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Masquerade

Chapters 1 & 2


By Loryn


Smashwords Edition


Copyright 2018 Loryn




CHAPTER 1: THE PARTY


The annual masquerade was held in the basement floor of The Ampersand, a local elitist venue. By day, it was an exclusive hotel favored by celebrities and privileged businessmen alike. By night, having your name on the list was the only way to savor the best entrees the city had to offer-- and the food was good, too. The classic French masquerade parties were favored because everyone was equal for a night. Behind a mask and your Sunday’s best, a top earning entrepreneur could find himself next to a local construction worker.

Sawyer arrived once the event was well underway and the line at the entrance had dissipated. Eager for a break from his controlled life, he was wearing a tailored coral suit and had a custom mask to match. The mask was a shimmering silk, two toned that shined coral and teal alternatively. Aurora Borealis crystals lined his temples and a silk ribbon disappeared in his thick dark hair, securing the mask to his face. The only visible parts of his face were his sloping nose and his pouty lips, accented with tinted lip balm. Sawyer nodded to the guards at the entrance, showing his identification before slipping it back into his pocket for safe keeping. Then he strolled into the main room and paused to take it in. Every year the basement floor was the picture of decadence, each year more lavish than the first. Deep red carpet was rolled across the floor and the same color stained the wood of the walls. Strobing lights created a comfortable atmosphere and highlighted the important fixtures in the room: the bar and lounge area, the dance floor, and the private rooms off to the sides. He wasn’t standing long before a server greeted him with a smile and tilt of her head. She wore a glistening dress that washed over her like water, pooling at her feet. Her creamy back was exposed as well as her face.

“Can I get you anything?” Her voice was warm, smooth and a smile touched her lips as she offered the tray of appetizers to Sawyer. She reminded him of his best friend, Ally, who also always had an invite to the party and always had a sparkling smile on her face. She normally arrived with Sawyer, even if she left on the arm of another man, but this year she was away on business.

“No, thank you.” He touched her side as he declined her offerings and then he slipped away. He followed the wall around to the bar where he took a seat. From his spot at the bar, he could see the entire room. It was a strategically safe spot and he picked a perch in that general area every year, a bird nesting in the same tree. The point of the masquerade was to be free from social expectations, but Sawyer made a secret game of trying to guess who had rented their suit or dress and who owned a closet full. There were some tells, namely the cut and color of the clothes. Those social climbers that made a career of attending events had special attire made for the evening-- the usual ball gown would never do. This was a chance to truly show the extent of one’s disposable income; dresses entirely of silk chiffon were standard, dresses that shifted with the subtle movements of the wearer were a requirement. It was easy to find dark blue, black, or even checkered suits from a department store, but those men that wanted to stand out picked daring colors: burgundy, robin’s egg blue, and even sunset orange. Sawyer had once seen a man wearing a checkered blue and gold suit, once. The pattern was lined with crystals and he had a walking cane but no limp.

The bartender nodded to Sawyer and after dropping two drinks and a credit card, he made his way over to him.

“What can I get you, sexy?” He wasn’t masked either and he donned an expertly tailored suit. He managed to keep it casual, skipping the tie in favor of unbuttoning the top two buttons and exposing a few curls of chest hair.

“A dirty martini.”

The bartender nodded, grinned, and then moved away to tally more orders before getting to work. Sawyer’s gaze lingered on the man, pool blue eyes tracking his effortless movements before he went back to watching the room. He watched as giggling women found themselves in the arms of masked strangers, whisked off to the private rooms. He’d been attending these parties since he could drink. He’d always been on the list for attendance when he was ready, his father being a local politician and his mother being the head of the Daughters of the Revolution and an active member of the Liberty Ladies, the local Ladies Literary Alliance, and The Upper West Side Yacht Club just to name a few. His parents always came as well, vowing that the terms of their marriage didn’t apply on masquerade nights; they had probably written that clause into their nuptial agreement. Every year he watched his dad disappear with a young woman in a slinky dress, his hand at her waist, helping her walk. His mother was much more coy with her conquests. Like her son, she had her post, watching like an eagle until a man dared approach her. She favored younger men, of course, the brawnier the better. Her dress was custom made by a local designer every year. This year the neckline plunged and the back dipped even further. Her legs were crossed under her sheath dress, her back straight, and she was nursing a dirty martini as well and the same blue eyes scanned the room. Sawyer smiled to know where he got his behaviors from.

“See anything you like tonight?” The bartender placed a napkin and then Sawyer’s drink on top of it before sliding it over. Everyone else had been served, so he had a few minutes to take a break.

“Not this year.”

“You say that every year.” He chuckled warmly, shaking his head. “I’m going to start reserving this seat for you. If you could ever come on time, I’d have your drink ready for you, too.” He wiped the bar counter on front of him, keeping busy lazily. “So how’s the boyfriend?”

“He doesn’t exist.” Sawyer frowned gently. “It was more of a friends with benefits than an official boyfriend situation.” He took a sip from his drink, sighing softly at the taste.

“Well I’m sorry about that. Look, I have to get back to work. I hope you find something you like tonight.” He tapped the counter and then moved away. People had already started shaking their drinks at him, eager for refills.

“Thanks.” Sawyer turned back to the room, drink in hand and leaning against the counter comfortably. He crossed his legs and stretched out his lean body as he nursed that drink. As the time went on, he watched as the dance floor went from crowded to sparse. People had found their pairings for the evening and had disappeared either into a limousine or to a room in the upper floors of the exclusive hotel. He wasn’t sure why he kept coming to the event when he never enjoyed the point of the night. Every year he came, surveyed the new decorations, the new theme. He watched everyone, people that he knew matched up with builds and strides he didn’t recognize. He watched giggling women saunter up to politicians, pet down their chest, and have them making promises they will never keep. He had a certain disdain for all of it, starting with the concept of a masquerade ball in the first place; the idea that at some point a working-class person would want to be equal next to modern day royals. He wondered how much people paid to get on the list, or even how one gets on the list if their name wasn’t written down since birth. Was there a person that delivered exclusive invitations to attractive people, regardless of their class?

