Chapter 3: Ships in the Night
Jake minced his way to the mass of coats on the bed, pawed through the pile and extracted his tattered outerwear from the tower of similar Goodwill vintage cast-offs. The man who might be a serial killer helped him into the coat, smoothed the shoulders and settled the scarf around his neck. He made a double loop around Jake’s throat, then tucked it into the front of the coat and fingered the top button, all the while keeping his head down.
That was fine by Jake. The last thing he needed was to make eye contact and expose his soul to a stranger who had already opened him up to other possibilities, despite it not turning out exactly the way he might have hoped had he lived on another planet…
Planet gay guy scores.
Planet having somebody special for the holidays…
Hell, let me have that planet’s moon while I’m at it so I can wake up next to that special someone instead of me alone, clutching a pillow instead of a warm body.
Annoyed at the broken record that was his lot in life, Jake mumbled, “I’ve got it,” and did the unthinkable. He looked up, high enough to drink in the sight of thick lashes framing eyes the color of sin, a nose that had seen some action, rough skin bearing scars from the teenage scourge of acne, and a five o’clock dark growth Jake couldn’t manage even after a solid week of not shaving.
His gaydar meter stuttered to a stop in the face of so much masculinity. He might have swooned had the giant not taken his elbow and guided him out the door, down the steps, and into a wonderland of fresh slushy snow.
Name, name, what’s his name?
The man tipped his head in the direction of the Hudson River. “I’m down this way.” They did the ships in the night two-step, looked over each other’s shoulder and avoided mentioning the manner in which they’d gotten thrown together.
Jake took a step back, establishing space between them. Back at the flat, what had seemed inevitable, even downright reasonable, now tasted of bad idea and who the hell is this guy and why is he being nice to me?
Jake arranged what he hoped was a neutral look on his face, skirting accusatory and going for non-confrontational. The man shifted his weight from one foot to another. One of them had to break the stalemate, so Jake decided he’d go first. However, in lieu of a polite, “Sorry, didn’t catch your name,” what came out of his mouth was, “Um, look… I, uh…”
The man’s mouth twitched. “Cole. Cole O’Neil.” He held out his hand.
Jake’s insides went squiggy. He was unsure if he should touch that ungloved offering, especially when it was naked flesh covering a paw the size of a side of beef—the paw he could still feel on his cock, his pulsing, ballooning and expanding the banana bag to its full extra-large promise of awesome manhood. That one.
Jake refused to ruminate on the fact the damn thong was the wrong size, and that a large part of his problem that night could be chalked up to unrealized potential. And Gabe, he couldn’t forget about Gabe and how quickly he’d been abandoned to a mountain man in mid-town Manhatten on a snowy night, with the jingle of lost opportunities humming a background refrain.
While he dithered, the hand bridged the divide Jake had established, and the man named Cole said, “I don’t bite.”
Feeling vaguely disappointed, Jake strayed into Cole’s personal space just a hair, enough to bring finger tips in contact, followed by the agonizing brush of sensitive palms slip-sliding into position and creating an explosion of sensation Jake could almost taste and hear inside his head. The sweet ache of palm meeting palm finally resolved in a grip that devoured Jake’s hand. It was warm and rough and powerful, and it sent shock waves up his arm.
Cole leaned down and whispered, “Unless you want me to…” but stopped abruptly and released Jake’s hand as if it had suddenly turned into a hot coal.
Losing contact like that was unexpected and disconcerting. Jake couldn’t tell if he’d done something wrong, crossed some imaginary line, gripped too hard, maybe not hard enough. Had he communicated weakness or some kind of bad vibe that had set off Cole’s bullshit sensors?
Although he couldn’t speak to whatever was going on inside Cole’s head, Jake knew a couple things from that brief encounter: the sudden withdrawal had burst the illusion of protection Cole seemed to offer, and the contact had left him awash in a frisson of possessiveness he’d never before experienced. Talk about confusing signals.
