Summer of Innocence
GUNNER CAIN pulled his arm back, aimed carefully toward the window on the second floor, and let the pebble fly. He waited. Hiding in the shadows of the bushes that surrounded the Cape Cod-style home, Gunner felt his heart hammering in his chest, seconds were like hours. C’mon, c’mon, c’mon. If he were caught sneaking out of the house again, his stepdad would put a boot in his ass sideways. Worse, they were going to miss all the action. Gunner shifted from foot to foot and the muscle in his cheek twitched, the nervousness and excitement not allowing him to hold still.
With a huff, Gunner reached down and grabbed a handful of small rocks, pulled his arm back and—
The window opened and a head full of shaggy brown hair popped out followed by the scowling face of his best friend, James Ryan. Most everyone called him James, Jim, Jimmy, or Junior, but Gunner called him Jamie. Gunner was the only one allowed to call him Jamie.
“Yeah,” he whispered, tossing the rocks to the ground and wiping the dirt on his jeans. “It’s me. Get your ass down here.”
“No way,” Jamie said, shaking his head. “I couldn’t sit down for a week the last time I let you talk me into sneaking out.”
Damn, his friend could be dramatic as a bunch of sissy girls. “It was only a day, you pansy ass,” he hissed. Gunner rolled his eyes. He’d had his own difficulties with sitting after his stepdad had been done tearing up his ass with a belt, but he wasn’t going to let that deter him. “Now get down here. I want to show you something.”
Gunner didn’t answer, simply crossed his arms over his chest and tapped his foot with impatience. Jamie hesitated, his expression unsure, but Gunner had no doubt Jamie would come. And he better hurry it up or they were going to miss the show.
Finally, after what felt like forever, Jamie glanced behind him and then whispered, “I’ll meet you on the back porch.”
Gunner smiled and moved back into the shadows. He made his way around the side of the house, being careful not to bump into the garbage cans, and peeked around the corner. Satisfied the coast was clear, he moved to the porch and waited.
With only a small squeak from the hinges of the screen door, Jamie stepped out onto the porch in a white T-shirt, running shorts, and tennis shoes in hand. He gave Gunner an exasperated look but jumped off the porch, avoiding the steps—the stairs creaked too loudly.
“If we get caught, I’m gonna beat you silly,” Jamie grumbled and then bent to put on his shoes.
Gunner ruffled Jamie’s unruly curls. “We’re not going to get caught. You worry too much.”
Jamie slapped at him, but Gunner pulled his hand out of reach—spinning away. He had to bite down on his lip to keep from laughing at the disbelieving look and glare Jamie threw his way.
“That’s what you said last time,” Jamie complained quietly.
As soon as Jamie finished tying his sneakers, Gunner grabbed Jamie’s shirt and yanked—“C’mon”—and took off running.
Gunner raced across the backyard, Jamie right on his heels. They jumped over the short fence separating Jamie’s yard from the neighbor’s. They didn’t have to worry about trespassing. The few houses that were in this rural area of Chatom, California, belonged to club members—Gunner’s stepdad and president of the local chapter of the Crimson VIII motorcycle club, Rocco Lundy, ruled with an iron fist—and outsiders were not welcome.
Gunner didn’t slow down—confident Jamie would keep up—until the clubhouse was in sight. From the outside it looked like any country hick bar: weathered clapboard exterior, neon flashing beer signs in the heavily tinted windows, gravel parking lot out front filled with trucks, muscle cars, and Harleys—lots of Harleys. It was the dealings that went down within the walls, the action taking place out back secured by a system rivaling Fort Knox that made this place different. It was a place Gunner Cain, as an only child, would someday rule, just as his grandpa, father, and now stepfather had.
They stopped next to the back end of a rusted Ford truck, keeping their heads low. Gunner was breathing harshly, sweat running down his forehead. He wiped it away with his forearm. Gunner gave Jamie a once-over. He was panting hard too, the neon lights from the club causing the perspiration on his brow to glisten in a multitude of colors. He looked okay, wide-eyed, nervous, unsure, but okay. Satisfied, Gunner nodded to himself. Jamie was his responsibility, one day standing at Gunner’s side as his right-hand man. It was his job to protect Jamie, and also to make sure the guy had a little fun. Jamie could be a little bit of a worrywart.
