One

THIRD WEEK in June, Wednesday, 8:00 a.m. With the school year done, your average teenaged guy would be snoring the morning away with a pillow over his head.

Not me. I was sitting in a lawn chair on my front porch, staring, bright-eyed as could be.

Because of them.

Who’s “them” you probably want to know? That would be the six construction workers doing their thing in the once-vacant lot directly across the street from where I live. For about a week now, every day from 8:00 a.m. until noon, the absolute best show in town had been right there in front of my house.

Well, the house actually belongs to my parents. They had it built in a new subdivision off Highway 385, a few miles outside the southeastern border of Memphis. It would be a beautiful neighborhood, once it was finished. At the moment, however, it looked more like a wide, rolling, treeless field of compacted brown dirt crisscrossed by raw-looking blacktop roads, the barrenness broken here and there by a brand spanking new house on a square of fresh green sod, all of it baking under the relentless summer sun.

We moved in six months ago. Someone recently selected the lot directly across from us, and the cement foundation of their house was promptly laid. Then, a couple of days later, a truck delivered a huge load of yellow wooden beams, and a group of six men arrived to start constructing the frame of the house.

That was when the show began.

The six men ranged in age from early twenties to early forties. Four of the six were lean, fit, and good-looking. They worked under the constant bright glare of the sun. That meant they often stripped off their shirts, which put two slightly flabby and four very ripped torsos in full view. The sun tanned the men’s skin. And even better, it made them sweat. Four smoking hot, muscular, sweaty, half-naked construction workers flexed their gorgeous bodies as they hammered, lifted, sawed, and drilled up a storm.

Get the picture? I sure as hell did.

What’s a healthy, red-blooded, sex-starved eighteen-year-old gay guy supposed to do with that kind of entertainment going on just fifty feet away from his front door? That first day—and every workday since—I grabbed a bottle of cold water, put on a pair of shades, planted myself on the porch, and watched, letting all kinds of dirty thoughts flit through my head. My parents were both off at work, and this was my last summer at home before I headed to Christian Heritage University in the fall. To hell with sleeping in or vegging out in front of the TV. I got up bright and early because I didn’t want to miss a minute of those guys doing their steamy building. Good thing they moved off to work on another house on the other side of the subdivision in the afternoon. Otherwise, I’d have been on the porch the whole day, nursing a serious case of blue balls.

So there I was on that Wednesday morning, which was already very warm and sticky-humid on top of that. My house faced east, thank God, which meant the porch caught the early, less intense rays of sunlight and became shaded as the sun moved on across the sky. The temperature was climbing steadily, the men started stripping off their shirts one by one, and summer officially became my favorite season.

There was one guy in particular who really got my engines going. He wasn’t the tallest or the most muscular, but he was easily the best looking in the bunch. I called him Dream Boy. I focused on him, watching as he used a power saw to cut thick beams down to size. His T-shirt was dangling from his back pocket, and his jeans hung low on his hips, revealing the band of his blue polka-dot boxers along with a teasing glimpse of the upper edge of his pubes. He appeared to be Mexican and only seemed to be a couple of years older than me. His skin was a deep tan, almost bronze. His straight black hair was combed back and cut just a bit below the nape of his neck. His smooth face was all rugged lines with dark eyes, a straight, slightly flared nose, and lips that looked about as plump and soft as a baby’s skin.

I stared at Dream Boy, and the fantasies flowed through my head as usual. The middle and the end of those daydreams varied, but they always began like this:

Dream Boy is sawing or hammering away, his face and neck dripping from his steady and skilled exertions, his damp hair hanging over his forehead. He pauses suddenly in his work, sweeps the dangling hair back with his hand, and wipes sweat from his brow with his muscular brown forearm. Then he raises his head, looks right across the street, and makes eye contact with me.

Something about the directness of his gaze sends a jolt through me, freezing me in place. I stare back at him, and he slowly gives me a crooked, salacious grin that leaves no doubt about his intentions. The heat in his eyes brings out the heat in mine, I smile back at him, and that’s all it takes. He throws down his tools and comes rushing across the street. Right there on the porch, we lock arms around each other. His body is hot and sweaty and strong. I grab his ass, he grabs mine, we kiss, and—

The garage door started going up.

