Ervin Walker hiked up to the top of the ridge of the White Oak mountain range as he did every Friday afternoon, weather permitting. He was standing there, looking northwest over the rolling south central Virginia farmland as he had done nearly every Friday from mid afternoon until almost twilight for the past twenty-four years since he had received the call. This was his time to meditate and to let the words he would preach come Sunday morning at the Pentecostal chapel down in Pleasant Gap sink into him. Somehow standing here and looking down into the valley beyond his small farm, his own little slice of heaven, was what gave him his inspiration.

He had been born on this farm and he planned to die on this farm. Others were talking of selling, some because they just could not make a go of it anymore. But his land had come to his family at the time of their freeing, during the War of Succession, and each first son of each generation of the Walkers since then had pledged to remain on the land and to do their work for the glory of the earth. Nothing was more important than preserving the glory of the earth and receiving the bounty gleaned there from days of plenty and fallow alike. That they had received more than their usual share of days of fallow for too long now was one part of the troubles on the land hereabouts, but only one part. It had been seven years. That meant something to Ervin, more apparently than to some of his neighbors who were close to giving up. He had the faith the seven years of famine would be followed by seven years of plenty. He lived by this knowledge, which had seen his family through many generations of troubles with the earth in the valley he now looked down into. His family had known to lay up a good portion of the bounty in the feast years to tide them over in famine years, and they thus far had managed thereby to hold a steady course.

Rain. What they needed was rain. And protection from the outside forces of evil that were descending on this valley. Ervin lifted his arms and looked heavenward, looking for signs of rain, praying for the rain. And, with a thought to the outside forces threatening the valley, he was also listening for that one word or phrase that always came to him late Friday afternoon. The word or phrase around which he would construct the simple message he would impart to the faithful few in his momma's chapel down in Pleasant Gap.

He stood there, for more than an hour, eyes closed, denying himself the glorious sight of his own farm descending from the ridge into the valley below. Denying himself the sin of knowing how prosperous he was compared to many of his neighbors and how fortunate a man of color such as he was to have been from a landowning family these past hundred and fifty years and more. Pushing out the sin of pride--and closing his mind to the other sin, the most powerful of those that plagued him but that he could not withstand--he rocked his solid, muscular body of a man not quite fifty and used to working the land hard with honest, manual labor, and he hummed and opened himself to the word.

When the word came, it was a single word this time, not a phrase, as it often was. It was the word "sacrifice." It entered his mind so strongly, with a thunderclap that tantalized, not promising rain, but marking the shift in fronts and the blast of dry heat, that Ervin knew this was the word he was meant to talk on Sunday morning. And it came to him with such strength that he knew that it was also the key to the valley's broader, more immediate problem. He didn't know how it was key to this, but he often didn't know the purpose of the word he was to preach while he stood on the top of the mountain range. Often fuller knowledge of what he was supposed to say and do came to him while he was doing his Saturday chores, working almost twice as hard on a Saturday as he did any other day of the week because there was to be no toil on Sunday. Sometimes the message didn't enter him until just as he was standing on a Sunday morning to let it out of him.

The word had come earlier than usual. It was still daylight when he descended to the split-rail fence line marking the inner yard around the house, where the smaller farm animals and the tractor and old Ford pickup were kept. As he approached the farm yard, he felt his insides tensing up and that old sin tearing at him. There was nothing he could do about that, though. He had tried, but he could not deny that no matter how much he prayed or attempted denial. There were more pressing matters before him; this was a sin so great that he would need that and just that to concentrate on--someday. And now the temptation was overwhelming. He should never have taken Monte, Diamonte Moore, on. But when he had done so, that had been because of another call that came to him on the mountain top. The call that the young man needed his help, needed a chance to fulfill his own destiny.

But maybe it was a testing of himself, of Ervin Walker. If so, Ervin had failed the test. The young man was just too attracting--and, the real downfall, too willing, too pliable. He gave himself without question, with no fuss, no reproofs, just as if it was most natural thing, when every fiber inside Ervin screamed out that it was not natural.

Ervin's eyes went to the young man as he approached the farm yard. Monte was at the wire fencing around the chicken house, on his knees and leaning over at the edge of the wire, repairing it where the chickens had pulled the wire out of the dirt at the base of the fence, and nearly had it separated to the point where they could escape the pen, little knowing that the fence was there to protect them.

The older man ached, as he always did, at the sight of the young man's bare back. Nothing aroused the juices inside the man more than the sight of those young, broad, muscled shoulders. Monte had come to him as an outcast in his last year of high school up in Chatham, where he had withdrawn from the school football team, despite high school football being the end all of everything in this region of the state, because, what was publicly discussed, Monte was drawn to working the land and raising and caring for animals. His teammates and schoolmates had derided him and shunned him--not because he was not suited for football, because he had a magnificently formed body and a talent for the game, but because he would not devote his full time to it--and because of the rumors about what he had done with his body.

