure of being completely on their own for the first time in their relationship. Nickie had been less than impressed and just hated the whole weekend.
“Jaden, you know I can’t stay in that awful house.”
He interrupted her. “Nickie, I have to get ready for work. I’ll call you later.” Closing the phone, he looked at the familiar patterns in the plaster on the ceiling and thought about finishing what he had started earlier, but his dick just wasn’t interested anymore. Instead, Jaden headed for the shower.
Getting ready for his break, he wiped down the counters before going to the back and logging onto his laptop. Jaden was gregarious and loved meeting people at his job, but he was desperate to find one that would pay enough to afford enough food. Entering the web address Kevin had given him earlier, he was surprised to find that the site was blocked due to adult content. What the hell? He spent the rest of his shift wondering about the web site but was finally able to put it out of his mind by the time he said good-bye to his co-workers.
Biking home from Starbucks, Jaden was happy and comfortable. He had downed enough coffee and assorted pastries at work that his belly wasn’t grumbling at him. He let his mind wander, thinking about school, his job, and Nickie. There were a lot of questions but few answers. Being away from home wasn’t turning out to be the grand adventure that he had expected it to be.
He chained his bike to the rack in front of the house and ran up the stairs of the wide porch, thinking that he really should sweep the fallen leaves off. He filed that away for later. Passing by the kitchen and the common room on his way to his room, he heard the noise of his house mates watching college football.
“Jaden! Come on; Kevin bought a coupla cases of beer.”
There were half a dozen guys sprawled on the sagging couches and chairs, and beer, bags of chips, and boxes of pizza were spread out over the coffee table. Jaden grinned, revealing his deep dimples, and grabbed a beer from the refrigerator before joining them. He settled on one end of the sofa with his long legs spread out in front of him, avoiding the end of the coffee table.
A few beers and pieces of pizza later, Jaden was feeling even better than he had on the ride home from work. Jaden thought vaguely that he really should be working on his chem homework but knew that he’d have time to finish it tomorrow. It was half-time and everyone was up getting more beer, taking a piss, and generally rearranging themselves when Kevin leaned over to ask Jaden if he had checked out the web site.
“Not yet, man. Too busy this morning and it was blocked at work. What the fuck?” Jaden turned toward him.
Kevin flushed. “Quiet! I told you to keep it to yourself. Just check it out.” He left the room abruptly and didn’t return.
Jaden tried to get back into the game but only made it a few minutes into the third quarter before his curiosity got the better of him and he went to his room to log on. Once connected, he entered the web address and found a picture of two guys tossing a football and the standard adult content warning. He clicked on the appropriate button indicating that he was over eighteen. The page loaded and he was greeted by a bright blue and yellow page, split down the middle with “College Boys” on the left and “College Sex” on the right. Both sides had pictures of guys, some by themselves and others in pairs—all shirtless, young, and athletic. His eyes moved to the banner at the top of the page.
The banner showed a close-up picture of two clean-cut men, foreheads together. The blond was pulling the brunette’s lower lip down with his thumb as they looked intently into each other’s eyes.
What the fuck? He clicked on the thumbnail labeled “Fucking Noah.” Instead of taking him to something involving Noah getting fucked, it took him to another page with more thumbnails. Scanning the faces, he acknowledged that they all looked like they could be models in the latest Abercrombie and Fitch catalog, and again, all were shirtless.
“What the fuck?” This time he said it out loud when he saw that Kevin was in one of the pictures. He was standing slightly in front of a taller man who had his arms draped around Kevin’s bare shoulders. With morbid fascination, Jaden clicked on the thumbnail and the page opened to show a dozen pictures of Kevin and a second man with a bunch of tattoos in various suggestive poses on a red bedspread.
It was all too much for Jaden. He closed the browser and with it the images of Kevin kissing the tattooed dude. Jaden alternately stared at the ceiling and shook his head in a vain attempt to erase the pictures from his mind: Kevin, who had a really hot girlfriend that he fucked regularly and loudly, licking another guy’s abs.
