Christopher, Craig & Co.
Part 112: On a Short Leash.
“I just really need some caffeine,” I was saying. “Blame Chris. He introduced me to the wonders of coffee.”
Austin frowned. With all of his clean eating and working out he didn’t like to be tempted by donuts when I stopped to get coffee.
He steered the car into the Dunkin Donuts parking lot. “I’ll wait here.”
I got out of the car and walked into the store. No lines, no waiting. A few minutes later I was strolling out the door with my large iced coffee and a smile.
Austin had shut off the car and was seated on a bench at the side of the building.
“It’s warm today,” he said. “Want to hang here for a while?”
I shrugged and sat beside him. Being with Austin was different than being with Andrew. With Andrew I never really knew where I stood. Sometimes I was the most important thing in the world to him and sometimes he was busy with other stuff and he all but forgot about me. Austin makes me feel important all the time.
He laced his fingers through mine. I sipped my coffee. This was nice.
I felt happy.
“Hey!” a voice called. “It’s you!”
I looked around. There was a guy walking toward us. He was compact in build, no taller than me, in a jacket, tight jeans and a beat-up pair of Converse. He looked familiar, but I couldn’t place him.
He stopped in front of us. “How did the collar fit?” he asked.
I froze. That’s who he was! The cashier from the pet store.
He ran a hand nervously through his wavy brown hair. His blue eyes twinkled in the reflected sunlight. As the silence stretched on he rocked from one foot to the other. He seemed to grow more nervous by the second.
He wasn’t the only one. I knew he had known why we were picking out a collar that night at the store. I was so embarrassed I didn’t know what to say.
“Hey, sorry if I said the wrong thing. I just thought you guys might be into the same stuff as my girlfriend and me…”
“Girlfriend?” Austin asked.
“Yeah. She likes having a pup.” The guy’s face reddened. “I’m sorry. I just thought. Nevermind.” He turned to go.
“Wait,” I said, finding my voice. “What’s your name?”
“I’m Wade.” I stood up and gestured. “This is Austin.” We stood awkwardly. I was dying to ask, but I knew I shouldn’t. Suddenly, I blurted, “So you’re really your girlfriend’s pup?”
Chase glanced around. There was no one here but us. “Yeah. I’ve got a hood and a tail…”
“Hot,” Austin said.
Chase brightened. “Which one of you was the collar for?”
Austin sort of raised his hand.
Chase looked from Austin to me and back again. I could tell from his expression he had assumed it was for me. “You know, there are some great online stores for gear if you want stuff. And if you wanted maybe you guys and Maria and I could hang out some night. Maria’s my girlfriend. It would be so cool to have kinky friends locally. The only people I’ve ever met who like this stuff are online and too far away to visit.”
I looked at Austin. He nodded his head.
“We’re just heading back to campus now. You could come with and hang out now, if you wanted to.”
Chase scuffed the toe of his sneaker on the pavement. “Oh. Well. I would really like to. But Maria kind of has this rule that she has to meet my friends and approve of them before I can make plans.”
I frowned. That didn’t sound like fun at all. Chase needed permission to make friends. I had been cut off from everybody I knew once. I’d never do that to anybody. Especially Austin.
“But I bet after she meets you it’d be ok. Would you want to swap numbers?”
I punched his number into my phone and sent him a text.
“It was really great running into you guys today.” Chase waved and then headed toward the parking lot. Then he stopped, turned around and shrugged at us and reversed course for the store.
Austin nudged me. “You sure it was a good idea to give him your number?”
“I don’t know. But I can tell you that I won’t make you introduce me to your friends so I can approve of them.”
Austin pulled me into a hug. “Wiseass.”
“Watch your mouth,” I said with a laugh. “I could keep you on a short leash.”
I felt Austin’s hands slide down my back to my butt. “That doesn’t sound like a punishment.”
To be continued in Part 113…
Christopher, Craig & Co.
Part 113: Friday.
It was a beautiful sunny day in upstate New York. Spring was in bloom, the sky was a bright blue, and I was parking my car in the lot behind Leatherman’s Club.
Correction. My club.
I stepped out of the car, locked the door, and walked to the public entrance. I had just left the lawyer’s office, and, armed with a set of keys to the building and the papers showing transfer of ownership, I was about to inspect the property.
Scott was uneasy about me doing this alone and had attempted to convince me to wear a wire, but I was confident I could handle myself. I was well aware of Richard’s temper and penchant for abusive language, but I highly doubted he would become violent with me.
And if he did, I was willing to do what it took to end this.
I unlocked the front door and let myself inside. I had been to the Club many times before when it was closed, but it always seemed to me to be a sad place without music playing and crowds of men dancing and drinking.
I strode through the dark and deserted main room and switched on the lights. It still seemed surreal to me that Leatherman had willed the place to me. We had been friends a long time, but I was surprised by his decision.
I walked to the familiar door marked PRIVATE, and unlocked it.
The office lights were on, but the room was empty. I walked around, looking at the coffee table, the bar, the desk… There were no personal effects of Richard’s visible. Maybe he had decided to leave town after all?
