Matt took a bus from Bristol to Whitetop, having to wait three hours for the only one that went there. He almost laughed at the thought of not being able to do better when there was a check for $400,000 in his wallet. But he stopped short of hysterics, realizing that he had lost a whole lot more than that much in having Brambleton snatched from him.

But he already was becoming philosophical about that. He hadn’t exactly acted right the whole time he was there, topped off by begging sex from the evil Rick even while the man was scheming Matt’s inheritance out from underneath him. Matt was coming around to thinking that Rick’s legal maneuverings were justified, however. Matt hadn’t done anything to earn an inheritance. He perhaps had made an old man happy for a short time--but he had killed the old man in the end, or at least his infidelity had been the cause of the judge’s death.

Also, the shock of losing Brambleton had put the whole concept of owning Brambleton into perspective. It was just a house. Matt had done so much harm to others and allowed himself to be screwed--literally as well as figuratively--by others just in the worshiping of a house. Now that the restoration was complete, his fever for the house was lessening.

He patted the leather portfolio case clutched at his side as the bus rumbled along the hilly road toward the mountains and home. He had Brambleton right here beside him. This was the proof of all the work he had done on the house--how he had worshipped it and how it had rewarded him in response by turning out perfect.

The first thing he did when he got off the bus in Whitetop was to walk over to the town’s only bank and deposit the $400,000, less fifteen grand, in his bank account. Vicky, the bank teller there, had always had a crush on him, and now she couldn’t take her jaw off the floor after she’d seen the size of her check. This was more money than the bank had ever seen go by in a day.

He paid $4,000 cash for an old Mustang at the local used car lot--laughing in remembrance of how sleek Perry’s Mustang had been despite having been his “slumming” car because his father wouldn’t let him take a flashy one to the University that first year, when he wasn’t supposed to have one in Charlottesville at all. Four grand may have been something that would have made the folks in Loudon look down their noses in terms of a car price, but it was the priciest car on the lot here in Whitetop. And nobody paid that much in cash for a car in this town--a truck, yes; a car, no.

Loudon now seemed a lifetime away. If he had it all to do over again, would he have done any differently? No, he supposed not. Well, maybe he’d have been more careful about letting Archie catch him with Emmet. But he wouldn’t have given Emmet up. His time with Emmet was all a time bomb affair anyway. At some point, when it served his purposes, Rick would have exposed the relationship to Archie. Archie wouldn’t have had to find it out for himself.

This put into his mind Dashad. Matt had a thing for big, hung black men. That was for sure. No denying that. He only wished that Dashad would still be talking to him after a year and a half of no contact and not even answering the man’s letters. How could he convince the big guy he’d missed him after ignoring him this long? He couldn’t even figure out why himself--other than that something always got in the way just when Matt was about to rectify that failing. And most of the time it had been something to do with his obsession for Brambleton--and his overweening ambition for a lifestyle so much higher than he’d been born into.

Dashad. That’s what brought him back to Whitetop. He could have gone to Charlottesville. He’d left Brambleton with that portfolio under his arm, intending to go to Charlottesville, but at the last minute he decided he wanted to go to Bristol instead. Rick had been slightly irritated because the train fare to Bristol was twice that to Charlottesville, but he’d paid the price.

Matt got in the Mustang and drove it out of town toward the two small farms side by side, his and Dashad’s. The Mustang purred along, and Matt said a little prayer of thanksgiving that the mechanics in these small southern towns worked hard to keep even rust buckets in good order and on the road (and, in most cases, capable of doing high speeds) for as long as possible.

He was surprised as he pulled up in front of his parents’ place--now his--not Brambleton, but unquestionably his. The house was in a lot better shape--at least on the outside--than it had been when he’d left it. In fact, it looked downright quaint and even had been painted recently and given snazzy shutters on the windows. The roof hadn’t just been patched where there had been a hole before; the building was covered in new shingles.

In contrast, Dashad’s house looked much the same as Matt remembered it. He was about to climb out of his car and check to see if Dashad was home, there not being any evidence of him working the fields of either place, when the door to the small house opened and a young, black, and extremely pregnant woman came out onto the porch and started watering some potted plants there from a can.