Trying to regain lost ground, Jake stuttered, “W-w-want you to do what?”
Cole shrugged and turned away, his voice muffled by street noise and the soft shushing of wet flakes in a waterfall of icy splendor. “It was nothing. Come on. I don’t know about you, but I need to thaw out and get some coffee in me.”
The big man made a good effort to keep to a straight line as his long strides ate up ground, nearly leaving Jake in the proverbial dust. The sidewalks were mostly deserted as they crossed Eighth Avenue, dodging cabs and a few panel trucks, and headed toward the Javits Center. A half block before that, Cole turned down a narrow alley and led them to the rear of what looked like a car repair garage. He keyed his way inside and guided him through a warren of storage spaces and auto repair parts before stopping at another door.
“You can wait here. I’ll just be a couple minutes.”
Jake asked, “What’s in there?” He sniffed the air. The odor was rank and familiar, but it was overlaid with something else, something he hadn’t smelled in a very long time. “Is that what I think it is?”
Instead of answering the question Cole waved his hand toward the door. “You want to come in?” When Jake grunted, “Sure,” Cole looked down at Jake’s boots and grinned. “Just watch where you walk, okay?” He held the door open and ushered Jake into a concreted aisleway lined on one side with stalls. A floodlight at the far end near the double garage doors offered weak illumination throughout the cluttered space. On their left a jumble of equipment resolved into tightly parked carriages like the kind he’d seen tooling around Central Park.
Jake could barely contain his excitement. Again he asked, this time his voice shrill, “Are those what I think… I mean, are you fucking kidding me? Carriages?”
Cole cautioned, “Just look, don’t touch. The guys are very particular about those babies.” He disappeared into an alcove and emerged holding a small bucket and a scoop. With a shy smile, he said, “Come meet my best friends.”
Soft nickers and curious stares greeted them as Cole made his way from one stall to the next, dumping a small scoop of grain into a feed bin, leaving a kind word and a pat. From a man big enough to qualify as his own zip code, it was an oddly tender moment. Jake didn’t have to see Cole’s face to know how much he cared for the carriage horses.
Jake asked the obvious question, “Are you their stable manager or something?”
Besides Cole’s name and the fact he seemed like a genuinely nice guy—after all, not many people would take in a perfect stranger after sexually molesting him … accident or no—it still made the situation either awkward as hell or screamingly funny. Jake wanted to lean in the direction of … remember when you did that thing and my thing got caught in the zipper and I damn near lost my thing… Good times, O’Neil, good times.
Except, in the morning, those good times would evaporate like they always did, and he’d head back to the shop, then home to his hovel and his flakey roommates. Rinse, repeat. Rinse, regret.
Cole returned the bucket and scoop to their spot on a shelf and took another look into each stall. He seemed satisfied with what he saw, though he still hadn’t answered Jake’s question about how he was involved with the horses. Despite how irrational it was to want to know details about a man he most likely wasn’t going to see again, Jake couldn’t help himself. He’d skipped over the part where wanting to know more meant nothing other than satisfying idle curiosity. Instead, he’d hopped straight past Go and landed with a solid thunk on needing to know.
Yes, the man had fondled him into a state of distress that could, might, probably would have ended badly but for the intervention of Gabe. On the other hand, there’d been that one moment, that one passing thrill of almost letting himself go, letting it happen right there … on a couch, at a party, in public, with a stranger. The memory of that flash of wanting something so badly he’d have defied all social conventions and abandoned his own moral high ground just to find a spark of relief was enough to rev his engines.
He thought, ow, shit, not smart, not smart at all…
What was smart was him heading out and catching the late night subway ride home. Smart was him leaving Cole O’Neil to do whatever it was he did when he wasn’t fondling a stranger’s cock. Or feeding large beasts in a smelly garage in the middle of the night.
