Chapter One

 

The sex had been good. Great, even—if not rushed. But that was the way Javier Torres had wanted it. Hot and wild and wet and hard and fast. Something to revel in, lose himself in, like drugs. But sex was not something he could overdose on—although he had tried many a time. What a way to go.

He had never seen the man before that evening, and the minute he’d laid eyes on him, Javier knew he had to have him. He was exactly what Javier had needed. The man was gorgeous—tall, hugely muscled, with dark smooth skin, long dark hair, a slight beard, and chocolate-brown eyes. Steamy eyes.

What was his name?

Gary? No, but that was close.

Harvey? No… (who cares?).

Harry. Yes! It had been a little joke between them. Funny because he, Javier, was hairy. And Harry was as smooth as that statue Mark had in his study, his chest like sculpted marble.

Mary, Mother of God, Harry had been good too. Javier couldn’t remember the last time a trick had nailed him so good and hard. A year or more. Since he and Mark had gone to the baths in San Francisco for Javier’s thirty-fifth birthday? Even Mark had gotten into it, and hadn’t that been a shock?

Shit.

Javier looked down at his Rolex. How long was this elevator going to take? The dude’s apartment was only on the fourth floor. He could have walked down faster. He was going to be late. He’d told Mark he’d be home after the Liddle Awful Annie Show at The Male Box. That he wouldn’t even stay for that “one more drink.” Wasn’t that why he’d dragged Gary… Harry (and since when did names stop mattering to you, Javier?) off the stage and into the night? So they’d have time for a quickie? If the guy was new in town, Javier wanted him first. Needed him first. What a coup that would be with his friends. 

(“Oh, him? Yeah, I already had him….”)

It had been hot when Annie, the hostess of the Sunday-night show, had pulled Harry up on the stage and made him take off his shirt and—damn!—the dude’s chest had been better than Mark’s statue!

Why couldn’t he get his body to look like that, dammit? Javier had worked out for years—five days a week, at least two hours a day—and while he was proud of what he had done with his (fat) body, the guy on the stage was a god. He actually had an eight-pack! And his chest. Huge!

When Annie had asked the guy who he’d like to meet, who had he said?

Why, me! Javier felt himself glow at the memory.

Of course, he had played “fuck-me-eyes” with the guy the minute he’d seen him. Been thrilled when the muscleman had sat down right in front of him for the show. Oh yes, and the guy had kept looking, turning his head and looking. Thank God Javier was the master of seduction. He’d turned the sex on without thinking, returning the guy’s looks without a single blink.

Carpe diem!

So then Annie had called him up on the stage, and he and Harry (who wasn’t hairy) had practically done it right there in front of everybody. Hell! Shirtless and with their tight pants, the crowd could see their arousal four or five rows back. Oh, and damn, Harry’s had looked huge.

Looked?

Not just looked. It had been giant. And uncut. And that cock had felt so good inside him. Javier felt so truly alive when he was being topped. Why wouldn’t Mark top him? He used to. Everybody else wanted to. Dedicated bottoms would top him. Javier had been offered money for his ass.

(Wasn’t that basically how he and Mark had gotten together in the first place, for all intents and purposes? Not so much the offer of actual cash. But it had been the offer of a gay cruise.)

The only thing that had put a damper on the whole thing was when Harry had asked him to spend the night.

What the hell?

That had almost ruined it.

Hot, sweaty, nasty, on-the-hardwood-floor sex, and the dude brought up breakfast?

The only thing that saved it was the guy saying something about fucking until the sun came up.

That could have been hot.

There was a “ping” and the elevator doors finally opened, and Javier sprang through them like a jack-in-the-box…

… and slammed right into someone.

Jesus! It was a little old lady! She went flying back, arms pinwheeling, and for a horrible second, Javier thought she would hit the floor and then….

Then it was like time just stopped.

She seemed to float for a second, and then she was okay. A little old lady dressed in bright red….

God!

“You!” he shouted.

Her eyes narrowed behind small round glasses, her brows becoming one gray slash. “You,” she whispered. Her voice was like ice. Cracking ice.