Monte also knew what none of his classmates or the school's alumni who were so taken up with the success of the football team knew for sure, although some suspected. Monte knew he couldn't spend time in the school's locker room with other young men without revealing the secret he himself had only learned shortly after his eighteenth birthday when the football coach, Mr. Docrity, had given him a ride home from practice one night and stopped on the banks of Green Creek in a remote location and fucked Monte four ways from Sunday in the bed of his Dodge Ram truck. Monte hadn't minded the fucking. He hadn't struggled or questioned the coach; he'd just laid back in the bed of the truck and opened his legs for the coach to do what he wanted, locking eyes with the coach in a welcoming smile and no more than a moan and grimace and arching of his back and reaching around to grasp the coach's bare buttocks as Docrity's slowly entered him and began to pump. This uncomplicated, full surrender of Monte to the coach's lust inflamed Docrity and caused him to come back again and again for what Monte willingly gave him.

After two months of football practice and long rides home by the coach, Monte's teammates had started to razz him about what he was giving the coach. Monte, uncomplicated in his sexuality, would have told they what he'd given the coach, but Docrity had forbidden him to do that. The young man had been too conflicted by the directions in which he was being pulled to remain on the team. And while withdrawing from the team, he'd withdrawn from most of the rest of life as well.

Withdrawing even from Chatham wasn't totally Monte's choice. As rumors spread of what the coach was doing with Monte, it was Monte who took the pressure. The coach had taken the football team to state semifinals four years in a row. It wasn't the coach who was going to be taken to task. And the coach wasn't going to stop fucking Monte by his own decision. Monte wasn't planning on giving up the coach either, but the second time he was taken into the shadows behind the school gym, beaten by his former teammates, and told to get out of town, he did so--as soon as he picked up his high school diploma.

Monte's shyness and ostracism had led his school counselor, a childhood friend of Ervin's, to approach Ervin about taking the boy in to explore his love for animal husbandry on a farm--a farm a good distance from Chatham--as soon as he finished school and until his classes at the community college in Danville, to the southeast, commenced. Little did the counselor know the temptation and perpetuation of an "issue" she was creating for both the young man and for Ervin.

She had never known why Ervin's wife had left him.

Ervin walked up behind the crouching Monte and placed a hand on the young man's shoulder. Having heard the older man approaching, Monte didn't flinch.

"I'm fixin' the wire so they can't peck their way out," he murmured.

"I see that you are, You're doing a fine job of it," Ervin answered in a low, hoarse voice.

Monte turned his head and looked up at the older man, a knowing look entering his eyes. Both of Ervin's hands were on Monte's bare shoulders and he moved them, gliding down to the young man's shoulder blades. The feel of the hard muscles on a young man's back was a fetish for Ervin, bringing out urges he couldn't resist. He stood back up, his knees now touching Monte's back, but stayed standing only long enough to unbutton his shirt and spread it apart. Then he bent over the young man's back again, letting out a low moan, and his bare chest closed over the muscular back of the crouched younger man, his taut nipples rubbing against Monte's shoulder blades. Ervin reached around with one hand and cupped Monte's chin and turned and raised Monte's face to him. Monte's lips opened to Ervin's. A growl deep inside Ervin's chest marked the feeble attempt he was making to deny his sin. His free hand went to palm one of Monte's pecs, his thumb finding and rubbing over the nub of Monte's nipple.

The young man's body trembled under the caressing touch of the rough toil-callused hands of the older, more experienced man. Leaving Monte's breast, Ervin's hand moved down Monte's hard belly, unbuttoned the fly of his worn jeans, and wrapped itself around Monte's engorging cock.

Disengaging from the kiss, but their eyes still locked on each other's, Monte gave Ervin a shy look, and asked, almost in a whisper. "You gonna fuck me again today before chores are done, Mr. Walker?"

"Come into the house now," Ervin answered in a hoarse, strangled voice. "The fence is secured good enough for now."

"You gonna fuck me good?"

"Just come into the house, Monte."

"Yes, sir." Obediently, without hesitation, Monte stood and followed Ervin into the house.

Ervin fucked Monte on Monte's bed. It was always on Monte's bed, not Ervin's. Ervin slept in the same bed his parents had slept in--and his father's parent's before that. It was the bed Ervin's mother had birthed him in and the bed both she and his father had died in--the bed Ervin assumed he would die in too. And maybe his son, Tyrone, after him, the son that Ervin's wife had taken away with her when Ervin was discovered to be having his way with Lamont Jackson a couple of farms over.

