The afternoon sun stabbed across the sky, and Vinnie narrowed his eyes against the glare. The wide lawns had been mowed today, and the smell of cut grass made his nose itch, but he couldn’t scratch it. He needed both hands to scramble high enough into the oak tree to hide in the dense leaves.
The school’s bells chimed at two p.m. exactly, the same as every day. Even though the sound drifted out through state-of-the-art speakers, the sound was actually a recording of old fashioned church bells. Vinnie wondered if the headmaster thought it would give the military school more dignity.
Whatever the reason, the sound of a dozen old brass bells chiming slightly out of time with each other had grown to be Vinnie’s favorite aphrodisiac. Who would have thought that simple bells could be so kinky, and yet they were. Sometimes Vinnie felt like one of Pavlov’s dogs, only instead of drooling, he got hard every time those slow, solemn bells rang.
He shifted on his branch and pushed on a higher limb to get a few more leaves out of his way. They would be coming soon: the runners.
Two years ago, Vinnie had been one of those runners. He’d listen to those bells and dread the coming order to fall out into companies. That had been before Joshua Sawyer Charleston had come. Rumor had it that wasn’t his name, although Vinnie couldn’t imagine why someone would choose a name like that, so it was probably his.
Considering the amount of time he and his classmates had spent discussing Commander Charleston and his mysterious identity, Vinnie found it more than a little ironic that now he really was living under an assumed name. No one at this school had ever known him as Vinnie, and the desperate little boy he’d been all the way up though his junior year had vanished along with his long-forgotten name. Of course, if Charleston really did have some reason for changing his name, he’d have a better reason than Vinnie. His story would involve gangsters and witness protection or foreign wars and enemy spies. Charleston was the sort of man who walked around with this air of leading-man confidence that made him seem larger than life.
Sometimes Vinnie had fantasies about finding Charleston’s secret identity. Hell, most of his fantasies included Charleston in one form or another. But some of his favorites focused on finding some hidden clue to Charleston’s mysterious past. Back when Charleston had just been one more instructor ordering him to do pushups, the fantasy had included blackmailing him. Oddly, even in Vinnie’s fantasies, Charleston had kicked his ass rather than pay. However, by midterms Vinnie had pretty much fallen for the guy, and he’d grab his cock late at night and imagine some gangsters showing up on school grounds.
If Vinnie’s real name showed up in this neck of the woods, it wouldn’t be nearly as interesting. Oh, his father was sure to come looking. Lawyers and psychologists would descend on him along with threats about being cut out of the will, but Vinnie tried not to worry about that. He preferred to stick his head in the sand and hope that his past would just give up and move on. He was proud of his new name, though; he chose a name to show off his pride in his Italian heritage. Vinnie. It was a solid name with a long history of tough guys, and it gave him more confidence when he stepped out into the night or when he trespassed on school property to climb up a tree and watch a company running past.
Settling himself down in the crook of the branch, Vinnie slipped a hand inside his pants and watched as the company crested the hill. The upperclassmen were in front, their packs sticking up like hunchbacks. The front one was the captain, a pimply-faced boy with strong legs that Vinnie vaguely remembered from his own inglorious days in the academy.
Behind that group, came the middle-classmen who were allowed to run without packs. These were the ninth and tenth graders, and a few female faces appeared in this group. Vinnie always had good eyesight, and even from this distance, he could see the horror on one girl’s face. Her hair had come loose and was winding around her body in long blonde waves that were definitely going to earn her demerits for being out of uniform. However, she kept running. And the reason for her unwillingness to break formation crested the hill.
Commander Joshua Sawyer Charleston. He was wearing shorts today, the summer heat beating down so that his shirt was already showing the first signs of sweat stains, and Vinnie groaned. Oh god. This was so worth risking getting arrested. Charleston ran at a steady pace beside the pack of students, his long legs hitting stride while younger ones scrambled to keep up.
Vinnie couldn’t decide why he was so obsessed with the man, but the very sight of his gray hair and his strong body made Vinnie start to harden. The others whispered that he’d been a war hero—some sort of special forces or sniper, and Vinnie could believe that rumor. Charleston moved with power, without doubt, without fear. When the headmaster had walked in, and every other academy instructor had gone stiff with either respectful fear or fearful respect, Charleston had simply looked over with a lazy gaze before going right back to counting off the pushups he’d ordered Vinnie to do.
Fuck. Charleston did love giving orders. He had certainly loved giving Vinnie orders, and Vinnie had been shocked to find that he actually reveled in getting ordered around. For seventeen years, his father had tried ordering Vinnie to stop fucking up, ordering him to stop torturing nannies or soon-to-be stepmothers or soon-to-be ex-stepmothers. It turned out that Vinnie wasn’t particularly good at orders until it was Charleston with his ice-cold gaze ordering him to hit the ground and keep doing pushups until he was permitted to stop or until his arms fell out of their sockets.
Vinnie stroked his thumb along his cock and groaned. Charleston was staring straight ahead, his gray hair streaked with the last remains of black that refused to fade away. That was the perfect metaphor for Charleston. He was just too stubborn to yield, even to time. His body certainly hadn’t yielded. It was hard, curving muscle, and as the company jogged closer, Vinnie could see the way Charleston’s body shone with sweat. He imagined his hand sliding over the smooth flesh and Charleston smiling at him with that odd, crooked smile that always looked just a little sarcastic. Charleston would reach out and grab the invading hand. Maybe he would pin Vinnie against some wall with his body, or maybe he would twist Vinnie’s arm around and slip his other arm around Vinnie’s neck, trapping him.