Javier’s blood went cold.

 

 

Had it only been the night before that Javier had seen her for the first time? Waiting there in line to get her picture taken with him? It seemed forever ago.

Oh, he’d been on top of the world. Center of attention. In the spotlight.

He liked it.

A lot.

When Reva, the manager of The Male Box, had asked him to be this year’s Santa, he’d agreed without hesitation. Only the hottest men got a chance to play that role. And that meant that Javier was finally on his way.

There were people who would have laughed at the thought, would have considered playing Santa for charity at a bar to be small potatoes. But those people wouldn’t have lived here in Kansas City.

The Male Box was really the only hot bar in town ever since its main rival had closed down. Now you had to go to St. Louis to get better, and that was a good four hours away.

The weekend before Christmas was one of the biggest of the year for The Male Box. Cheap drinks (for a half hour, they were free), fantastic prizes (including a gay cruise), and a chance to sit in Santa’s lap. The men lined up for that opportunity because The Male Box’s Santa wasn’t some fat old man in red. Oh, no! He was a leatherman in classic leather gear. Black boots (because that was the first thing a leatherman bought: his boots), a small leather bar vest, harness, and chaps (assless if you were daring, and wasn’t Javier daring?). He’d chosen to up the ante by wearing only a red jock strap beneath his chaps, and let those out of the loop think the color was for Christmas. Hell. The stripes down the side of his vest and chaps were red as well, and how funny that there were those who didn’t know its significance. The sexual kink they advertised for those in the know.

The thought made Javier grin.

Yes, a New Yorker or someone from San Francisco would laugh at how thrilled Javier was to play “Naughty Santa,” but what they wouldn’t realize was that the ladder wasn’t as high in Kansas City. It took a while to get onto the first rung, but then in no time you could be on your way to the top.

Javier had been selling Jell-O shots for AIDS charities for nearly a year now. That had helped get him the Santa gig. Let people pay ten bucks to sit on his lap, play them up good and nasty (they might buy another picture), and you could very well wind up being next year’s Mr. Kansas City Leather. That meant you went on to International Mr. Leather. Had it been only a couple of years ago one of KC’s own had placed second? That guy had gone on to do porn.

Javier wasn’t sure if he wanted to do that. It sounded fun, but porn could follow you forever. Of course, it wasn’t like he was planning on running for president or anything. Or that his mother or anyone from that old life would ever see one of his movies. So if it was one of the big studios—Zeus, Falcon, Raging Stallion, Titan—he’d think about it. Some of those guys were rich. If they could stay away from the meth. And that was one thing he could surely do. He’d seen what drugs could do. Ruined lives and destroyed bodies. And Javier’s looks and body were who he was. They brought him attention. Hell, they brought him downright adoration.

So when Javier had sprawled back in that “Santa throne,” crotch thrust forward, men standing in line for their chance with him, he had been in heaven. It was thrilling to see the looks on their faces as they waited their turn for a moment in his lap.

All he had to do was pretend he was turned on to them as well. And in a way he was. He was turned on to them being turned on to him.

Javier had come a long, long way since the old neighborhood, since school, since Mr. Schultz.

Oh, if they could see me now, he thought, and the faces of cousins and high school classmates (and one teacher) flashed through his mind.

They’d called him fat. Panzón. Gordo. Sissy. Maricón. Faggot.

Now what would they think? Now that his belly and chubby cheeks were gone. Hell, he actually had cheekbones now.

Now his looks opened doors for him. While he was lucky genetics had given him his face, it was his own hard work that had given him his body. It had given him Mark, hadn’t it?

And if he was a “trophy wife,” so what? He lived in a big beautiful home, he had a BMW Z4, he wore the best clothes, and he had traveled the world. He didn’t even have to work. His job was to host parties and to be at Mark’s side. Javier had played his role well. He’d been on cruise ships, visited the underwater museum off the coast of Cancun, ridden a gondola in Venice, walked the cobblestoned streets of Tuscany, and partied in Amsterdam. And everywhere, there were men. Beautiful, hot, sexy men!