They fucked on Monte's bed. And they fucked the way Ervin liked it, Monte on all fours or on his belly, and Ervin crouched over his young, well-muscled back, kissing and biting the curves and contours of the young man's back and rubbing his nipples on Monte's shoulder blades, while he stroked Monte's ass in long, deep strokes. Monte panted under Ervin as the older man moved from loving caresses and holding his thick cock at the root and revolving it in Monte's channel, guided by Monte's gasps and murmurs of "yes, there, like that. Fuck me good, Mr. Walker," as Ervin snaked a hand around Monte's waist and stroked his cock to ejaculation.

Monte sexually relieved, Ervin continued stroking, progressively sinking into lust and beyond-control need. They ended with Monte, always all-out passionate and vocal, not holding out on wanting the fuck, crying out "Ram me! Ram it hard. Yes. Again and again!" And, lost in the primordial fuck, Ervin did just that, pulling out of the younger man's canal with a cry at the end and barely getting the condom ripped off his shaft before he shot his load, in three strong bursts, across the small of Monte's back and collapsed on top of the young man's trembling body.

"That were a good fuck, Mr. Walker. Thank you kindly."

Ervin turned his head, not wanting Monte to see his pained expression, his humiliation of giving into his lust again--and being thanked for it.

Once Monte was into a fuck, he went as whole hog as any young, randy stud, wanting more of it, harder and deeper. And he could be a screamer for it. As casual as he was in giving it away, he could really turn a man on with how intense he was in the clutch.

Sometimes when Ervin felt he wanted the fuck more than once, he'd remain in Monte's bed and they would doze between takings. As submissive as he'd been to the coach's demands in the backseat of his car and grateful to Ervin for taking him in and permitting him to work on the farm for pay before his first year in community college--and feeling protected by having an older man who wanted to make love to his body--Monte uncomplainingly fell in with whatever mood or servicing request Ervin made. He never was the one to ask for a fuck, but he never denied Ervin when Ervin wanted it. He had never denied or hesitated with the coach, either, not even that first time. On occasion, Ervin worried about Monte's pliability, but his own sin was so great that he didn't want to worry about it too much or for too long.

Monte never questioned Ervin's need to gain sexual satisfaction through him at all. The young man's greatest interest was in working on the farm and, specifically, with the animals. Watching animals breed--and sometimes the males trying to breed with each other--was taken by Monte as just the natural way of nature. He assumed that he would ask for sex from Ervin just in the natural scheme of nature if Ervin didn't ask it of him nearly twice a day, fully satiating the needs of even a young, vigorous man in his prime. And Ervin was thicker, could reach deeper, and could stroke longer than Coach Docrity had been able to do. Monte did wonder on occasion whether a younger man could do him even better, but he was in no particular hurry to find out.

He also wondered about being fucked by a white man--if that would be any different from being fucked by the coach or Ervin. He never thought about the morality of being fucked by any man--only about the pleasure he could get and receive from it.

During the day, Ervin could approach and fuck Monte almost anywhere where there was cover. He didn't like to do it out in the open, saying that he couldn't do it with the thought that his sin could be so openly observed from the heavens. But the cover of the shed they called a barn, or inside the pickup cab, or under bushes in the shadow of the house had all been taken advantage of when Ervin's lust got the best of him, which usually was when he saw Monte crouched over, showing the curve of his magnificent, young, hard, bare back.

At night, they always did it in Monte's bed, though. And when he was done, Ervin would return to his own bed, always alone. While moving between the beds, he would admonish himself for giving into his sin. But once in his parents' bed he gave not a whisper of his weakness. In his parents' bed, although a sinner he was, there was no inkling of his deepest, darkest sin. As long as he didn't do it in that bed, surely his ancestors knew nothing of his great failing.

* * * *

"I thought this was all goin' on cross county at the Coles Hill farm."

"EnergyFuture Incorporated is actually looking in several locations," the handsome man with the squared-away Marine look, blond buzz cut, and jeans and sport shirt tailored to fit in but still a bit too stylish for Danville, answered.

The question had come from the audience in the library meeting room on the north side of Danville, Virginia. It was the first of the evening that had even a hint of critical question behind it, and Ervin was beginning to be convinced that the movie-star-handsome corporate representative booked to talk to this open meeting on Saturday evening had salted the audience with supporters of the plan to open up a uranium mine in his valley. Thus far the man, who was all smiles and glib talk and flirty looks at the grinning women present, had called on questioners by raised hands. This was resulting in softball questions from folks Ervin had never seen before in his recollection. And Ervin was pretty sure he knew everyone living in the White Creek valley. This last question had been impatiently called out from the audience by one of the valley farmer's Ervin did know, Bill Kemp.