“You have a name.” A warm voice cut through Sawyer’s thoughts and he turned around quickly to find the source. His defining features were covered with a black, no-frills mask and he was wearing a black suit, black tie, black loafers. He had honey colored eyes and tawny skin to match. Long, jet black hair framed the man’s face; it was mostly straight but had started to wave at the ends, perhaps from being tied up or perhaps a natural curve.

Sawyer opened his mouth to reply, but nothing came out.

“I mean a nickname, but I’m not going to tell you what it is. Let’s just say-- I know you come here every year and you leave alone. If you’re not going to enjoy yourself, why come?”

“Wow. So you’re kind of stalking me?”

“I’m not, but there are some other people that might be. I just got curious. Why come if you don’t enjoy it?”

“I--” Sawyer surveyed the man for a moment, quiet. “I do enjoy it.”

“What parts?”

“The drinks.”

“The drinks? You don’t need to come to a fancy exclusive masquerade party to drink a dirty martini. We can leave and get that at the bar around the corner. Try again.”

Sawyer shrugged, abandoning his drink and looking around. The party was at a lull; it was slow going after that initial rush of people, but it would pick back up as the late partying crowd wandered inside for more dancing and drinking. “I like watching the people.”

“Trying to recognize them?”

“Yeah.” Sawyer blushed. “Trying to figure out who’s high society and who’s not. I heard they invite a thousand regular people every year.”

“And how does that work for you?”

“The high society always shows off. Women have tailor made dresses and men have lavish suits. Also tailored, of course.”

“Huh. So by your assessment, I’m one of those regular people?”

“Yes. And I think your mask cost maybe ten dollars.”

“It is only one night a year, no reason to spend a lot is there?”

“It depends on what you call a lot.” Sawyer observed. “Do you have a name or something?”

“Or something. Zane.”

“Sawyer.” His blue eyes fixed themselves behind the bar; he wanted to apologize for the way words seemed to come out of his mouth. He also couldn’t decide if he wanted Zane to go or stay. The bartender came back their way as Zane took a seat at the bar.

“Can I get you anything?” The bartender stopped in front of Zane, voice lacking the familiarity he offered Sawyer.

“Yeah, sure. His tab and a bourbon.”

Sawyer’s eyes widened but then narrowed. “I would like a Kentucky Derby Mint Julep, please. And. I will be right back.” He slipped from his perch, one corner of his lips quirking up just slightly towards Zane before he walked off, disappearing quickly in the crowd.

“Dirty martini, KDMJ, and bourbon. You want to use your employee discount?”

“Yeah. Here.” Zane raked his fingers through his hair, pulling it all to one side before he dug in his pocket for his credit card. He passed it to his coworker with a sigh.

“He’s going to recognize you when you take that mask off.”

“He hasn’t recognized my hair yet and I thought that was defining. It’s not like he ever books a room so I think I’m good. Plus, I don’t care if he recognizes. That’s the point of the masquerade, right? Supposedly we’re equal tonight, so we’ll see what happens.”

“Yeah you’re an idiot. That kid’s been sitting at this bar for three years. And you’re the first person to waste your time talking to him.”

“Lucky me.” Zane grinned.

“Yeah, lucky you. How’s your mom and Marie? Ain’t seen them in a bit.”

“They’re fine. Marie’s asked about you so you need to come show your face.”

“Yeah sure, I’m in need of a good home cooked meal. Hey-- did Carlos hit you up?”

“Nah, why?”

“He was asking about you. Don’t know what for, didn’t give me all that.”

Zane narrowed his eyes but then relaxed them, grinning again. “All right. Ring me up for that ridiculously expensive drink and the rest of it.” He waved a hand, “Go do your job.”

The bartender chuckled, taking his card and disappearing with it.



Sawyer sauntered back over to the bar after a few minutes. He had a graceful walk, nothing overly sexy or out of place in a suit, he just carried himself well. Zane liked the confidence.

“Welcome back.” Zane grinned, showing pearly white teeth. The bartender came by with their drinks when Sawyer returned. He placed two napkins for their drinks and then took his finished martini away, dumping the rest and rinsing the glass. He watched Sawyer for a moment and then cut his eyes back at Zane.

“Here y’all are.” He placed Zane’s card down beside his bourbon then hesitated. He wanted to linger, to make sure Sawyer was okay with his new conversational partner, but he was working. He had other customers that were impossible to please. He winked at Sawyer and grinned. “Have a good night.”

“Thank you.” Sawyer gave a faint smile to the bartender, lifting his drink to taste as his blue eyes floated back to Zane. He took a tiny sip, then he placed his drink down again.

“So. How do you feel about the Mayor?”

“I feel like the little tartlet he took home tonight is going to get him in trouble. I wonder how many women he offers hush money to or does he fuck with his mask on.”

Zane chuckled. Sawyer’s lips pulled to the side, an almost smile.

“Maybe he doesn’t fuck her at all. Maybe she does him. He seems like the type.”

“The type?”

“Yes. A powerful man needing to be put in his place. You know. The dominatrix thing.”

“Oh. Yeah. That’s a thing, I guess. What about you?”

“What about me?” Sawyer tilted his head to the side, tracing a nimble finger along the rim of his glass. It made a soft noise, singing.

“Uh. Forgive me if this is forward or something, but, what’s your assessment on yourself?” Zane ducked his head a little, taking a gulp of his bourbon to resolve his nerves after that question. He’d already made his approach, so far he was in, but Sawyer was intimidating. His intense, watchful blue eyes could turn a man to stone if that man wasn’t careful.

“Hm.” Sawyer’s gentle smile grew. “I think that I’m an arrogant brat that uses sarcasm and abrasiveness to push away any man that might actually want to bother talking to me. But sexy. I’m very sexy. I have a nice ass. Nice legs.”

Zane pursed his lips as Sawyer spoke, surprised by his admission but not by the answer. He nodded, grin replaced by an honest expression. “That got deep. Why do you push men away?”