He didn’t even have to be monogamous.

Could there be a better life?

Maybe if there were romance…. But Javier got a bit of that here and there, and he supposed Mark did love him. As much as Mark loved anybody but himself. He told Javier that he loved him.

Mark certainly loved the looks of envy from his friends whenever and wherever he took Javier. It was a competition who had the hottest boy.

Of course, Javier had passed boyhood at least a decade before, but wasn’t Mark at least two decades Javier’s senior? Good-looking to be sure, but older. What did the man have to complain about?

Javier certainly didn’t complain. He had more than he could have dreamed of, and now soon there would be more.

All because he was sprawled seductively back in a big leather throne, letting twinks and queens and fatsos sit on his lap. Touch him. Javier just had to talk dirty to them. Be their brief fantasy. Use his unerring gift to reach out and find a nipple—even through a thick flannel shirt—and give it the appropriate degree of pressure. He could always tell how much. It was a gift. For some a gentle swirling touch, for another a good squeeze, for yet another a hard pinch.

He’d flirted. He’d commanded. He’d been master or boi, daddy or son, Dom or sub, somehow knowing what each man needed.

And he’d loved it.

Not a bad gig, especially when it could lead to International Mr. Leather.

It had been going gloriously.

That is, until she showed up.

It had been a little startling to see the old woman standing there. Not what he expected. She had to be seventy years old. A tiny thing, maybe five foot two or three. Her floor-length dress was bright red and had long sleeves with big white lacy wrists, and a huge white apron. She wore a red and green bonnet over white hair pulled back in a bun, and round gold wire-rimmed glasses, which framed intense, sparkling blue eyes. That was what had struck him most of all. From a good ten feet away, and in bar lighting, he’d seen those flashing blue eyes.

Javier had found himself sitting up a little straighter in his “throne” and pulling the leg that had been thrown provocatively over one of the chair’s arms into a more dignified position. He had actually dropped one hand in his lap, trying in some way to cover his amply filled red jock.

Then he’d swallowed, cleared his throat, and motioned her forward.

Without the least hesitation of some of her predecessors or the confident stride of others, she had glided to him as if on ice skates and then seemed to almost float up onto his lap. She’d laid an age-spotted hand on his shoulder and looked up at him through her little round glasses. Her eyes shone.

“Hello, Javier,” she said in a voice that was almost musical.

Who? Javier wondered. Do I know this lady?

“My, my, how you’ve grown!” She dropped her gaze to where his leather vest and crisscrossing harness exposed his hairy chest, and to his surprise, he found he wished there was some way to clutch the small vest closed. She looked studiously back into his face. “What would your momma say?”

Javier’s mind swam in confusion. “Do I know you?”

She smiled the sweetest smile. “Oh, I think you probably know of me at least,” she said quietly, and it had been a miracle that he could hear her at all over the loud bar music. In fact, it was Katy Perry who seemed to have faded away, as if down some long dark tunnel. “I certainly know you,” the old lady continued. “Been watching you your whole darned life. I must say you’ve turned out to be quite a disappointment.”

Javier nearly flinched at her words. “What the hell?”

“Hush now,” she said, and Javier found his words clogging in his throat. “Disrespectful too. Swearing. I know your momma taught you better than that. And how long has it been since you talked to her?”

The little old lady’s voice had lost its musical quality. “You were such a good boy. And such a wonderful young man. Always watching after your little sisters, Lupe and Juanita.”

Javier had frozen at the mention of his sisters. This woman has to know me, he thought. But who was she? Some friend of his mother’s?

“What would your sisters think if they saw you now? Your mama?” The little old woman ran a finger down his vest and across his harness.

He wanted to cringe from her touch.

“Your verga all out there for anyone to see.”

He’d nearly leapt to his feet then, afraid that she would touch him down there.

“Oh?” she said. “You know that word? You actually know some Spanish? But you’re so ashamed of your heritage that you wanted people to call you JT there for a while.”

At those words, he’d nearly dumped her on the floor. Only the crowd that watched kept him from losing his cool. Appearance was everything! “Who are you?” he asked again. “What do you want?”