"What about the health hazards of uranium mining?" a woman's thin, crackly voice with a patrician Southern accent floated out over the audience. Ervin could hear a groan go up from many of those in the room he didn't recognize.

"We have plenty of literature on that laid out on the table here, Ms. Harrison. You are welcome to take any of it home with you. And you'll notice that Pittsylvania County's congressional delegation up in Washington has, to a man, written endorsements on those studies."

"Well, Bob, Mark, and Tim are all up in Washington, D.C.," Sadie Harrison called out in a dry voice. "I'm just a bit more interested in the health of those who will be living down here with all that radioactive uranium being brought up from our earth here abouts and refined right here. You did say it was to be refined right here, didn't you?"

The groan, reminiscent of the canned laughter tracts used in TV situation comedies from the previous century, rose again across the audience packed into the windowless library meeting room.

They have come prepared, Ervin thought. That man--Jack Carson, the representative EnergyFuture sent down from Richmond to charm folks into numb brains, to contain and nullify any opposition, and to get land purchases started had done his homework. He even had known who Sadie Harrison was and that she would be a major focus of his problem mitigating the opposition to what EnergyFuture--and Richmond--wanted to do here. She was perhaps the wealthiest person in the northwest corner of the Pittsylvania County. She was as old as the White Oak mountains and her family had been wealthy landowners here since the Revolutionary War. She herself had indexed that she knew everyone who was worth knowing when she had used the first names of the state congressional delegation representing this region in Washington. She also was known as a leading environmental and animal rights advocate in a county known for its ultraconservatism and as a hunter's paradise. She was the major supporter of the county's SPCA, which she insisted maintain a no-kill policy.

As, smiling an "I'm not the least bit worried how this is turning smile," Jack Carson raised his arms to show that he wanted to tamper down the audience reaction before he gave a "reasonable" answer to Sadie Harrison's "obviously" impertinent questions.

Ervin stole a glance at Monte in the folding chair beside his to see what his reaction to all of this was. Monte seemed to be wide-eyed and fascinated. His attention was glued to the handsome, confident-acting man standing on the platform at the front of the room.

"As I noted earlier, the refining aspect is very important for the local economy," Carson said, casting an indulgent smile in the general direction in which Sadie Harrison was sitting in the dimly lit room. "Your political representatives have lobbied hard with EnergyFuture to establish a mine in the White Creek valley area. It will bring several hundred jobs to this region."

"Jobs for folks in Pittsylvania County, or workers from elsewhere?" Lamont Jackson, one of the small-holding farmers a few holdings north of Ervin's farm and Ervin's erstwhile lover called out. Ervin knew that Lamont was one of the farmers who was really hurting and probably would sell out to EnergyFuture if he could--and would probably be one of the first in line for a job with the company if it came here. Although this saddened Ervin, he could understand the financial spot Lamont was in. Lamont's wife hadn't been as forgiving as Ervin's wife had been. She took him for all he was worth, which wasn't much, when she left him.

Of course, it was Ervin's own sin that had led to Lamont's wife leaving him, just as Ervin's wife had left Ervin. That had been enough of a shock--especially having lost visiting rights with his own son--to Ervin that he had been able to deny himself for over a year, during which he lived a solitary life. And then Monte had come to the farm. Monte had not seduced him; he had merely done what Monte did--moved around shirtless, exposing his magnificent back to Ervin. And then, when Ervin's weakness got the better of him, merely lifting his tail to Ervin, as Ervin covered his back, and letting Ervin slide inside him.

"Both, of course," Carson answered. "We would hire in the county and bring in specialists from elsewhere if we could not fill those jobs with local hires. No matter where the workers come from, though, they would be bolstering the region's economy."

Lamont tried a follow-up question on just how many of the jobs would be open to locals and how specialized these jobs were, but Carson was already concentrating on locating the next questioner, and those sitting around Lamont shushed him down.

Carson managed to recognize the raised hand of one of the softball question pitchers, who droned off into a longwinded question that most likely was designed to put everyone to sleep. Instead of dozing, though, Ervin looked over at the large map chart that was an on easel on the platform beside where the company huckster--as Ervin thought of Carson--was positioned.

Ervin had come thinking he'd have to fight for his land, but seeing from the chart on the easel that this wasn't so had kept him more quiet on the question end than he thought he'd be. The chart showed that the boundary of the holdings the company was seeking to acquire came up to the edge of his farm but didn't encroach on it. From the pattern, he could see why this maybe was so. His farm lined up with the vast land holdings of Sadie Harrison--it was Sadie's family that had owned Ervin's once and thus small section at the edge of Harrison land that the Walker family had been given. The lines appeared to have been purposely drawn to keep her property out of the holdings the mining company sought, evidently to try to keep her from fighting the acquisition. But if they thought that would satisfy or deter Sadie Harrison, Ervin thought, neither EnergyFuture nor the politicians and lobbyists supporting them in Richmond and Washington knew Sadie Harrison very well. Better that they had waited for the old woman to die. Of course she'd probably outlive everyone in the valley.