“Well isn’t it obvious? Daddy issues, fear of commitment, the usual.” Sawyer lifted his shoulders to his ears, stretching out his long back and cradling his glass. He rested his elbow on the counter, body curving around like wire. “There’s just something about your father being away on business, your mother busy with running every social function in the city, and being raised by your immigrant nanny-- it makes you bitter, I guess.”

“I guess it does.” Zane’s hazel eyes surveyed Sawyer, drinking in those little charms that were unique to him. The way he exposed his neck, head tilting as he spoke, the way he looked down his nose as if there was no one truly worthy of his words. Zane even noticed how he kept his hands busy, first strumming the rim of his glass, next thumbing the damp napkin.

“What?” Sawyer frowned when he caught Zane watching him. “Seriously, what?”

Zane shook his head, a smile spreading across his face. He gave a quick glance around before lessening some of the distance between their bodies. He stroked Sawyer’s chin, gently pushing it up as he bent down. Sawyer sighed at Zane’s touch. Every movement was slow, calculated, something that Zane had dreamed of doing since he’d first seen Sawyer. He wasn’t leaving the event without knowing how pillowy soft Sawyer’s lips were. Zane paused just inches before their lips met, lips already parted, hot breath kissing Sawyer’s skin. Sawyer knit his eyebrows and his eyes fluttered closed.

“I’m going to kiss you.”

“Yes, please.” Sawyer whispered. Zane nodded and then closed the distance between their lips. Zane’s hands were rough, but his touch was soft, careful. He kissed him solidly but decorus, letting them stay connected for only a few seconds before retreating. Sawyer sucked in his breath, nostrils flaring. His lips buzzed, tingling with desire. “Again.”

“Not here.” Zane stroked Sawyer’s chin again, giving him a boyish grin. Sawyer set his jaw, moving away from Zane’s electric touch. His skin ached, the connection waking him up, making his heart race and his muscles tremble. Sawyer could hear his heart in his ears, throbbing over the blaring music.

“Fine.”

“A room.” Zane tipped his head towards the doors lining the far side of the space.

“Fine, but this doesn’t mean I’m going to fuck you.” Sawyer took another tiny sip from his Mint Julep before abandoning it and standing up again. “Lead the way.”

“Well I’m not expecting you to.”

Sawyer’s steely eyes tracked Zane as the larger man stood. Zane fixed the lapels of his suit, adjusted his tie, and then offered a hand to Sawyer. His brown eyes sparkled, another youthful grin on his face. Sawyer took his hand and allowed Zane to guide him through the crowd. It had picked up again, just as Sawyer expected, and it wasn’t easy to clear a path through people that were already past their capacity. Zane made it look easy, clearing the way and then leading Sawyer through. Zane strolled past the doors until he found a vacancy, opening the door for his partner.

Sawyer took his time once inside the room, avoiding Zane’s relaxed gaze, still looking for a way out. He checked the exits, all the doors. There was the one they came in from, the bathroom, the fire exit. The window, as well, of course. Zane approached again, this time cupping Sawyer’s face in his hands. There was no reason to rush, so he didn’t. He traced the line where Sawyer’s mask met his skin, down his cheekbone, over his jawline, finally over his lips. Sawyer kissed his fingers.

“Did I mention that you’re beautiful?”

“Don’t. That sounds lame.” Sawyer looked down, eyelashes kissing the edges of his mask.

“It’s true. Or at least what I can see. Not sure about the parts I can’t see.” Zane chuckled, urging him back against the wall. Sawyer’s heart started to skip pace again. He wasn’t a virgin, but it had been so long since he’d had another man against him. He’d forgotten how it could feel; he’d forgotten how much heat two bodies could produce. Then there were things that were new, like Zane and the spice Sawyer could still taste on his lips. The way the last parts of his words turned to gravel as his voice dipped lower, his smoky laugh. The way everything else lost its sparkle if it had to compete with Zane-- that was new, too.

“If you’re lucky.” Sawyer initiated this time, perhaps for fear of being denied. He barely brushed his lips against Zane’s, but he felt fire again. It spread from his lips, down his throat and pooled inside him. He pressed harder, reaching out to grab the hems of Zane’s suit, pulling him closer. The suit’s material was foreign to Sawyer, threadbare and artificial, but he tucked that information in the back of his brain as he tried harder to identify exactly what Zane tasted like. Peppermint and bourbon was on his lips.

Zane chuckled as their hips met, but then he groaned. He could feel Sawyer’s arousal, the unyielding shaft of his cock traveling down one tight pants’ leg, the swollen head marking the end of Sawyer’s length. Zane didn’t know the rules of suit dressing, he didn’t know to shift his cock to more the left or the right when he’d put on his pants and he hadn’t thought it would matter, but he felt himself getting excited and having no direction to go. His cock swelled, pushing against the front of his pants at first but then reluctantly curving to the left side gradually, like a rerouted train.

Sawyer noticed that, too, and he exhaled in a soft giggle when Zane pushed into him.

“You need a moment?” Sawyer licked the corner of his lips and grinned.

“Yeah-- Nah I got it. I just--- hang on.” Zane issued a quick kiss before burying his face in Sawyer’s neck and redistributing himself.

“You were one of the thousand. You are one of them, aren’t you?” Sawyer had been teasing earlier, but now it was imperative for him to know. His curiosity piqued; that certain appeal had finally hit him. Zane didn’t act like the men he was used to, he didn’t touch like them, didn’t smell like them, either. Zane didn’t smell like a cloud of over priced cologne and unnecessary confidence. He didn’t touch like he owned, like everything would be one of his possessions stashed on an impeccably clean shelf eventually.

“Yeah.” Zane said softly, lips moving against Sawyer’s jawline. “Gotta return the suit tomorrow so I can’t get anything on it.” He grinned, eyes softening.

“Do they charge extra for that? I’ve never rented a suit before.” Sawyer knew how silly his question sounded only after it left his lips, how trivial, how privileged. “Sorry.” He blushed and glanced away.