Eyes wide, I jumped to my feet as the muffled grinding noise reached me. The garage was in the back and loaded from a service alley that ran behind the house. With no houses on either side, a car leaving or approaching our garage was easily visible. I’d been so thoroughly distracted, however, that one of my parents had returned home without my seeing the car. Things would be far from pleasant if either of them found me camped out front drooling over a bunch of half-naked guys. They put me through the grinder once before over their all-sex-is-bad-and-gay-sex-is-evil-incarnate beliefs, and I’d rather yank out all my teeth with pliers than go through that again.

Desperate to beat my sneaky parent inside, I snatched up the lawn chair, folded it, grabbed my water bottle, and made a dash for the front door. And I would’ve made it, too—if I hadn’t tripped over my own damn feet. I went stumbling off the porch, doing a belly flop onto the front lawn. The chair and water bottle went sliding across the grass as if trying to get away from me.

Damn.

I got up at once and grabbed the chair and water bottle again. My adrenaline was pumping too hard for me to feel any painful injuries I might have acquired, and I didn’t have the time to even think about checking myself out. The porch barely rose up half a foot off the ground, so how bad could I be hurt, anyway? I leaped onto the porch, shoved the door open, and threw myself into the house.

I heard footsteps coming from the kitchen. If I could just make it across the living room and down the hall before….

Dad stepped into the living room. I was about halfway to the hall. We both froze, staring at each other.

Awkward.

“Dad. What’re you doing back home?” I tried to smile, but my short-circuited nervous system wouldn’t cooperate.

“I forgot my laptop.” He frowned at me. My dad was a Baptist minister and president of Shelby County Community College, which meant he spent six days a week decked out in intimidating business suits. His frowns were downright scary to me. “Why are you so dirty?” he asked.

I looked down at myself. Grass stains covered the front of my T-shirt and jeans. My clothes were soaked in spots from morning dew, and clumps of loose sod were stuck to my knees. I looked back at Dad and tried again, unsuccessfully, to smile.

“I’m a kid. All kids are dirty. It comes with the territory.”

His frown turned into a scowl. “You’re eighteen, a high school graduate. That’s hardly a kid. It’s time you started acting like a young man.” Irritation flashed in his eyes. “What’re you doing with that lawn chair in the house?”

“Oh. Well, actually, I was… uh, you see, there’s this bird’s nest in that big, tall shrub out front. Yeah, a bird’s nest, that’s it. And one of the chicks fell out. The nest was too high up for me to reach, so I stood on the chair to put the chick back and I sorta… slipped—”

Dad raised a hand to shut me up. “I don’t have time for this. Put that chair back in the garage and clean yourself up. I have to go.”

By the time I returned the lawn chair to the storage bin in the garage, Dad had retrieved his laptop from his room and hurried back to his car. He opened the door, put his right foot on the floorboard and, just as he was about to slide behind the wheel, paused to give me another frown.

“Morgan, if you don’t have enough to keep yourself occupied this summer, I’ll find something for you to do.”

Oh hell no. “I’m not bored, Dad.” I wanted to point out that not five minutes ago he’d said I was a young adult, and it was ironic he now wanted to micromanage my time as if I were a ten-year-old. But Dad would consider that back talk, which would lead to a browbeating ten-minute minisermon about respecting one’s parents, which would make me feel like a two-year-old. I sure as hell didn’t need that, so I kept my opinion to myself.

“There’s plenty to do at the church,” Dad continued, completely dismissing what I’d just said to him. In the pulpit, he had a rich, booming voice that roared out like a shotgun blast. It seemed to mesmerize the adults in the congregation, and it definitely scared the crap out of the little kids. Outside the pulpit, his voice was soft and stately but somehow concentrated, all its power focused into firing off each word like a bullet coming from a gun with a silencer. Having a conversation with him was like being hit repeatedly between the eyes. “Vacation Bible School starts next week, and you could volunteer as a teacher with some of the younger kids. The Youth Ministry needs more counselors for the summer camp—”

“Yeah, thanks, Dad, that sounds great, but I’m good. Don’t need any help keeping myself… occupied. I got that covered.” This time, I managed to put a smile on my face. It felt about as real as pink fairy dust.