She giggled then—like a schoolgirl! “Oh, Javier. I want to see if you’re getting pressies for Christmas. Or coal. I want to see if you’ll do the right thing.”

“What the fu—”

“Language!” she chirped, holding up a hand. “Now, look over there. You see that man waiting in line?”

Javier’s head had turned as if without any volition. There, he saw the man the old woman must have been talking about. He was one of the chubs, and he was practically jumping from foot to foot—

(he wants me)

—in excitement. Not fat exactly—

(they called me fatso)

—but he could certainly lose some weight—

(panzón, gordo)

—and for God’s sake, why didn’t he? Javier had done it, and he couldn’t understand why people could let themselves go like—

“Javier!”

His attention snapped back to the old woman.

“I want you to go home. My husband has business with that man, and you need to go so it can be conducted.”

The last words did something to him then. Since she’d walked up to him, things had become—weird. Like she’d hypnotized him or something. But when she’d told him he needed to go home, the words snapped him out of it. She was messing with plans too long made. The crazy biddy had crossed the line.

“Listen, old lady,” he said, just as the photographer took their picture with a bright flash. “I think it’s time for you to—”

At that, the old woman’s eyes had gone wide, bigger even than her glasses (and was that even possible?), and she leaned in close and whispered something in his ear. Not words exactly. It sounded more like the twittering of tiny birds. Were they words?

Then Javier had just known it was time to go home. He’d stood up, and she found her feet just as gracefully as she’d found his lap.

“Time to go,” he said.

“What?” cried the pudgy guy who was next in line.

“Sorry, man, I’m wiped,” Javier said and then thought, I am?

How could that be? “Don’t worry,” he informed the obviously upset man. “There’s someone taking my place.”

There was? Why had he said that?

“You’ll get your picture taken,” he’d finished, and for some reason that sounded perfectly reasonable. And as he turned to leave, he’d seen an enormous man, who looked so much like Santa Claus he could have been the real thing, step out of the shadows and sit himself on Javier’s throne.

Lose some weight, he thought, and then he left.

 

 

When Javier got home, Mark was surprised to see him. 

In a big way.

Javier heard the moans first.

At first, he’d thought he’d caught Mark watching some porn.

He was. Mark was also fucking a young boy with dark skin and black hair. Indian maybe? The kid could not have been a day or two more than eighteen and was bent over the couch while porn played on their 58-inch HD flat-screen. The moans had not been only from the actors.

Javier had been shocked. Dozens of emotions and thoughts had swept through him in an instant—shock, anger, hurt, and surprisingly, disgust.

Mark was having sex.

With someone besides me! Javier thought. Mark doesn’t have sex with other people. He’s faking it. A joke. They’re not really doing it. Wait. No! He’s… he’s topping. He’s fucking that kid. That young kid. He won’t fuck me anymore, but he’ll…. “Mark?”

Mark did have the good grace to stop thrusting. He hadn’t, however, pulled out. The kid’s shining black eyes, at least, were wide in shock.

“You’re home early,” Mark said in a voice that was soft and even.

“I….” Javier swallowed. “Yes.”

“Can you give me ten minutes, darling?” Mark asked.

Javier moved his head up and down once. Turned. Then he’d gone outside into the unseasonably warm night and sat at one of the glass-topped tables by the heated pool.

Mark’s fucking a kid.

A kid who was younger than he had been when he’d first met Mark.

Javier didn’t think too much else. He’d been too stunned.

Mark had taken every bit of his ten minutes. He’d come out in his whiter than white robe and sat down at the table, sliding a short glass of something over to Javier—probably whisky. Javier had taken it, surprised to see his hand shaking, and took a sip.

The Macallan?

Was this good or bad?

“Do we need to discuss this, darling?” Mark had said then, and Javier had turned to look into his handsome face. Hair silver in the pool light, eyes shining blue—

(but not like hers!) 

“Are….” Javier had to take a breath before he could finish. “Are you in love with him?”