Jaden finally fell asleep still dressed and still on the top of the comforter. He woke early and didn’t remember dreaming, but he didn’t feel rested. Stumbling into the kitchen, he snagged a piece of leftover pizza from the refrigerator. When he closed the door, Kevin was standing next to the table. Jaden could feel his face turn red as he remembered the pictures he had seen the night before.
“So, looks like you checked it out.” Kevin looked uncertain.
“Yeah, um, yeah. What about…?” Jaden couldn’t even figure out which question he wanted to ask first.
“My girlfriend? The sex?” Kevin sat down at the table and looked around to make sure that nobody else had walked in. Jaden nodded and sat down across from Kevin.
“Just money, nothin’ else. I get paid to roll around on a bed with another guy while they film it. Doesn’t mean anything.” He paused and looked around again. “Seriously, dude, you can’t tell anyone. If Rachel found out, I’d be dead.”
“Why? Why do you do that? Are you gay? Bi?”
“No, the money’s just too good to pass up. I couldn’t work a shitty part-time job and still have time for classes. So I have to fuck another guy a few times a year, no big deal.”
Jaden coughed when a piece of pizza went down the wrong way. “Fuck?” He had seen intimate poses but hadn’t seen noticed anything like that.
“Look, Jaden. Go to the members’ area and check it out again. It’s not that bad and it pays really well. If you’re interested, let me know and I’ll call them for you.” He wrote down a username and password and pushed it across the table to Jaden before leaving.
Jaden grabbed the paper and went to his room to get ready for work.
Jaden turned on the charm, hustled for tips, and finished his chem homework during his break. As he biked home, he felt pretty good about everything except Nickie. She still hadn’t returned his phone calls, but maybe he’d have better luck later in the evening.
When he passed the common room, Jaden saw the same guys and the same beer but NFL instead of college ball. None of it was enough to hold his attention. The web site and his conversation with Kevin had been hovering just at the edge of his thoughts all day. He couldn’t ignore it any longer, so Jaden waved to the guys watching the game and went up to his room.
Logging on, he checked his e-mail, looked over his chem homework one more time, checked a few MySpace pages, and finally couldn’t avoid going back to VictorHunter.com. This time he found the member’s area and entered Kevin’s username and password. He found the same men, the same couples, but now the pictures weren’t just suggestive, they were explicit. Very explicit. Guys sucking on big cocks, big cocks sliding into stretched assholes. All in high definition color on his laptop.
Jaden had never thought of himself as anything but open minded and had known a few gay men in his life but never thought too much about what that meant, never thought beyond the dropped-soap jokes in the showers after baseball practice in high school. “Fuck!” he whispered as he clicked on the thumbnail with Kevin’s picture. Jaden hadn’t noticed before, but he was “Jon” on the web site, not Kevin.
“Fuck!” Jaden repeated out loud to his empty room upon realizing that the pictures weren’t just photographs but were stills from a video. There was a glowing description of the action in the video and he was given the choice of streaming, downloading, or downloading it straight to his iPod. “My iPod?” Why in the hell would I want a video like that on my iPod?
He moved the cursor so that he could stream the video, and in a few seconds, he was watching Kevin kissing the guy with the tattoos, Derek. Jaden watched for a few minutes and, holy shit, they weren’t just kissing; they were kissing. Full on, open-mouthed kisses. With tongue. Lots of tongue.
Both guys were dressed in jeans and T-shirts and after a few minutes of heavy-duty making out, Kevin pulled Derek’s shirt off and licked his way over his chest to pull a small nipple into his mouth. When he snaked a hand under the waistband of Derek’s jeans, Jaden couldn’t watch anymore and quickly closed the browser.
Opening his cell, he called Nickie, offering up a silent prayer that she would answer. She refused to have phone sex with him, but he hoped to jerk off to the lingering sound of her voice in his ears, not the sound of his housemate’s heavy breathing into another dude’s mouth.