“Yeah. A cleaning fee and you’re fine.”

“Okay. I feel like I should say something. We should talk about something and not just kiss.”

“Should we? I don’t think these rooms were designed for conversation, but we can talk if you want. About anything you want. Here.” Zane kicked off his shoes and lead Sawyer over to the bed. Confused at first, Sawyer reluctantly slipped out of his shoes as well, then his jacket, then hesitated again. Watching Zane, Sawyer unbuttoned his tight pants and slowly slid them down. Sawyer had designer briefs under his custom suit and a bulging cock under his designer briefs. Then he slipped into the bed. He rubbed his slender legs together, stretching out in the lush sheets, blue eyes watching Zane.

“Join me?” Sawyer tipped his head forward, making his eyes look even larger, the whites circling brilliant blue irises.

“Of course.” Zane unceremoniously stripped off his jacket and his pants. He started to jump into the bed but then he paused again and fumbled with the buttons of his shirt before sliding that off of his shoulders. Sawyer purred. Zane’s lack of grace was charming and also gave him time to appreciate the man’s form. There was a difference between muscles that were gained at a gym and muscles that were gained from hard work. Zane’s shoulders were dark, suntanned from working outside. He had a thick neck that swelled into broad shoulders and strong arms. His chest was chiseled but also sunkissed, light freckles dusting his chest in the place of hair. His chests funneled down to a tight waist, the line of his hips guiding Sawyer’s eyes right down to the center of his body.

Sawyer was grateful that the mask hid his blushing cheeks.

“See anything you like?” Zane couldn’t help a grin as Sawyer tried to hide himself in the comforter.

“Yes. Your mask is very nice.”

“You can keep it if you want.” Zane finally crawled into the bed, stretching out on his back and then pulling Sawyer closer. Sawyer curled into Zane’s side, curling into his armpit and resting his head in that perfect groove where his broad shoulder connected to his chest. His body arched so his chest pressed into Zane’s side, hips against the other man’s, and one slender leg stretching over him, too. Sawyer stroked his smooth thigh over the hard line of Zane’s cock in his boxer briefs.

“Gifts already? I like this.” Sawyer stretched an arm over Zane’s chest, soft fingers petting over weathered skin. “I want to ask what you do, but you are going to tell me it’s a secret, won’t you?”

“Mm.” Zane’s skin rose with goosebumps at Sawyer’s touch. “For tonight, yeah. It’s a secret. Tell me why you never go home with anyone and I’ll tell you how I know that you never go home with anyone.”

“Oh. Because I don’t want to be that person.” Sawyer bit his bottom lip and shifted up to look down at Zane. “My parents come. Every year. My mother finds some young man, my father finds some young woman. It’s part of the spice of their relationship.” He shrugged, “I mean, I don’t like the concept.”

“So why come?”

“It’s a social event? If you’re on the list, you have to come. There’s only maybe five hundred high society people that come. There are people that are rich that aren’t even on the list.”

“Okay, so why come?”

“Because. I was born on this list. I can’t just not come. I know it’s stupid.”

“I’m friends with the bartender. He, well, he mentioned you. Not in a creepy way. It’s kind of a joke between us, I just never thought I’d see you for myself. He said there was this guy that had been coming to this party for basically ever since he started working it. Sits in the one seat like a prince on his throne. He thinks no one notices him.” It was Zane’s turn to shrug.

“That’s it? Some weird bet is why you’re talking to me?”

“No, just half. The other half I can’t tell you because it would reveal my job.”

“Can I guess?”

“If you want.” Zane chuckled, “But my answer will be maybe.” Sawyer’s features soured.

“Fine. Well. Did he at least say I was good-looking?”

“Hm. Yeah. He said physically you were my type, personality wise you’d give me a run for my money. Exact words.”

“I approve.” Sawyer’s lips quirked in a brief smirk, raking his fingers through his dark curls. “My father is a politician. My mother is a professional socialite.”

“Meaning you have always had expectations?”

Sawyer nodded. “Always. When they found out I was gay, I thought they would be angry, but my mother used it as an excuse to start a scholarship program. You know she never attended anything at school, people thought Rita was my mother. I let them.”

“That sounds tough.” Zane reached up and touched Sawyer’s cheek, thumb stroking his high cheekbones.

“When I was a child, I wanted to be a dancer. A professional dancer, but I was told that I would be a politician. But that was when my father thought I would marry a woman. I suppose since I’m gay, my career expectation is to be a socialite. I’m still in school. Graduate school for English. I don’t know why I’m telling you all of this. I can be quiet-- we can go back to making out if you want.” Sawyer’s blue eyes searched Zane’s face. He looked for annoyance, anger, any small clue that would reveal Zane’s true thoughts, but Zane looked pleasant. He’d been watching Sawyer, giving the other man all of his attention.

“Nah, keep talking. I like it. You talking and your voice and hearing about you.”

Sawyer pursed his lips when Zane said that. He found it difficult to keep watching Zane’s face, so he focused on his chest, idly drawing circles against his skin.

“Well. I don’t want my career to be being rich. I want to do something more with my life.”

“Being rich could be a good thing, I mean. You don’t have to work everyday, so that means you can do anything. Fuck, you could help homeless everyday if you wanted. Or rescue dogs or something, you know?”

“Oh. Yeah I guess I co--” Sawyer started to speak, but then a ringing filled the room, raggedly cutting through the soft hum of music.

“Shit that’s mine. Hang on.” Zane quickly went up to kiss Sawyer’s cheek before he shuffled out of the bed and dug in his pants’ pocket. In one smooth movement, he glanced at the screen of his mobile phone, answered the call, and put the phone to his ear. “Bueno?” Zane’s voice was different; an authoritative tone quickly replaced that relaxed conversationalist. Zane glanced at Sawyer then moved to the bathroom, pushing the door closed to continue the conversation.