Dad slid himself behind the wheel and put his laptop in the passenger seat. “Just stay out of trouble,” he ordered, and then he closed the door and backed out of the garage. His tires chirped against the asphalt as he sped up the alley.

I waited about a minute. When I felt certain Dad was gone, I let down the garage door, grabbed the lawn chair, and hurried back out to the porch. I’d already missed a good fifteen minutes of Dream Boy flexing away with his sexy coworkers, and I was eager to get back to the show. As I unfolded the lawn chair, I gazed across the street.

Dream Boy was still there, now stacking the beams he’d cut. Already I could feel myself slipping back into fantasy mode, dreaming of the moment that hot dude would shoot a look my way that showed his overwhelming desire for me. My face and body were okay, about what you’d see on the average, young brown-skinned African American dude, but maybe, just maybe, there was something in my looks this gorgeous guy would like.

And then something amazing happened. Dream Boy finished stacking the beams, wiped a hand across his brow, shook out his overworked arms, turned…

…and locked gazes with me. He actually, truly, really locked gazes with me.

I froze. The look lasted maybe five seconds before he turned away and went back to work. But in those precious few seconds, he grinned. And I knew. Somehow I knew he’d seen me belly flop and run inside. His grin said, That was cute, the way you took that spill, and I’d really like to get to know you. His grin also told me he was gay, or at least bi. Freaking Jesus! I might actually have a chance with Dream Boy, I told myself. A very tiny chance, admittedly—I was nowhere near as hot as he was—but still, the possibility was there. I just had to take advantage of it.

Long seconds after Dream Boy returned to doing his job, I was holding my breath, praying for the courage to walk over and introduce myself to him. It would be daunting doing that in front of his coworkers, but that isn’t what held me back. I couldn’t shake the feeling that if I crossed that street and walked up to Dream Boy, my mom or dad would drive by at that precise moment and all hell would break loose. An irrational fear, certainly, but it was enough to keep me on the porch.

I settled in my chair and watched. Dream Boy didn’t look at me again. That made me want to smack my own forehead. I’d been invited into my fantasy guy’s world, and because I didn’t have the cojones to accept, the invitation had been withdrawn.

Wait a second. Invitation? Shit, who was I kidding? I had completely deluded myself. The guy was straight. Deep in the reality-based part of my consciousness, I knew he was straight. That’s actually why I couldn’t make myself cross the street and talk to him. The grin he’d given me wasn’t inviting. He’d been laughing at the fool I’d made of myself, falling off my porch. On occasion, I’d heard the other men on his construction team laugh and joke about the “fag” watching them from across the way. A couple of them had even made obscene gestures in my direction. None of it bothered me because Dream Boy had never joined in on their cruel antics—until that moment. He didn’t want me. He’d never want me.

Still, I kept watching. What I lacked in boldness, I made up in stubbornness. I refused to give those homophobes the pleasure of driving me off my own porch. I liked watching them work, and dammit, I was going to keep watching until they finished the house. There wasn’t much else for me to do with my time, anyway. I’d never had many friends, and the ones I left behind in my old neighborhood were either away on vacation, exploring out-of-town college campuses, or beginning military training.

As I sat there, my mood began to sink fast. Out of the blue, Dream Boy turned his back squarely to me. It was an odd move, one that seemed choreographed, a gesture intended to draw attention to itself. I focused immediately on the neat, muscular V shape of Dream Boy’s shiny-with-sweat back. In a second choreographed move, he crouched down to retie the laces on one of his work boots. His pants and boxers pulled downward, and a portion of his very firm-looking rump peeked out at me.

I squeezed my thighs together against the instant hard-on that followed.

Jesus, why do some straight guys have such beautiful asses? What a waste.