Of even greater interest to Ervin in viewing the chart after he had recovered from the discovery that his own land wasn't in danger was the pattern of land already owned by the mining company and that yet to be acquired. The two categories were denoted by different-colored overlays. Viewing the chart revealed that it looked like a crazy quilt. It occurred to Ervin that the company would have to control most of the land and still had to acquire several key acreages owned by others to be able to have a mining operation at all.

He was snapped out of this reverie by another called out question from Bill Kemp, shouted out over the convoluted dissertation being given by the man Carson had recognized from the audience.

"What kind of mine is this going to be? Tunnel or open pit?"

"And what about the radiation problems of an open pit uranium mine?" Sadie Harrison called out. "Won't rain bring up the radiation, and the weather too--we've had hurricanes and tornadoes go through here. Even had an earthquake as recent as three years ago."

"The dangers are minimal at best. Everything is covered in these studies here," Jack Carson answered over the hubbub of those protesting one side of the issue or the other. "But I see someone from the library staff signaling from in back. I'm afraid we'll have to give up the room now. We will, of course, schedule more town meetings on this. We have appreciated the opportunity to tell you what a godsend this will be for this part of Pittsylvania County."

Several residents of the land affected tried to move forward to talk with Carson as the meeting was breaking up, but some of the others were there before them--some of the obvious company plants--and evidently were going to engage in filibuster conversation until there was no time for anyone else to talk with him.

"Let's go, Monte," Ervin said, turning to the young man sitting beside him. "It's obvious this is a put-up job. Should've known. Makes me thirsty. Let's finish the day at the Roadhouse."

At hearing the name of the Roadhouse spoken Monte came out of the trance he was in of watching the hunky-looking representative of EnergyFuture Incorporated continue to work the room. They'd serve him anything he wanted there, and it was a bar, out in the country off of Route 29 between Danville and Chatham, where the likes of Ervin and he could be comfortable.

Giving Ervin a big smile, he uncoiled from the folding chair and voiced a cheery, "Ready." Still, his gaze remained on the squared-away Marine type, Jack Carson, until he and Ervin had cleared the meeting room.

As they got into the truck, Ervin said, trying to make it sound off hand, "You looked at that white man like you could eat him. He's city and white, Monte. Not in the same universe with you."

"Ain't seen a white man put together that good is all," Monte answered. "Still, I wouldn't say no if he wanted to eat me."

It was all said so naturally. Ervin gripped the steering wheel hard. Ervin wondered if Monte would ever lose his innocence about sex. He hoped not.

* * * *

Ervin didn't give a second thought as to anyone else, certainly not anyone he didn't want to see, going on from the uranium mine proposal meeting to the Roadhouse bar, which was a good twenty miles north of Danville. The Roadhouse catered to men like Ervin--and now Monte--in the evening hours, men who enjoyed the company of men and who might leave the place with a man they didn't come in with. Later, after midnight, it was likely to get rowdy and there'd be some entertainment on the platform by the bar, most likely put on by the young black guy, Slick, who took care of the table trade earlier in the evening. There might even be some action in one or more of the back rooms down the corridor to the john.

The meeting had gone on longer than Ervin thought it would, so he and Monte were arriving at the bar near to 11:30, within the transition time for clientele. All Ervin intended to do was to have one drink there and go on home and, because he was so keyed up from the meeting, fuck Monte silly. He'd make Monte forget the white man at the meeting. He didn't want to stay until midnight mainly because he didn't like having Monte in the bar for the late-night crowd. Monte was like honey to the latter-shift men, who tended to be rough trade, truck drivers and construction workers from down in Danville. Ervin didn't want Monte getting sniffed around by men like this. Monte was of a pretty basic nature, and it was clear that he felt no guilt about having sex with men. Ervin was afraid that the late-night clientele would eat Monte up--and that Monte just might let them.

As willing as Monte was, Ervin was confident that there had only been the coach and him. Monte had no concept of what a gangbang by truckers could be.

Ervin was only half way through his drink, though, when he was given reason to stay on past midnight. Speaking of the devil, which Ervin had occasion to talk about from time to time, he was about to chug his drink and tell Monte to down his too so they could leave, Ervin not liking the look being cast Monte's way from a burly guy with big muscles and curly red hair who had been getting out of a semitrailer out front when Ervin and Monte drove up, when who walked through the door but Lamont Jackson. And behind him, already looking like he owned the place, came that EnergyFuture shyster, Jack Carson.