That meant Jake knew two things about his host: one, the man’s hand cupping and stroking his cock had felt so damn good he hadn’t wanted it to stop and two, watching him with the horses, seeing the way he leaned toward them, the care and gentleness reflected in him carrying out such simple tasks, made Jake’s heart skip a beat or two. Both things were unexpected. Both meant trouble. Both revelations would only lead to other revelations that Jake simply wasn’t prepared to handle. Or was he?
Not smart, not smart at all.
Of course, when Jake took a good look at what constituted his pathetic existence, being smart and cautious and particular had netted him nothing more than long slow walks back and forth to the bodega on the corner, nights holed up in his room staring at the ceiling, reciting his two lines from a play no one in his right mind would pay money to see, and forever wondering if maybe dreams coming true only happened to somebody else, not him.
“You coming?” Cole was at the door, a quizzical expression on his face.
Jake sucked back a sigh and muttered, “Yeah, sure.”
Cole’s quarters were up a steep flight of stairs at the rear of the building. The landing opened into a generously-sized loft that was mostly storage except for an area walled off into a makeshift apartment. To Jake’s surprise, the space was cleverly apportioned into a small, but functional kitchen and a living room with a portable television and DVD player combination holding pride of place on a dresser. A couch that had seen better days took up one wall. A couple folding chairs leaning against the arm of the couch suggested Cole didn’t entertain much and when he did, it was a make do situation.
Jake mumbled, “Hell of a lot nicer than my place,” as he removed his coat and hung it on a hook next to the entryway.
Cole pointed to a door at the far end of the room. “Bathroom and the bedroom are through there. If you wait a minute, I’ll grab a pair of sweats you can wear.” They both looked down at Jake’s crotch. Cole’s lips twitched.
Jake chirped, “Yeah, sure. That’d be great.” Really great. The icy cold air and the already snug fit had turned a fashion statement into a genuine torture device for which Jake was going to make Gabe pay … in spades.
Cole ducked into the bedroom. Jake listened to muted sounds of drawers opening and closing, and the tell-tale shush of sheets and blankets being re-arranged. He’d caught his host with an unmade bed. That made him smile, because—though he lived in a tenement that made landfills look upscale—he’d have done exactly the same thing.
So now Jake had fact number three about Cole O’Neil. He wasn’t necessarily a neat freak—the living room-kitchen wasn’t pristine by any means—but he wanted things to look nice for him. So far the ledger appeared promising, too damn promising. He was going to have to cool his jets, because if he didn’t, fact number four might just tip the scales toward undoing all that tidying up.
Cole returned with a pair of grey sweats perched atop an armload of bedding. He held out the change of clothes and said, “I found a spare toothbrush. Can’t guarantee it’s new, but best I can do on short notice. While you’re changing, I’ll see about some ice for your, um… For, uh…” He blushed. Jake nearly swooned.
“Yeah, thanks. I think I’m fine. Really.”
No, he wasn’t. Not fine. Not at all. He was sinking like a stone and re-considering his position on one-night-stands, with him against the wall and Cole doing whatever he wanted with his hands or mouth, preferably both.
Fact number four clicked in place: Cole O’Neil turned him on. The man had flipped a switch Jake had duct-taped down, with a use only in case of emergencies scrawled in red block script along its length. His cock agreed, enthusiastically, despite some discomfort Jake was in no way owning up to. To hell with discomfort. To hell with him being a prissy prude always looking for Mr. Right in a world of Mr. Wrongs.
So he had standards. So what? He was on the cusp of turning one year older, and in that space of time from when he’d come out to now, he’d had exactly two relationships, neither of which had been worthy of a Dear Diary entry, let alone leaving him with the kind of enhanced empathy he could transfer to one of his infrequent stage roles.
He was a grown man. An adult. It was time to don big boy briefs and get on with it. His fingers grappled with the snap and the zipper, the leather and metal notches resisting his efforts to relieve the strangulation. Discomfort ramped to DefCon three.