Gunner put a finger to his lips, reminding Jamie to stay quiet, and then gave a curt nod in the direction they were to go. They kept low to the ground and crouched behind vehicles as they made their way through the parking lot and around to the far side of the club. Toward the back was a lone window—Gunner’s goal.
Crouched beneath the window, Gunner pointed to it and then placed his lips close to Jamie’s ear. “Sully is gearing up for a show.”
Sully, whose real name was Claude, got his nickname from the fact his mission in life since he’d been a kid was to soil or stain every woman who crossed his path. Within the club, sex was open, few things considered taboo, but Sully took it to the extreme. He was one sick and perverted bastard.
Jamie turned his head, their noses practically touching, and glared at Gunner. “You got me out of bed for this?” he hissed.
“Don’t you want to know what to do when you bang your first bitch?”
“Sure, but not from Sully. The guy is seriously nasty,” Jamie whispered. His nose wrinkled in obvious disgust.
“You gotta learn it all, Jamie,” Gunner informed him. “Gotta know what the bitches like and don’t like.”
Hands gripping the windowsill, Gunner rose up just enough to peer into the small hole he’d made in the black vinyl that covered the glass. What he saw in the gloomy bedroom beyond caused his eyes to widen in shock. Naked bodies, male and female, were all tangled together in a jumbled mess of parts. It reminded him of a nest of worms all slithering, wrapped around each other, making it difficult to distinguish where one body ended and another began. The only difference was this mass had arms and legs, faces. One guy was thrusting hard against a big squishy butt, another had his dick between big tits, thrusting hard as he gripped the girl’s hair, still another had his head between a girl’s legs. Tongues, lips, fingers, private parts, it was…. Gunner wasn’t sure what he felt, but mostly confusion.
“Take a look at this and tell me what you think,” he told Jamie, moving over to give him room.
His best friend hesitated but did as Gunner asked. It was too dark to see the expression on Jamie’s face to tell what he thought of the sight, plus Jamie had his eye to the window, his head turned away, so it wouldn’t have mattered if there had been a light. Jamie didn’t leave him curious for long.
“Eww! It looks like a big nest of freaky snakes with limbs,” Jamie complained.
“Lower your voice,” Gunner scolded in a whisper. But Jamie’s comment was so close to what Gunner had initially thought it made him grin.
Gunner turned back to the wall and slid down. He pulled his knees up and wrapped his arms around them. Jamie sat next to him in the same position. Neither of them spoke for a few moments. They’d watched some of the other club members banging women before. Cole, Rocco’s first lieutenant, was well known for his do-it-anywhere-any-time attitude and cared little for who was around or watching. Gunner and Jamie had done their best to hide the giggles by covering their bright red faces with their hands, but usually ended up in another room laughing hysterically.
However, the scene they’d just witnessed was neither funny nor boner inspiring. He glanced over to his friend, but with the position he was in, Gunner couldn’t tell if Jamie had one.
Gunner leaned closer to Jamie’s ear and whispered, “Did you pop a boner?”
Jamie shook his head vigorously.
“No tingles or nothing?” Gunner asked.
“Nothing,” Jamie admitted. “I don’t want to have to do that. It was….”
“I was going to say gross,” Jamie countered.
The distaste in Jamie’s tone made Gunner snicker. “That’s Sully for ya.”
They both went silent, heads leaned together. Gunner had been thinking about sex a lot lately. Well, maybe not the sweaty grunting kind of stuff—Jamie was right, that was kind of gross. But Gunner liked the idea of touching and kissing. There were always a lot of chicks around the club. They made themselves available to the members, and Gunner had no doubt one day they’d make themselves available to him and Jamie. Rocco had drilled into Gunner’s head since he was little, though: in whatever he does, he could never show weakness to those he leads.
Gunner had no confidence when it came to the chicks. They kind of…. Well, grossed him out too. He didn’t like the thick stench of overly sweet perfume that clung to them, the paint on their faces, and especially the greasy bright red lips he would one day have to press his to. Gunner shuddered in revulsion.
A leader is always confident.
“You know,” Gunner said, breaking the silence. “We should practice.”
“Practice what?” Jamie asked.
“You know….” Gunner shrugged.
“That in there?” Jamie squeaked, stabbing a thumb over his shoulder. “No way!”