Sawyer collapsed back, hiding eyes with one arm, the other pet down his body, disappearing into his briefs and giving his cock a squeeze. He listened intently to that low rumble of Spanish and when he heard the conversation drawing to a close, he pulled his hand away and closed his legs.

“Bad news. I-- uh-- I gotta go. I’m real sorry.”

“What is it? I can give you a ride maybe?” Sawyer sat up as Zane started getting dressed, slow frown growing as that beautiful fawn skin disappeared under clothes.

“Nah. You stay here.” Zane dressed remarkably fast despite the stormy expression on his features. When he was dressed, he leaned over the bed to kiss Sawyer. Forgetting his gentleness, he explored Sawyer’s mouth desperately, tasting his Mint Julep, tasting the sharp taste of olives from his martini. Sawyer reached up to comb through Zane’s long curls, fingers clutching those dark locks and trying to keep him close for as long as possible. The kiss ended too soon and Sawyer retreated back into the bed, turning away so he couldn’t see Zane leave and Zane couldn’t see his eyes get red and puffy.


Sawyer waited until after he’d heard the door open, close, and after he thought it had been an acceptable amount of time for Zane to have left the party before he pushed himself out of that bed and got dressed again. He stood in the mirror, head tilted as he pulled his pants over his legs and his jacket over his shoulders. He knew better than to think it was him, but he couldn’t shake the idea that Zane had rejected him. He’d seen him for who he really was, just some spoiled rich kid that had nothing to say. Sawyer couldn’t even admit to himself how badly he wanted to try again with Zane or even at least tell him that there was more than just vapid conversation. Feet feeling like cinder blocks, he dragged them to the main room and dragged his even heavier body back to the bar. His mix of shame and embarrassment prevented him from even looking to find the bartender.

However, Sawyer wasn’t invisible, so the bartender eventually came by him.

“That guy you were with, he left this for you.” The bartender slid a folded piece of paper across the table. Sawyer peered, taking the piece of paper. He didn’t look at it yet.

“He said he knows you. Does he?”

“Yeah. We know each other.” The bartender shrugged. “He said he had to go. Family thing. But told me to give you his number.” Sawyer thumbed the piece of paper; knowing that Zane left for family made it better but didn’t completely erase the feeling of inadequacy.

“Should I call him?”

“Do you like him?”

Sawyer’s full lips pursed at the corners. “I’m going to go. It’s late and I think the party is mostly over.”

“See you next year.”

Sawyer pocketed the phone number as he hopped right back off that barstool and followed the same path out as he’d followed in.





CHAPTER 2: CHICKEN FINGERS


Zane whipped into the driveway of the little cottage. He stumbled out of his car and in three short strides, he devoured the distance between the gravel driveway and the front door, but once was standing in front of the rounded top door, he fumbled with his keys, fingers lacking grace as the round bolt lock mocked him. The house was quaint and quiet, lined with three pots of aloe, one huge pot of lantana, and another several pots of cati he’d been repeatedly warned not to touch. Some were hanging, some were in festive pots beside the door, threatening to trip anyone not paying attention. There was a spanish welcome inside, a french welcome mat outside, and a special spot for catholic saints on the mantle. His mother was religious-- or she pretended to be, anyway. They had two bedrooms and, luckily for him, two bathrooms. His mother and sister shared one bedroom and bathroom and he had the other pair on the opposite end of the house. He threw his keys on the counter by the door.

“Ma? Marie?” He called desperately, rushing towards their bedroom in the back of the house.

“In here. She’s okay now, I think. Her numbers just dropped and I couldn’t wake her up and I got scared.” Marie was a teenager-- a mature one. She was content sitting at home with her mother all night so her brother could have a little bit of fun.

“I’m okay! You didn’t have to leave your party to come by me!” His mother fussed, a soft chuckle with her words as Zane entered the room, “Just got sleepy is all. You worry too much, my sweet boy.”

Zane kissed his mother’s forehead, squeezing her hand and sighing with relief. He peeled his necktie off, draping it over the back of a chair already serving part time as a hanger. Their room was, well, lived in by two women and it was difficult to find a clean spot. The only piece of furniture not covered in clothes was the bed and there wasn’t a surface in the room that didn’t contain a pile of items from hair care products to stacks of magazines.

“Good.” He tried to shake those nerves, the same ball of worry grew in him any time his mother had problems. He couldn’t process the concept of losing her for good, the idea of coming home to an empty house, the reality of raising Marie on his own.

“Are you going to go back to your party?” Marie was a female version of Zane, long curls, high cheekbones, kind eyes. She was wearing short shorts and one of Zane’s shirts. Long socks covered most of her long legs, coming up to her calves and stopping just below the knee. When Zane entered the room, she was standing beside the bed, gangly teenage body prepared to sprint towards the door, but she collapsed back in the soft bed when her pedicured feet tired of holding her up.

“Nah. I’m staying with my ladies.” He leaned over, kissing his sister’s forehead. He squeezed into the full sized bed, resting his loafers on top of the comforter. His suit slacks tightened awkwardly around his thighs, constricting fabric missing the DNA to be proper loungewear. He coiled into his mother, needing to feel young again. “What are we watching?”

“They’re doing an As the World Turns marathon so we’re watching. It’s so dramatic.” Marie rolled her eyes, pulling her knees up to her body and tucking the blanket around them. “Besides. What we want to hear about is your night, Z. Did you see him? Was he there? Did you guys-- you know-- do it?”

“Uh okay. Wow. Um. Yeah he was there. I talked to him. No, we didn’t do it. And even if we had, I wouldn’t tell you. You’re too young for that kind of thing, damn.”

Marie giggled as their mother got comfortable between her two children. She had blankets tucked around her and a tiny space heater on her side of the bed, making the room warm and toasty. It was uncomfortable for Zane, but his mother needed it so he didn’t complain.

“I’m not too young, they pass out condoms in health class. Oh P.S., I grabbed you a few, just in case. They’re in your room.”

“Okay, dork. Thanks for that.”

“No problem. Also Henry stopped by and wondered where you were. I told him you had to work. So you’re going to have to manage all your friends.