As soon as Carson saw Monte, he gave a big smile, which then turned, but only briefly, to more of a scowl when he saw Ervin standing alongside Monte at the bar. Ervin could see, out of the corner of his eye, that Monte was returning the smile.

Slick almost ran to Lamont and Carson to show them to a table and to pay particular attention to Carson. Ervin had to allow that Carson wasn't the hulkiest guy in the bar now, but he probably was the hunkiest one. In the phenomena that exists in instant selection in male-on-male cruising, most of the catchers in the room were casting eyes of interest on Carson, while most of the pitchers--who until now had been watching Monte--were eyeing him as possible competition. Slick was nearly drooling over him and couldn't get him anything he wanted fast enough.

Ervin knew that Lamont was one of the guys--it had been Ervin himself who had initiated Lamont to this life--but he was surprised that Carson was. Since the man was in this environment, though, there was no doubting by the way he cased the room, that he knew what kind of bar this was and why he was here--and that he could get any bottom in the room to lie down for him and open his legs to him.

But his eyes kept going to Monte.

Lamont didn't seem too happy to be here with him, but no doubt Carson had correctly gauged Lamont's leaning either at the meeting or earlier in land purchase discussions with him, and had pressed Lamont to bring him here. He'd had time to lay Lamont between the meeting and arriving here, and Ervin saw no reason not to assume that he'd done so. It also seemed evident that Carson knew that they would be following Ervin and Monte here--and that Carson's primary interest was in Monte. Something in the disappointment Lamont showed told Ervin that, no matter what Carson had done with Lamont, the interest he'd shown in talking with Lamont was in Monte--that even as he was pumping Lamont's ass, he probably was asking him about Monte.

Ervin hadn't been aware of the buildup to this back at the meeting, but now, in hindsight, having Carson's interests pegged, he realized that Carson had been doing a whole lot of looking in Monte's direction. He already knew that Monte had done lots of looking at Carson, and Monte had been straight-up open afterward about his interest in Carson.

Ervin turned his face toward the bar and ordered another beer and told Monte he could have one too. Then he put a possessive arm around Monte and Monte just sort of folded into him. Ervin didn't need the drink, but he wanted to invest a little time into signaling to Carson that Monte was taken. That's why they'd be staying longer in the bar than he originally had intended to.

He took a couple of peeks in the direction of the table that Lamont and Carson were sitting at and saw that they were deep in conversation--probably haggling over the sale of Lamont's farm--and that Slick was still buzzing around them. The next thing he knew, though, when he took a look, Carson was no longer at the table, and Lamont was sinking into his glass of beer and looking not the least bit happy.

Ervin looked around the room but didn't see the huckster from Richmond. He half expected to find that he was circling in on Monte even though Ervin still had the young man in a clutch, but he just wasn't around.

"Stay put here for a few minutes, and drink up," Ervin said to Monte. "I have to go take a piss, and we'll go on home when I get back."

"Sure thing," Monte said. There were some wooden puzzles scattered out on the bar top, and Monte was absorbed in trying to put one of those together.

The john was at the end of a corridor off the back through a doorway covered with a beaded curtain. There were small rooms off the corridor on either side on the way back that were rented out in fifteen-minute increments. Ervin saw, in passing to the back, that Jack Carson and Slick occupied one of these rooms. Carson was seated on the side of a cot and Slick was kneeling between his thighs and sucking him off. When Ervin returned from the john, Carson had proceeded to pull Slick onto his lap, both of them naked from the waist down, and was lap fucking the young man. Slick was revolving his ass on Carson's buried dick and his tongue was lolling out of his mouth like he'd never been fucked this good before, which was hard to believe as often as he'd been spiked.

Good, Ervin thought. That will hold the fucker long enough for me to get Monte out of the bar.

But Ervin had a different problem when he pushed through the beaded curtain and out into the main room. Monte appeared to be gone already. His beer glass was empty and the puzzle he'd been working on was put together--Monte was clever in fixing things--but Monte wasn't in the room. Neither was the muscle-bound, red-headed trucker.

He found them out in the parking lot. The passenger-side door--the one toward the shadows at the back of the parking lot--of the semitrailer's cab was hanging open. The trucker, bare legged, was standing on the running board, facing the interior of the cab. Monte's construction booted-feet were wedged at the top of the door frame, front and back. His legs were bare otherwise as well. From the movement of the trucker and the grunts and groans, Ervin knew that Monte was getting fucked hard and fast.

He didn't intervene. The trucker was a lot bigger, more heavily muscled, and very likely much meaner than Ervin was. The trucker also was white and there was a filled gun rack mounted on the back wall of the semi cab, which Ervin clearly could see, and which the trucker could get to before Ervin could anywhere close to him. He hadn't survived in this rural part of Virginia by taking risks and asserting rights. And he had no right to Monte, really. If the young man wanted a younger man than Ervin fucking him from time to time, Ervin didn't really see that he could kick about that.