Vinnie’s cock was hard now, hard and hot and ready to come, but Vinnie denied it. Permission denied, he told himself with a low chuckle. Instead, he slowed his strokes, torturing himself as the group jogged closer. The path was a good fifty yards from Vinnie’s tree; he’d chosen it for its safe distance as much as for the view, but every time Charleston brought his company to that bend in the path closest to the tree, fear added its own spice to his lust.
What if Charleston caught him? Would the man remember him as the punk recruit he had taken in hand his first year here? Had Vinnie become one more faceless student who had taken a little more discipline than the others to bring into line?
That was a fear Vinnie always pushed to the side as fast as he could. He didn’t want to be invisible, not to Charleston. He’d rather have the man hate him than forget him. He wanted to believe that Charleston had truly seen him every time the man had ordered him to do pushups in the center square or do pull-ups until his shoulders screamed with pain or ordered him to run the obstacle course in the pouring rain. He’d endured all that just to get one look of respect from those storm-gray eyes Charleston had. Some days he’d even earned it.
By the time Charleston was done running Vinnie ragged, Vinnie had been too tired to raid the girls’ dorm or the kitchens. He hadn’t even considered stealing the gardener’s car and taking it for a quick ride that was sure to piss his father off. He hadn’t even bothered cheating on his Latin exam by scaling the side of the main building and going in a half-open window the way he had his junior year. Of course, it helped that Charleston would quiz him on everything from Latin verb conjugations to the military history of Blackfoot Indians while making him do pushups, something about a good soldier being able to think and work at once.
Honestly, Vinnie hadn’t given a shit about being a good soldier, but he had found himself considerably invested in pleasing Charleston. The man was sexy. And unlike most people, he didn’t fall for Vinnie’s charm or take an almost instant dislike to him.
Vinnie found most people had a pretty visceral reaction to him the moment they met him, and that reaction rarely had much to do with anything he’d done. It had to do with his green eyes and his dark hair, his broad shoulders and tanned skin and sultry good looks. People wanted him or they envied him, and Vinnie had learned to manipulate both of those responses. However, Charleston had been something new—something unexpected. He had charmed Vinnie instead. Vinnie had worked so hard, that every night he’d just fallen asleep until morning came, and Charleston roused them from bed with quiet threats of extra miles for anyone too lazy to get himself moving.
By the end of the year, Vinnie had been toned and hard—in more ways than one. He’d won three medals in the interscholastic athletic competitions his senior year, and even his father had been forced to express something that came close to pride at Vinnie’s accomplishments. Of course, that had made it even more delicious when Vinnie refused to go to college. The old man’s spluttering and Charleston’s single raised eyebrow were forever linked in Vinnie’s memory.
The group was approaching the bend now, and Vinnie held his breath, his hand wrapped tightly around his hard erection. The lack of oxygen played games with Vinnie’s balance until the whole earth seemed to buck and heave under him. With his free hand, he hugged the tree limb while taking soft, panting breaths.
“Company halt!” The voice was so loud that it made Vinnie jump in his hiding place. Shit, shit, shit. What if Charleston caught him? Oddly, Vinnie’s cock only grew harder as the danger increased. “Kestler, get that hair secured. Adams, either fix that shoe or head back to the barracks, and you and I can do our own run after chow.”
Vinnie rested his forehead against the rough bark and groaned. He remembered Charleston’s private runs. Run double-time some, get ordered to the ground for a dozen pushups, run double-time more, get ordered to do two dozen sit-ups with Charleston holding your legs. Equal parts heaven and torture.
Someone must have said something, because Charleston’s commanding voice answered, “I don’t care how you do it, but secure that hair or head back to barracks and report after chow for a private run with Cadet Adams.”
Vinnie slowly allowed his hand to run up and down his hard cock. The end had wept enough precum that his shorts clung to his skin, and the pain of his delayed orgasm turned into a living creature that wrapped around him, squeezing until coming was all Vinnie cared about.
“Robinson, set pace. Quail, pick it up or you’ll be third on tonight’s run.” Charleston’s voice demanded obedience—unquestioning, immediate obedience, and Vinnie ached to be one of those cadets under Charleston’s command again. Leaning to the right, Vinnie watched while Charleston paced the group, his sharp gaze watching as the company formed straight lines. Robinson called out for the group to start, and the students fell into a slow jog and started down the wide path. Charleston stood and watched them, critical, evaluating. God help anyone who fell short of his demanding standards.
Vinnie couldn’t control his breathing anymore. He gasped for air, gulping it hungrily as his lust rose up around him, uncontrollable and uncontrolled. Oh God, he wanted to come. Fuck. If he could only come. However, Vinnie had never been a quiet fuck. He cried out, shouted, flailed and fucking sang soprano if his partner was good enough. Right now, his body was tingling and his cock aching so bad that he felt on a knife-edge, ready to come with a fucking scream, and if he did that, Charleston would see him… would know. But he had to come. Vinnie clung to the last of his control, his arms shaking. The last cadet jogged out of sight, and Vinnie devoured his last look at Charleston.
Then, without warning, Charleston turned and storm-gray eyes found Vinnie, pinned him to the tree as neatly as a butterfly pinned to a collector’s page. Vinnie cried out, coming all over his hand and his shorts in a burst of need so strong that it wiped away all common sense and fear. One eyebrow twitched up, and that half-sarcastic, twisted grin graced Charleston’s face for just one second, and then, it was like nothing had happened. Charleston turned and headed down the path, running double-time to catch up with the others, and Vinnie was left, panting and clinging to the tree-limb and still lost in that gray storm.