“Damnit.”

“Yep. So tell me about him. Like really about him besides his apparent love for olives because that’s not interesting. That’s just you being lame.”

“All right.” Zane chuckled, “So here’s what happened. I arrived at the party with my mask and he was already there sitting at the bar drinking a dirty martini. He wore this mad sexy suit. Like-- damn. It was tight on his ass, cut perfect to his body. And it was this pink orange color---”

“Coral. It was coral. Keep going.”

“Yeah, sure, coral. And he had a mask to match. And I could see those pouty sexy lips. I watched him for a bit but then I went up and talked to him. He was kind of standoffish at first though. He didn’t make it easy, made me pay for a thousand dollar drink. I know, it was stupid, but it’s coming out of my check. You guys don’t have to worry.”

Marie smiled as he kept talking, light brown eyes turning just to watch him. She could see her brother’s visage soften, tension from being an adult falling away. Zane was never a kid, he never went to parties, got drunk, got high. Midway through his high school career, their mother had been diagnosed with an illness making it difficult for her to work consistently. She received disability, but between the supplies not fully covered by insurance and the new diet she embraced, it wasn’t enough to make ends meet. He managed to keep things afloat, working nights and weekends while going to school during the day. Marie vaguely remembered her mother being hospitalized and Zane’s friends hanging out at the house in the afternoons while her brother worked. His friends made food for her and kept the house clean. They managed to be impressively domestic for a team of lacrosse players. They didn’t judge when Zane had his bad moods or when he couldn’t come to birthday parties, either. Marie only understood the sacrifices now, being five years older and able to go to school without the added stress of being the primary breadwinner. She participated in team sports, went on week long field trips with her classmates, and worked one day a week at the local ice cream parlor for her own spending money.

“So…? Did you kiss him?” She asked shyly.

“Damn, kid.” Zane blushed, staring at the television. “Yeah. I did.”

“Did he like it?”

“Yeah.”

“Did you guys do more than kiss?”

“No, Marie. We just kissed. Then we went to a private room and I kissed him again but after he wanted to talk so we got in the bed and talked. Well, he talked.”

“So you had to listen to him complain about rich people stuff? Like how his private jet can only fly out during the day and not the night? Oh so terrible.” Marie lamented, placing her hand on her forehead and tipping her chin to the sky. Zane pinched her side.

“Oh fuck you. He’s not bad. I mean he didn’t bring up his private jet. We just talked about his family. He told me his dad was a politician and his mom is like-- rich. That’s her job, I guess. He’s in grad school but he doesn’t know what he wants to do.”

“Yeah isn’t that a luxury.”

“Hey, don’t. Don’t be bitter. He didn’t pick to be born with money.” Zane shrugged, “He said he didn’t know what he wanted to do. I told him since he was rich, he could do anything. Like help bring awareness or volunteer. But that’s it. Then you dorks called.”

“What! Why did you leave? You idiot! I could’ve taken mom to the ER. You should have said something!” Marie shoved his broad shoulders.

“I left my number with Johnny. He was working the bar.”

“He was there?” Marie perked up, pushing herself away from the headboard to look at her brother.

“Yes. He was there. No, stop thinking about it. You can’t date my best friend. I'll punch his face out if he fucks with you. And plus he’s known you since you were ten. Isn’t that awkward for you? It’s awkward for me.”

“Um, no it’s not. He’s so cute and sweet.”

“Uh huh.”

“Remember when you couldn’t take off the day I sprained my ankle at practice? So he came and picked me up and took me to the doctor? And carried me to the car?”

“Yeah I would’ve done that too, though.”

“Well, yeah, but you’re my brother. You’re supposed to.”

“Right. Well, nope. And he’s five years older than you.”

“Age is just a number, Zane.”

“Not when you’re seventeen, Marie.” He smiled. “Find some jackasses your own age to date. There are plenty. Now, I’m going to bed. I’ll see y’all in the morning.” He kissed them both, petting his mother’s thinning hair before he got out of the bed. The bed groaned, old springs creaking under his movement.

“Night.”

“Good night honey.” His mother had been mostly asleep, dozing to the comforting hum of both of her children safe and sound, but she woke up to bid him good night at least.

Zane flipped the light switch as he left the room, making the room dark with only the soft blue light from the TV highlighting their bodies. He closed the door behind him, but he didn’t go straight to bed. First he showered, washing off the smell of cigarettes, alcohol, and Sawyer. It would be impossible to sleep with Sawyer’s scent filling his nose. He took a long shower, letting the hot water beat down his chest until it went from hot needles pricking him to icicles stabbing him. He turned the water off, wrapped himself in a towel, and shuffled into his own room, kicking the door closed behind him. He melted into his bed, rolling around to look up at the ceiling and placing one hand behind his head, stretching out his broad chest. The other he trailed down his damp body, fingers disappearing under the folds of the towel.

He considered calling one of his many ‘friends’. He had his boys and he had the friends he’d lay down with, the ones that kept him company when he wasn’t interested in being alone but also wasn’t interested in a long term commitment. Henry was out, since he’d already stopped by tonight, but there was Joe, Cameron, and Silas. He ran his fingers along the firm ridge of his cock, already excited at the prospect. His hand roamed lower, between his corded thighs to grab his balls. He tugged the skin, thumb caressing wrinkly flesh as he debated on what to do. If someone came over, he couldn’t think about Sawyer, he couldn’t imagine Sawyer on top of him, smooth thighs on either side of his body, hips rolling gracefully. However, if someone came over, he’d have sex. His hand went back to stroke his cock again, fist gliding along his length and fingers idly teasing his foreskin, stretching it over the head of his cock. He slid his fist back down, pulling extra skin behind the swelling head of his cock. Thinking about Sawyer’s soft lips planting kisses on him, his waifish body on top of him, Zane rumbled softly.