And from the noises Monte was making, he was clearly enjoying himself. Ervin just wished that Monte didn't give it away so easily and naturally. Even there, though, Ervin, who was very much aware of his own sinning in this respect, wasn't going to be hypocritical about how easily Monte was prepared to give it away.

After the trucker was finished, he pretty much pulled Monte out of the cab and deposited him on the ground in a heap. He then pulled on his jeans and was zipping himself up as he walked around the front of the truck, got in the driver's side, and pulled the semi out of the parking lot and down the road, not even glancing back at Monte.

Ervin rushed over to Monte's side, but he could clearly see that Monte was moaning and had a big grin on his face. He was still humming and giving a little smile in the Ford pickup on the way back to White Creek valley. All that he said was, "He gave me twenty dollars, and he had a right good cock. First white man I've had."

When Ervin got him back in the farmhouse and on his bed, Monte allowed as how Ervin had a right good cock too--and that from what he'd experienced so far, black cock was a whole lot bigger than white cock.

Ervin didn't fuck him in anger. It was more with relief that Monte didn't show any change in opening up for Ervin after having it rough from a trucker and in a concern at how innocent Monte seemed to be and how easily he could be taken advantage of--and some anger at himself for not being able to resist joining those who couldn't resist fucking Monte.

A large part of the attraction to Ervin of Monte was the young man's earthiness--how naturally he took to the sex, how willing he was to celebrate it and to give and take without constraint--and how gloriously beautiful he was in his natural state. Ervin felt the same way about Monte that he felt about his own farm and about White Oak valley.

* * * *

Chock full of remorse but fully recognizing that the flesh wasn't going to lose its weakness anytime soon, on Sunday morning, in the old one-room schoolhouse in Pleasant Gap that his mother had converted into a church, Ervin gave an impassioned sermon on the word he'd been given on the ridgetop the previous Friday--sacrifice. He was just letting the word pour through and out of him as it would. He had little idea what he was preaching, and the five other people in the small room--the Lincoln sisters on the front row, whispering gossip to each other; old Jethro, dozing and his hearing aide turned off three rows back; and the spooning couple right on the back row--weren't trying very hard to follow him either.

In the middle of his gyrations, Ervin stopped dead in his tracks. For the first time he really paid attention to the word--to the word "sacrifice." None of the others seemed to realize he'd even stopped. The meaning of the word suddenly hit him--not the meaning for this sermon, but the meaning for what was going on in the life of the valley.

Pronouncing a quick benediction, with the Lincoln sisters suddenly becoming aware, in shock and guilty pleasure, that the service was drawing to a close--a full half hour earlier than usual--Ervin bowed to the faithful and nearly ran from the building, headed back to the farm to begin a series of phone calls, calling a meeting for that evening.

* * * *

Ervin and Monte were belly up to the bar at the Roadhouse in the hour approaching midnight on Monday night. Ervin had never brought Monte here before on a Monday night, and it didn't escape Monte that this was unusual. For the first time the young man seemed to be nervous being here. To a great extent the crowd there was composed of the same men who had been there Saturday night. That wasn't particularly a surprise, because Pittsylvania County was a sparsely populated rural one, and there are only so many men around such an area who were out in the open enough to come to the Roadhouse regularly. Lamont Jackson was there, as was Slick. Slick seemed always to be there. The trucker from Saturday night wasn't there, but Ervin figured he wouldn't be there--hoped he wouldn't be there; counted on him not being there, in view of how often Monte had mentioned how much he'd enjoyed being rough fucked half in and half out of the semi cab--because he wasn't a regular patron of the Roadhouse. Ervin figured he'd just been passing through on a long-haul transport.

Lamont was standing with Ervin and Monte at the bar. Monte was fidgeting, looking around the room, once again a major attraction, but not being able to hold eye contact with any of the men who obviously wanted him.

Along about 11:30, even Jack Carson was there, having come in, looked around, spied Monte and smiled, and then gone to a table to be slobbered over by Slick. Monte settled down a bit after Carson appeared and did give him shy smiles now and again. But the hand that picked up his beer glass still trembled like it never had before in the Roadhouse.

Not more than fifteen minutes after that, the fire sirens started going off, following the telephone lines up from Chatham. There was such a siren on the roof of the Roadhouse, but the signal was heard from up Route 29 before it got to the Roadhouse. Ervin and a couple of the other men were chugging their beers at the first sound of the distant alarm and preparing to race their trucks to the nearest fire house, which was in the small town of Dry Fork. Ervin was a volunteer fireman; Monte wasn't.