Grunting, “Shit,” Jake leaned over the sink and groaned, “I am so fucked.”
“Hey, you okay?”
Jake jumped and barked, “Fuck, no, I’m not okay.”
“Sorry, didn’t mean to startle you. It’s just … it sounded like you might be having trouble. Again.”
Jake stared into the mirror and the concerned expression on the face behind him, a face he’d never call handsome, but it had character. It wore the marks of a man who had lived outside, a man who’d seen hard times without letting it get the best of him, a man who cared enough to worry about him.
Cole maneuvered behind Jake, taking hold of his waist and leaning in close. He whispered, “If I make a space, do you think you can get the zipper down?” Cole experimented with two fingers, stretching the waistband to see how much the leather might yield. It wasn’t a lot, but if he sucked in his gut, Jake prayed it might be enough.
The problem with their approach was in the incidental contact of Cole’s fingers with Jake’s cock which responded by filling the space available. Despite that, it was working, but the odds were getting better by the second that he was going to lubricate the damn zipper to the point where he either wouldn’t give a flying fuck or he was going to turn around and return the favor.
Cole hummed in his ear, nearly purring, as Jake shimmied the leather pants off his hips, bending and grinding his ass against Cole’s erection like some wanton slut. He didn’t care. He’d gone so far past the point of no return it would have taken a cosmic event to halt the inevitable.
Bending down, Cole made quick work of removing Jake’s boots and the offending garments. Without getting up, he spun Jake around, nudged his legs apart and licked his way up first one inner thigh, then the next. The brush of soft lips and rough whiskers on his sensitive skin sent Jake through the roof. He gasped, “Bed?”
Before Jake could react, Cole swept him off his feet and carried him into the bedroom like he weighed nothing, then carefully set him down next to the newly made-up mattress on the floor. They finished stripping and crawled onto the mattress on their hands and knees, each taking up a neutral position as they assessed each other.
Jake’s entire blood supply headed south to fuel his cock, leaving him with no thought other than being fucked into next week, but Cole looked like he might be having second thoughts.
Jake said. “It’s okay. We don’t have to,” while inside his head, what was left of his brain screamed, Yes, yes we do! He’d beg if he had to. It wouldn’t be the first time.
Chewing his bottom lip, Cole stared at him with eyes so smoky blue, so filled with lust and passion and raw need that Jake swore his bones melted, leaving him a puddle of please fuck me, please sir, do me, do me now.
“It’s not that. It’s just…”
Jake’s throat felt like sandpaper. He wanted to throw up. Or cry. He barely registered the feather soft touch as Cole traced a forefinger around his mouth, his chin, down the line of his throat until it nestled in the notch at the base of his neck and pressed hard enough to make Jake gasp in surprise and arousal.
Cole whispered, “I feel like I should take my time with you.”
The finger had resolved into two fingers, pinching and twisting Jake’s right nipple, turning it into a stiff peak, then moving on to the other one. He bit the inside of his cheek hard enough to draw blood, hoping the distraction would delay the coming explosion. It wasn’t working.
Jake hissed, “Oh Christ, you mean, like… foreplay?” Please, gods of the quickie, don’t make me wait, please don’t. Cole nodded, his entire focus, along with his wandering hand, trailing south. The bastard was enjoying himself.
“So you won’t be disappointed if we wait?”
“Wait…?” Jake nearly gagged on the word.
With a grin, Cole pulled Jake’s arms over his head, pinning them to the wall as Cole’s huge body loomed over his own. The sensation of being totally, completely, unequivocally dominated threatened to undo him, this time for good, as Cole released the devil that ticked off box number five…
“I’m thinking we save it for our second date. What do you say to that?”
Jake sucked in air, filling his mouth, his throat, his lungs with the scent of their arousal. His last thought before Cole O’Neil took complete possession of his body was … foreplay is fucking overrated.