He arched his back, thumb massaging the skin at the base of his cock, pressing into his belly to wake up the bundle of nerve endings inside him. He imagined Sawyer snaking down his body, nestling between his legs. He wondered how Sawyer sucked cock. With those thick lips, he couldn’t be bad. Just by default, he was already decent, but did he like it or did he do it for his partner? He savored the idea of Sawyer not being interested, almost reluctantly participating with a bored expression. The thought of Sawyer vibrant blue eyes meeting his sent a trill down his spine, each vertebrae throbbing with anticipation. His chest heaved on an exhale and he closed his eyes, jerking his cock faster. Oh, it wouldn’t take long for him to cum thinking about Sawyer, but it was bittersweet. Their night was almost perfect. He enjoyed lying next to him, looking into his eyes and talking. Sawyer was fresh water in a swamp, his problems less damning, and Zane liked that. Everything about him contrasted with the people Zane knew, leaving a lot to explore between them. Zane liked that, too.

He rubbed himself faster, focusing on the sensitive head, his hips bucking into his hand and pushing back into the bed alternatively. He groaned softly as he felt tingling arousal grow. He wondered if Sawyer was kinky, too. That could be why he was so unimpressed with his prospects, because he wanted a man interested in more than receiving a blow job and fucking him until climax. Maybe he preferred games. He mentioned rich men wanting to be brought down a few notches. Another sigh escaped his lips as he envisioned Sawyer naked in front of him, waiting for direction, being submissive. The point of no return snuck up on him and he moaned. His hand froze in place and he desperately fucked into it, forcing the head of his cock through his tight fingers. His thighs trembled, his belly sucked in, and the muscles in his shoulders and chest stood out sharply. He shut his eyes tight, allowing images of Sawyer to fill his mind as pleasure grew in his belly, traveling through his cock. It made him swell, leaking clear warning. He thrust into his hand faster, unrelenting until he stopped, hips levitating above the bed, chest supporting his weight. His lips and eyebrows went slack as his cock pulsed with orgasm, eyelids slowly closing. Waves of pleasure traveled all the way down his body, making his toes curl, his legs close, his body twist. His hot cum burned as it traveled through his body, forcing its way out of his cock in bursts. The first two were intense, stars erupting behind his eyelids, the next three were shockwaves. His body convulsed involuntarily, continuing to deposit cum in the towel. It dripped down to his bronze body, losing elasticity and turning watery against his burning skin. Zane sank back into the bed, head resting on pillows, arched hips resting on old springs as he idly fondled himself.



Zane planned to clean up once he’d calmed down from that orgasm, but he didn’t wake up until the sun flooded his window, lighting his room with a warm yellow hue and rousing him from a deep sleep. He groaned. He pushed himself up, raking his hands through his hair to take out the ponytail and put it up again. He disappeared in his bathroom to wash up and get dressed and once he smelled human again, he wandered into the main living area in search of his family. He heard them already in the kitchen giggling and talking warmly. He smelled breakfast, too. Zane worked his way to the kitchen, stopping just outside of the room to watch his mother and sister. He wasn’t allowed in the kitchen-- not when they were in there.

“Hola!” His sister called cheerfully. His mother gave him a warning look even though he stopped several inches from where the floor went from carpet to tiles.

“Hey.” He grumbled, voice raw from neglect.

“We’re making omelettes with the egg whites and vegetables and feta cheese.” His mother explained. Their groceries changed dramatically after his mother had been diagnosed. They went from eating processed and packaged food (because it was the cheapest) to eating everything fresh. His mother had the time. After so many complications and almost zero kidney function, it was impossible for her to hold down a job so all she had to do was focus on staying healthy.

Zane smiled. “Sounds good, ma.” He approached them but the second his toe hit the tiles, his mother clucked her tongue and waved the spatula at him. “Okay! Sorry!” He rerouted himself to watch from the serving window instead, picking food from the bowls when they weren’t looking.

“Marie has a study group with her friends at the library, I will get the groceries while she is at her study group. You stay. It’s your day off. You need to relax.”

“Ma.”

“Relax. Watch the TV, play the games. Invite friends over, I cook.”

“Ma.” Zane rumbled, “You know what? Fine. I will.” He shook his head and obeyed his mother’s insistent wishes, finding himself a comfortable position on the couch. He never had much time for TV but he did have shows he liked to watch, mostly the Spanish ones because he watched the American ones when work was quiet. He entwined himself with the blankets and dozed lightly until the food was ready. Of course, he swore he’d get up to get his plate, but his sister demanded he keep reclining and brought it to him instead-- complete with orange juice. He muttered a thanks and ate.

After breakfast, Zane’s mother and sister shuffled out of the house for their errands, leaving him without the car. He didn’t have anywhere to go, so he soon found himself half asleep just listening to the TV drone on. He woke up frowning during an upbeat car commercials and, still frowning, he stretched out on the couch just before he heard his phone ring. He reached blindly for it.

“Bueno?” He answered sleepily, still burrowed in the sheets.

“Z-man. “How ya been?” Zane had friends that called for casual reasons and he had friends that he never wanted to hear from again. Carlos was one of the latter, and hearing his hyena voice on the phone wasn’t what he considered a good Sunday afternoon.

“Carlos. What do you want?” Zane’s voice hardened.

“Well, I was hoping to get your help on a project. Had a deal go bad recently and I need my best boys to help me retaliate.”

“You know I don’t play those games anymore.” Even though he was alone, his voice lowered, a black hole sucking the warmth from him.

“Mm. Yeah you keep saying that but you owe me. And us. When you needed money, who helped you with that? When McBurger money wasn’t cutting it, who helped you with bills?”

“I did my time. And you know I don’t want it around my sister. So I can’t help you with this one, I’m sorry.”

“Tsk. Tsk. Well all right then. If that’s your final decision. I’ll be in touch.”

“You sound like a bad movie villan. Call me again and I’ll break you.” Zane growled and tossed the phone aside. He wanted to get up, to pace, to take care of the sudden anger swelling inside him, but he also didn’t want to move. He settled for remembering the way Sawyer looked at him, his mix of interest and shy reservation. He growled louder when ringing flooded the room for a second time and snatched up his phone again, putting it to his ear.