Mark had laughed at that. His real laugh—the one that for some reason always reminded Javier of wind chimes—and not the fake one he used for bad jokes with clients or “important” members of gay society. “Christ, no!” Mark said.

Javier nodded. His mind was whirling now. What to say? Just pretend nothing had happened? No. “Is he my replacement?” Javier asked.

“For what?” Mark answered with a question.

“Are you done with me?” Javier said before he could stop himself, and he then held his breath.

“Oh!” Mark laughed again. “Not hardly, darling. He’s just a hustler. A pretty little bottom whore.”

“You were fucking him.” It had been a statement, not a question.

“Javy, I like to fuck boys.” Another statement.

“You don’t fuck me anymore.” It had almost been a cry, but somehow Javier had gained control of his emotions.

Mark took a drink from his own glass. “Ahhed” at its taste. Said, “You aren’t a boy anymore, Javy. You haven’t been in a long time. You weren’t really when we met.”

“Then why keep me around?”

“You had—have—other qualities.” Mark swirled his whisky in his glass. “My friends began to tease me. No. It was beyond teasing. Boys, they said, were all right to play with, but not to keep around. Then I met you. You were a little older than what I usually went for, but not too old. Enough that they tolerated you.”

The words stung a bit, even though they didn’t surprise Javier. He knew he was a trophy. It was just that the words had never been said out loud.

“Then you wound up having a head on your shoulders, could carry on a conversation. At first it amused them, then you began to impress them.” Mark laughed. “I will never forget when you recommended that stock to Jamison—which he ignored—and then it turned out to be good advice. He’d have made a shitload of money if he’d only listened. I certainly listen, don’t I?”

Javier paused. “Yes,” he said.

“After that, they started thinking differently about you. They even respected you. And they certainly didn’t expect us to last. Most of them can’t keep a lover for more than a year or two.”

“Why do you keep me?”

“Lots of reasons, Javy. There’s the fact that you were—still are—magnificent in bed. You’re beautiful. What’s more, rather than get all crazy on me for my lack of interest in the games you like to play—your leather and kinky games—and my lost interest in fucking you, you discreetly find playmates and don’t embarrass me. So we’re in the same boat. You find playmates for your tastes, and I do the same.”

Mark tossed back the end of his drink and said, “So I ask you, then, are you done with me?”

Like that, the shoe was on the other foot.

Could he be upset that Mark was having sex with other men? He had sex with others. Why not Mark? Wasn’t it the same thing? “No,” Javier said, hardly noticing he’d spoken aloud. It wasn’t the same thing.

“Oh good,” Mark said, misunderstanding Javier’s comment as an “all’s well.”

Javier didn’t correct him, though. What was he going to do? Leave? He couldn’t imagine it. Leaving this home, and everything that went with it? Going back to the way things had been before?

“Thank God, Javy. I was worried there you were going to get all Mildred Pierce with me. Throw a fit. Break things.”

“No breaking things,” Javier had somehow managed. “When have I ever caused a scene?”

“And thank Christ for that. Finding a new lover is worse than finding a new house or car. Javy, you know me. Know my likes and dislikes. You’re appropriate at all times.”

Appropriate.

“You look good at my side.”

I’m like his Audi R8, his Sean Scully.

“People may have thought you were nothing but a hustler at first, but you quickly dissuaded them of that notion. Which couldn’t have been more perfect. People make fun of gray and wrinkled men who keep the company of whores.”

Whores. I wouldn’t want to embarrass him. “You’re not wrinkled.”

Mark laughed that laugh again. The real one. Happy. “Not with the doctors I can afford.” He began to play with his empty glass, and Javier offered to refill him.

“Yes, that would be nice.”

“The Macallan?”

Mark’s face had lit up at that. “Ah. You see? That little hustler wouldn’t have known the difference between Laphroaig and some Berbiglia rotgut. You must stay.”

I know the difference between good and bad whisky. I know the whisky he likes is never spelled “whiskey.”

So he’d gone and refreshed Mark’s drink. Four ice cubes, three fingers. Just the way he liked it. While he was there, Javier quickly dug through the liquor cabinet and found the cheapest booze he could find—obviously something left at a party by one of Mark’s friend’s playthings—and took a huge swig. When he got back, he kissed Mark. He used lots of tongue.