Matt shrank back behind the steering wheel of the Mustang, in shock. But why should he be shocked? he thought. Dashad wasn’t young; it stood to reason that he might want to settle down with a family some day. And he was virile. All of the women of the town looked at him a second time when he passed by--just as they did with Matt. Why would Matt have assumed that Dashad would just wait for someone who couldn’t even be bothered to answer letters? Why shouldn’t Dashad have decided that the direction he had taken with Matt wasn’t getting him anywhere, had no satisfaction for him, and turned in another direction? Or maybe he had just knocked her up and was doing the right thing. Dashad was a sucker for doing the right thing.

When the woman went back into the house, Matt started up the Mustang and returned to Whitetop to the only tavern in town. Whitetop was that sort of town. Whatever store or shop there was, there was enough business for only one of them in Whitetop.

He was greeted at the entrance of the bar as if he had only been in there the previous day, although all the men and women were happy to see him. Everyone still recognized him. None of them asked where he’d been this year and a half. The last they’d heard was that he was at the University of Virginia--and so few went to such a prestigious school from this region that, as far as they were concerned, he’d been on another planet. To them, he was just returning from school for a visit, and going to the university didn’t make him any more special than they were--and if he had acquired that thought while at that nose-up school up in Charlottesville, they’d just shame it out of him.

That wasn’t the very last thing they’d heard about him, though. By now all of them knew he’d come into town with a cashier’s check in a huge amount, which the rumor mill had already promoted to a million dollars. And they all knew that he’d paid cash for the best used car in Howard Johnson’s car lot. This was more interesting to them than anything about that school. Where had the Henderson boy gotten that much money? And, more important, how much of that was he going to dole out around these parts?

There were those in the bar who would have glad-handed him to separate him from some of that money for the cost of a drink, but, while not being exactly unfriendly when he’d walked in, Matt was obviously too reoccupied to approach right off the bat.

He was in no mood to chit chat, and that seemed to have been divined and good-naturedly accepted by everyone in the tavern, at least for now, so he sat at a table near the back of the tavern and nursed a beer. Before he’d moved to his second beer, one of the men, after taking a look at him, got down from his bar stool and exited the tavern. Before Matt had finished that second beer, the man was back and behind him was Dashad.

Dashad came directly over to Matt’s table and sat down.

“Hi,” he said.

“Hi, yourself,” Matt answered.

“Back for a visit?”

“I thought perhaps for more, but, yes, I guess I’m back for a visit. I’ve been out to the farms. Was that you who fixed up my parents’ house so nice?”

“Yes. It was practice. I’m working carpentry now. There are some big country houses around here, and I’ve gotten pretty good with my hands.”

“You were always good with your hands . . . and other things,” Matt said.

“I’ve missed you. I know you haven’t been at school. One of your professors came around here not long ago and said he’d like you back in school. I thought you wanted to build houses.”

“I’ve just been restoring part of one.”

“There are houses around Charlottesville that could use a good architect and a good carpenter, I’m sure,” Dashad said. “We could go there. And you could get back in school. Your professor said he’d like to have you back.”

“Dashad, no. I think we’re beyond that.”

Dashad gave him an “I’m crushed” look, and Matt put his hand on the black man’s forearm. The last thing he wanted to do in the world was to hurt Dashad any more than he already had.

“Please, Dashad. I understand. While I was at the farms, a young pregnant woman came out of your house. Your wife?”

“My house? My wife?” Dashad gave Matt a confused look and then he laughed so loud that everyone else in the tavern stopped their conversations and looked over at the two men. When they went back to their conversations, Matt got the sense that some sort of tension that had permeated the room had dissipated. Dashad was laughing. Everything must be OK over there.

“You saw a pregnant woman and you thought she was my wife? That I was going with women? After you, baby, how could I be satisfied with a woman?”

“But she was at your house.”

“It’s not my house anymore. I sold my property to get the money for you to go to school. If you saw a woman there, she’s not my woman.”

Matt was stunned. “You did that for me? God, I never even asked you where the money was coming from. Shit, Dashad. I’ll pay that right back. I’ve got cash. You can buy your place back.”

“I don’t want to buy my place back. I’m a carpenter now, not a scratch farmer. I want us to go to Charlottesville and for you to go back to school and then for you to come out an architect and the two of us work on houses together.”