I climbed the stairs to the private living quarters Leatherman and Bootboy had shared. The air smelled stale; no one had been up here in a while. The beds were made in the bedrooms, the bathroom and kitchen looked clean and tidy, but a glance in the refrigerator revealed spoiled food. I busied myself dumping the contents into a garbage bag. It occurred to me I would likely have to pack up anything of Leatherman’s that was still here at some point.
I walked back down the stairs, carrying the filled bag of garbage. I opened the private back entrance and tossed the bag in the dumpster, then walked back into the office.
Richard was shutting the basement door when I entered. He turned, startled. “What are you doing here?” he demanded.
“I was just taking out the trash,” I said with a smile. I shut the door and leaned against it. “How are you, Richard? I didn’t think you would be here.”
That was a lie. I was pretty sure he would be.
“You didn’t answer my question.”
“The Club is mine. I have copies of the papers showing my ownership if you’d like to see them. I am taking possession today.”
Richard’s expression remained neutral. “I would be interested in seeing those papers.”
I picked the folder up from where I’d left it on the desk and held it to him at arm’s length.
He shuffled through the contents. “It appears the Club is yours. I would appreciate the weekend to remove my property from the site.”
I shrugged. “That seems reasonable. I must say you’re being gracious about this. I anticipated an argument.”
Richard walked behind the bar and poured himself a scotch. He dropped an ice cube in the glass. It clinked against the edges as he sipped the drink. “The Club was never part of my plans for returning here, Christopher. Leatherman was an unexpected dalliance. Have the Club. What do I care?” He took another sip of his scotch.
I looked him up and down. His preppy drag still looked good on him…sweater over a button-down shirt, tailored khakis, designer loafers. To pass Richard on the street you would never know he was a sadistic S.O.B. He seemed very relaxed and completely detached from battling over the Club. I didn’t get his sudden change of mind.
“What was your plan, Richard? I never thought you’d come back here. It’s been years. Why return now?”
“I have a home here. I have dear friends I longed to see. Surely you can imagine that I would feel nostalgic for this town.”
My expression must have betrayed my skepticism.
“You and I share some wonderful memories here, Christopher.” A smile spread across Richard’s mouth, but never reached his eyes. “But then, you don’t remember many of them, do you?”
I crossed the room to the bar and hopped up on a stool. “I remember more than you think.”
“You were so gifted.” Richard shook his head. “None of my other boys ever had your skill.”
“Look at you, being complimentary. I’m touched.”
“Alas, I never was able to remove your defiant streak. Or your smart mouth.”
“To your great frustration, I’m sure.” I rolled my eyes. “So you came back because you were homesick. Then why come after my friends? Why keep inserting yourself into my circle?”
Richard looked at me over the rim of his glass. “You don’t own a monopoly on the gay population here, Christopher.”
“No, you’re right. I don’t own any of them. You were the one who always wanted to own people.”
“They’re never people when I own them.”
“No,” I said. “I suppose not. Slaves, puppets, objects. You never really viewed any of them as more than a fucktoy. Me included.”
“You were the best.”
I threw my head back in laughter. “High praise!”
“Don’t be so flippant!” Richard thundered. He lowered his voice. “You’ve grown comfortable, Christopher. Complacent. Idle. It’s not I who was inserting myself in your life. Quite the opposite. You have sought me out repeatedly since my return. One wonders why you are drawn to me. Perhaps you miss serving a real man?”
I bit my tongue. Literally. “Oh, Richard. If I ever feel like serving a real man, Scott is more than up to the challenge.”
Richard gestured with his glass. “Your boyfriend is a head turner, I’ll grant you. But he is no Master. Have you hypnotized him and made him your plaything?”
I folded my arms. “No. I don’t need to hypnotize him.”
Richard let out his low laugh—the one that always made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. “You always were a foolish boy.”
I stuck out my chin. “Not always.”
“That is your weakness, Christopher. Your hubris. You may have the Club. I will vacate by Monday. There are certainly things I want more.”
“Will you be leaving town?”
“Perhaps eventually. But there is much to do, and I am busy, very busy.” Richard’s expression changed. “I trust you can see yourself out.”
Richard set his glass on the bar, turned on his heel and walked out of the office. I sat for a moment willing my heart to beat at a normal rate. What I had envisioned as an epic battle had barely been a scuffle. Though I would never give him the satisfaction of letting him know, Richard’s unpredictability did still scare me.
I hopped off the stool, gathered my papers and walked out of the Club to my car. Inside, I dialed Scott’s cell.
“I’ve been waiting to hear from you!” His voice met my ear.
“I know. I just got to my car.”
“Was Richard there?”
“Yes. And oddly cooperative.”
“I don’t know how to explain it. There’s something off about his whole attitude today.”
“Maybe he’s just accepted that the Club is yours.”
“Maybe.” I didn’t think so, though. “Will you be home for dinner tonight?”
“Yes. We haven’t seen near enough of each other this month. I’ll get home around six. Do you want me to stop for Chinese on the way?”
“Perfect. See you soon.”