Their eyes locked for a few seconds. Did Mark taste it? The cheap?

The cheap like me?

 

 

And so the next night Javier had set out to be inappropriate. Maybe even embarrassingly so.

Javier was afraid he’d have some major cruising to do. He’d had almost everyone worth having, and he wanted someone new. He didn’t even get any pleasure from the lust he saw in the eyes around him. At least not when the looks came from trolls and blimps. Fuck! Couldn’t they get a clue when they couldn’t even see their own dicks that it was time to go on a frickin’ diet?

Of course, Javier had to endure Gerald’s pawing. He was the owner of The Male Box, after all. But it wasn’t easy. The man was a blimp and a troll rolled into one.

To his pleasant surprise, Javier had found someone fast. Someone who wanted him, and Javier needed his ego stroked. He needed it bad. What’s more, the incredibly hot fucker seemed to be more into him than Javier was into the stranger. That was saying something, too, because Javier was really into the guy.

They went to the guy’s apartment and had sex. Crazy, but Javier had even offered to give up his ass bare, and what was that about? Being inappropriate? Punishment, maybe? Who was he punishing?

Mark?

Himself?

As soon as he’d cum, Javier was done. He wanted out. He didn’t bother to clean up, just scrambled into his designer jeans, his Michael Anthony boots, his Hollister T-shirt, and got the hell out. Ran while he was still high on the sex and before he could think about how he’d offered to bareback with a stranger.

Only when he bolted out of the elevator, he ran right into the creepy old lady from the night before. She was still wearing her red outfit.

Weird.

“You!” he said, and he suddenly remembered—only now!—that she had done something to him the night before. Hypnotized him, maybe (and wasn’t that just crazy?), made him leave the event that was sure to hand him the title of Mr. Kansas City Leather. He’d walked out of The Male Box with hardly a thought.

“You,” the old biddy whispered in a voice that reminded him of the ice pond he’d walked on when he was twelve. How the ice had cracked….

“You,” she repeated. “Javier, you could have hurt an old lady.”

For some reason goose flesh rushed up his arms. “I’m sorry,” he said.

“Didn’t I send you home to your man last night?”

Sure you did. Where I found him fucking a twink whore.

“And didn’t you learn anything?” she asked, and she actually shook her finger at him.

“Yeah!” he barked. “I learned something all right.”

“So now you’re turning around and making Mark pay? Is that it?”

Javier stiffened. “What?” Did she know? How could she…? “Who are you?”

“No! Who are you, Javier? Selling yourself to someone for a BMW? For a trip to Greece? To a man who doesn’t even love you?”

Javier backed away from the woman. Banged into the closed elevator doors. He glanced around, looking for a way out.

The little old woman snapped her fingers. “Eyes front, Javier.”

He jumped and their eyes locked. Those blue eyes. They were flashing like tiny thunderstorms. He couldn’t look away. He tried, but to no avail.

Bruja!

She laughed. “Witch? No, not that, but I am a force to be reckoned with. Call me a biddy? What other words do you use for people? Blimp? Twink? Troll? Have you forgotten? Forgotten your past? High school? What they called you? Gordo? Maricón? How did those words make you feel? How much did it hurt? So it’s okay, now that you’ve turned yourself into… into this?”

She stabbed at his chest with her finger, and he gasped at the force of it. 

“Now it’s okay to treat people the way they treated you? That’s not the Golden Rule, Javier. It is ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you’, and not ‘do unto others how they have done to you’! Have you forgotten who you were? Have you forgotten your dreams? Have you forgotten how you hurt?”

She was inches away from him now, and it was all he could do not to cry, not to wet himself.

Then it was like they were in another place. A huge field of snow, white below, gray above, cold—very cold—and windy.

Cold.

And her stormy eyes.

But then…?

Then they softened.

She smiled. The tiniest little smile.

“I think,” she said as softly as a breeze, “that it’s time you remembered.”