Matt sat there, looking at Dashad, tears in his eyes. He was speechless for more than a minute. He knew he didn’t deserve this, but he wasn’t going to say a damn thing that would ruin this plan. He knew now that it was exactly what he wanted too.

At length he managed, “If you don’t live there, do you live here in town, Dashad? Nearby. Could we . . . ?”

“I don’t think I can hold off that long. They’ve got a john here with a lock on the door. I know how you liked it. You haven’t changed, have you?”

Somehow in all the fumbling with each other’s clothes and their mutual attempts to merge as closely with each other as possible and to have their hands everywhere on the other’s body, their trousers and briefs managed to slip to the floor in a puddle around their feet. Standing in a crouch, Dashad lifted Matt up into the air with hands on his waist. Matt climbed Dashad’s hips with his knees.

“Fuck me! Slam it up in there. Punish me,” Matt growled. “I’ve been so bad. Be bad to me.”

Dashad positioned his cock head at Matt’s hole and was surprised that Matt was so loose. “Shit, you’re already open,” he said.

“I’ve been thinking of you the whole way down the state,” Matt muttered. “Don’t be gentle with me. Make me know I’ve been fucked.”

With a laugh Dashad lifted Matt’s body and then slammed it down on his dick, sliding that half way up into Matt at one thrust. Matt jerked and moaned. “God, yes. Just like that. Again and again.” he brought Dashad’s face to his and went into a deep kiss. He opened his mouth to scream out as Dashad slammed his channel down on the hard cock, three, four, five times, going deeper with each thrust, but Dashad stifled any noise Matt could make by sticking his tongue into Matt’s mouth and sucking on his face.

Matt was slammed down again and again on the cock, and he couldn’t hold his ejaculation long.

“That was good,” Dashad whispered in his ear. “It’s been a long time, baby.”

“I don’t think you’ve come,” Matt answered, with in a breathy whisper. “I want you to come too.”

“I’ll do that at home. I’m taking you back to my place now and giving you a real fuck.”

“Oh, god,” Matt moaned. But it was a very, very happy moan.

* * * *

Five months later, after Matt had been back at the School of Architecture at the University of Virginia for a month, Dashad was employed by a local old house restoration firm in Charlottesville and the two had taken up residence in a the near ruins of an antebellum Italianate mansion Dashad had found in Free Union between Charlottesville and mountains that the two were happily restoring. Matt opened the local newspaper one weekday morning at breakfast to see the report of Brambleton having mysteriously burned to the ground two days previously.

His immediate thought was that Rick had burned the house himself it to clear the way for the housing development deal. He tried to work up an angry thought about that, but found that he couldn’t. He already had all of Brambleton that he needed in that reconstruction portfolio that had impressed the university’s architecture school faculty committee so much.

Dashad found him reading the article and scowling a bit when he came in for breakfast.

“What’s wrong? Some news you’d rather not have known about?”

“No. It’s nothing, really. Here,” he said as he folded the newspaper and handed it to Dashad, “I know you like to read the comics before you go to work. There’s nothing in the paper I’m all that interested in.”

As he took a sip of his coffee and gazed in awe at the black hulk at his table--who had performed spectacularly in bed the previous night--Matt discovered that he, indeed, was not all that affected by the loss--this time the total loss--of Brambleton. Brambleton had been like a fever that had scorched him for nearly two years and that he had recovered from. He had been on the brink of losing himself and all that was really valuable to him and disappearing into the woodwork of a house. And since he’d been back at the University, he’d avoided Perry Fitzhugh and the black football players at Delta Upsilon fraternity too. He occasionally, when he was in high heat, thought about the string the football players had put him on, but he was determined not to go there. He was determined he wasn’t going to screw this up with Dashad as he’d screwed so much else up in life already. Dashad was going to be more than enough for him.

Matt looked over at Dashad again and put a hand on the man’s beefy forearm.

“What?” Dashad asked, looking up with a smile.

“Nothing,” Matt said, returning the smile. And then, not wanting to leave it there, he said. “No, it’s not nothing. You do me so well. We were so good in bed together last night--and the night before that. It’s heaven to be here with you. There’s no place else I’d rather be, no one else I’d rather be with.”

Dashad grinned at him and then, with a sigh of contentment, went back to reading the daily comics.

- fini -



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