“Shh,” Gunner reminded his friend. “Not that, but maybe we should start with… I don’t know… the kissing?” he suggested hesitantly. “We’re going to be thirteen next month. It’s time we start thinking about this.”
“I know how to kiss,” Jamie huffed.
“Kissing your grandma doesn’t count, you dork,” Gunner snorted and shoved at Jamie with his shoulder. “I’m talking about real kissing. You know, with a chick. Use your tongue. You gotta practice.”
“Who we gonna get to let us practice on them?”
Gunner thought about Jamie’s question for a bit. They didn’t know any girls close to their own age. Being homeschooled, they were around adults mostly. Sully had a couple of girls who came to the club every now and then, but they were little kids. Gunner couldn’t think of anyone except….
Decision made, he turned to his friend. “We’re gonna have to practice on each other.”
“What?” Jamie gasped.
“We gotta,” Gunner insisted. “Ain’t nobody else, and no way in hell am I going to have a chick know more than me. We’re men, Jamie. We gotta take charge. Can’t do that if we don’t know what we’re doing.”
Jamie stared at him. In the darkness it was hard to read the expression on Jamie’s face, but Gunner knew his friend well enough to know he was thinking about it. Jamie always thought about everything—worried too much, analyzed and reasoned shit out. He rarely did anything on impulse. That’s why Jamie needed Gunner so much, to make sure he did spontaneous, silly stuff once in a while. It was also Gunner’s job—no, his duty—to make sure Jamie was ready to stand next to him when Gunner became president.
With that thought in his head, urging him, Gunner grabbed Jamie’s face in both his hands and smashed their mouths together. Jamie tensed but didn’t pull away. Encouraged, Gunner tilted his head back and forth, their lips rubbing together. He liked the way Jamie’s mouth felt against his: warm, soft. Tentatively, Gunner stuck his tongue out, tasted a hint of the mint gum Jamie was always chewing, and Gunner liked it. He wanted to taste more and pushed his tongue past Jamie’s lips.
Jamie didn’t really kiss Gunner back, he stayed tense, but he opened his mouth, allowed Gunner to kiss him with lips and tongue. Damn. Gunner had no idea what the hell he was doing, but he liked it, liked the taste and feel of Jamie’s mouth. He liked the way it made him all tingly inside, as if butterflies had taken flight in his belly and were flying all through his body, their wings tickling him from inside.
Gunner explored Jamie’s mouth, licked his teeth and gums, and when he swiped the tip of his tongue against the roof of Jamie’s mouth, his friend shuddered and made a small sound he’d never heard Jamie make. The taste of Jamie’s wet and warm mouth, the appealing sound coming from his friend, the tingling in his belly, all mingled into heat that raced down Gunner’s body, settled beneath the waistband of his jeans and….
Gunner jerked back, gasping. His heart hammered painfully in his chest, pumped blood so fast through his system he could hear it roar in his ears. “I, uh… I….” Gunner licked his lips, could still taste Jamie and the heat increased. “I…. We….” He wiped his mouth on the back of his hand. “We gotta get home,” he blurted and jumped to his feet, doing his best to shield his body from his friend. “Let’s go!”
Keeping his back to Jamie, Gunner led them back through the parking lot, dodging cars and keeping in the shadows. He wanted to run, but somehow he managed to hold himself back. He was aware of Jamie behind him, had to get his friend home. Slow, quiet, careful, he kept repeating over and over in his head. No way did he want to get caught now. How would he explain…?
Slow, quiet, careful.
The second they made it to the tree line, Gunner broke out into a dead run, dodging small bushes and trees, feet pounding against the forest floor, conscious of the familiar presence behind him. Jamie’s house came into view. Gunner scanned it as he ran, no lights on inside, quiet. He hopped the small fence, landed in Jamie’s yard, and slowed near the porch, but didn’t turn around.
“See you tomorrow,” he tossed quietly over his shoulder and disappeared around the side of the house, escaped to the cover of darkness with a relieved sigh.
Gunner had done his job; he’d gotten Jamie back home without being spotted, his friend safe. To his greater satisfaction, he’d done it without giving away the giant boner he’d popped from kissing Jamie.
Gunner ran his hands over his face and then looked around him to make sure no one could see before looking down his body. Nope, he wasn’t dreaming. Holy hell! A boner? A goddamn boner from kissing Jamie?