“Carlos-- what did I say?” He hissed, forcing air through his teeth.

“Oh-- Um hi? Z-Zane?”

“Fuck. Sawyer?” He glanced at the number on the screen. He didn’t recognize it, but he brought his phone to his ear again.

“Yes. You left your number at the bar? For me?”

“Yeah. Yeah I left my number with Johnny.” Warmth slowly injected its way back into Zane’s voice. “Sorry about leaving last night.”

“Is everything okay?”

“Yeah. My ma is good, just a little scare. It’s good to hear your voice.”

“Good. And I’m glad you like the sound of my voice. I was thinking since things got cut short, perhaps we should do something together?”

“Mm.. yeah? What’d you have in mind?”

“I don’t know. I have not thought about it. I just wanted to see you.”

“Oh. Well, I could come get you in a few hours and we could just see where the wind blows?”

Sawyer was quiet for a bit, “See where the wind blows? That could be fun. Yes. Pick me up in four hours. I will text you my address and my door code and I will let Rita and the Phillip know you’re coming.”

“Sounds good. I’ll see you in a bit.”

“Hm.” The line went dead. Zane set his phone aside again, this time gingerly. He emerged from his cocoon of blankets and paced, trying to decide what to do first. He knew it was entirely too early to get ready and he had no idea when his family would be back so he could use the car. Or did he want to take public transit? Or would that make him look bad? More importantly, he needed to make himself very busy so he didn’t focus his new plans. He cleaned-- starting with the kitchen. He washed the dishes from breakfast, taking his time. He scrubbed, rinsed, and dried them before putting them in the cabinets. He wiped all of the counters, stashing little things here and there so every surface was completely clear, so the white laminate counter was as pristine as it was going to be.

He continued on to the living room, folding blankets, vacuuming, and even sweeping under the couch pillows before finally deciding that it was time to start getting ready.




Zane dressed casual for the date, loose jeans, a tshirt, kicks. His long hair was in a lazy bun, hair naturally parting in the middle and the loose baby curls framing his jawline.

Sawyer’s part of town was on the opposite end of the city. Zane had to drive out of the low income area, through the college student area and middle class area. At this point, he had to awkwardly stop for gas because he only ever put just enough gas in his car, letting the needle hover over the empty light. He knew it was terrible for the car, but he hated dropping the money to fill the tank. He stopped at a nice gas station, his faded black car surrounded by large family vehicles with interior cameras and push to start features. He pretended not to notice the stay at home wives making eyes at him, confused and intrigued by his presence. They were tempted to ask if he was interested in being a cabana boy, but didn’t want the question seem rude so instead they settled for biting their bottom lips and trying to get his attention. It was a pointless endeavor.

He filled his tank all the way up and when he went back inside to get change, he debated whether he wanted candy or snacks. He browsed the aisles before finally snagging chocolate and sour gummies.

Sawyer’s place was huge, likely classified as a mansion. It had a gate code and Zane had to lean far out of his car to tap in the number 5-digit number. The first time he was wrong and the machine buzzed obnoxiously before the primitive screen offered him another chance to enter the number. The second time, he had it right and the machine chimed as the gate rattled open slowly. He parked behind the limousine in their long, winding driveway because he assumed the white, custom designed crossover was driven more often. He was probably wrong. Maybe Sawyer’s family didn’t drive?

He frowned when he didn’t immediately see the door and walked around the house, through the carefully manicured hedges to find double doors with a stained glass frame. He peered around, leaning to look around the left side of the house and then leaning to look around the right before focusing on the double doors again. Seeing no other doors, he knocked. Then he saw the doorbell and he pressed it instead, hearing a custom melody float through the house.

The door man answered, opening the door and raising an eyebrow. He was tall, stoic, but was Zane’s color. Meaning he had dark skin, dark hair, and hazel eyes.

“Uh hey? Yeah I’m looking for Sawyer?”

The man’s face relaxed but didn’t thaw. He nodded. “Young Master Henderson will be down shortly.”

Zane nodded, “Well cool-- I’ll just sit over here and wait?” The door man gave no further instructions even though he’d easily heard Zane’s question. Instead, he closed the door and returned to polishing silverware.

“Phillip who was at the door?” A female voice called out. The voice’s owner was a tall, slender, and older version of Sawyer and she seemed to just materialize out of nowhere. She had the same dark brown hair, the same piercing blue eyes and creamy blush lips as well. The door man motioned to Zane and she tipped her head up to observe him. “Oh, hello.”

“Hi, ma’am.” Zane paused and turned to watch her, hooking his thumbs in his jeans, resting his weight on one leg. She was so similar to Sawyer Zane couldn’t help but smile.

“Are you here for an interview for the pool boy we’re looking for?” She looked Zane over from his curly dark locks to his white sneakers, already undressing him, thinking about exactly what she’d have him wearing while he bent forward to clean the pool.

“Uh. No ma’am. I’m--”

“Oh! I’m sorry, so you’re here for the lawn care position? I didn’t know my husband fired the gardener but I don’t like how he’s been doing our bushes.”

“Uh, N-no. I’m here--”

“Let me just find your application so I can look at it. Oh, you look like you’d be great for lawn care or the pool. We can have you trained if you have never cleaned a pool before. What is your name, again?”

“Zane Garcia, but I--”

“Zane. Garcia.” She mused as she looked through a stack of papers she’d just dug out of an overly nice filing cabinet just beside the sitting area Zane had been heading for. Phillip’s face was calculated and difficult to read. His hazel eyes were amused, eyebrows raised a little, but his lips were pursed firm. “Hmm. Well I don’t see your application, but no matter. I can get you a new one? Sometimes things just get lost.”

“Well I’m not--”

“Mother!” Sawyer raced down the winding staircase directly in front of the door, bare toes thumping gently on the carpet. “He’s not an applicant to be your pool boy.”

“Well why didn’t he say so?”

“I tried.” Zane muttered.


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