"I gotta answer the call," Ervin told Monte in a loud voice. "You need to catch a ride back to the farm with someone else. Lamont can take you." Ervin didn't wait for an answer. He pushed off from the bar and headed out to his truck.

Ervin had said that loud enough for the whole room to have heard him, it would seem, so he had every reason to assume that Lamont had. But the siren had just gone off on the roof, so there was competition for his voice.

Whether or not Lamont heard Ervin, about ten minutes after Ervin left, so did Lamont--without taking Monte. Monte had been looking over at the table where Jack Carson sat--looking back at Monte--and he didn't even notice Lamont leaving. He looked around and, not seeing Lamont anywhere, he looked back at Jack Carson's table. Jack Carson was smiling and waving for Monte to join him. Monte took a deep swig of his beer, breathed deeply, almost hiccupping from the nervous catch in his breath, and pushed off from the bar.

Half way back to Ervin's farm from the Roadhouse, Jack Carson pulled his EnergyFuture Land Rover off onto a lane leading to the banks of White Oak Creek. He cut off the engine and turned in the seat, facing Monte.

"You know I've had my eye on you since the meeting down in Danville," he said in a low, hoarse voice. "You're a right fine strapping young man."

"I 'spose," Monte said shyly, his legs spread and his arms hanging down between them. He was looking down at the floor mat between his legs.

"You haven't asked why I pulled off the road."

Monte didn't answer or look up.

"You're not the least bit curious why?"

"I reckon I know why."

"And it doesn't bother you?"

"I reckon not."

"You know what kind of bar that was that we were just in, don't you, Diamonte?" It didn't escape Monte that Carson had taken the time to learn his name. Monte hadn't given him a name.

"They call me Monte. Yes, I know."

"That man I always see you with, the scratch farmer, Ervin Walker. Is he your man? Do you lie under him?"

"Yeah, he's my man."

"I heard tell you got fucked out in the parking lot Saturday night by a trucker. That true?"

"Yeah. It was OK. He paid me."

"And this Walker guy. Did he know about it? Was it OK with him?"

"Seems like. He lets me make my own decisions, do what I want."

"Lift your head and look at me, Monte."

Monte did so, but he didn't only look into Carson's eyes. Carson's thick cock was rising up outside of his fly and standing straight up.

"You see how I'm interested in you, how badly I want you, Monte? Do you like the looks of me as well as that trucker? Or Walker? You going to make me work hard at this?"

There was a pause, and then, letting his held breath out in a long sigh, Monte said, "No, sir."

"No what?"

"No, I ain't gonna make you work hard for it. I knew this was what you wanted when you pulled off the road. I knew it when you offered me the ride home."

"I'll pay you fifty dollars for it."

"That would be right nice, thank you."

Carson leaned over and, putting his hands on either side of Monte, brought his face in for a kiss. The kiss didn't last too long, though. Carson obviously was anxious to get right to business. Without releasing Monte's face, coming out of the kiss, Carson just continued pulling Monte's face down to his lap onto his already released, engorging cock.

They fucked in the backseat of the Land Rover, with Monte giving Carson his money's worth by straddling the thighs of the sitting older man, facing him, and riding Carson's thick cock.

Carson encircled Monte's body with his arms and nuzzled his face into Monte's shoulder as they cooled off from the fuck in which they had ejaculated nearly simultaneously, Carson filling up the bulb of a Magnum and Monte shooting off up Carson's flat belly. His pent up lust taken care of, Carson wanted to take more time playing. His lips went to Monte's nipples and Monte arched his back to accommodate Carson's play. They kissed now in long, breathtaking moments with plenty of tonguing.

"That was extra nice," Carson said as they came out of a kiss.

"You're extra big," Monte murmured.

"You cramping? You want to come off it?"

"No, not yet. I like you deep inside me. We can do it again, if you want. You don't have to pay more. I liked it. Your cock is as good as a black man's."

"God, you seem so natural and casual with it. Are you this way with any man who wants to fuck you?"

"Not just anyone. But the ones I want to fuck, yes."

"It's a turn-on that you take it natural like this."

"Why not? Animals fuck. We're animals, ain't we? It's the way of nature. If you want me and I want you, why not?"

"Why not indeed. And tomorrow you can let Ervin Walker fuck you too and you feel no guilt that I fucked you tonight?"

"No. Why? Mr. Walker, he don't own me. And he says he sees it that way too. Otherwise I'd probably not be with him. And it's only for the summer."

"Only for the summer? So you aren't tied to Walker?"

"No, I'm goin' to community college in the fall."

"I see. I'd like to see you again. You think Walker would let you be out for a night?"

"Uh, I'm not sure . . ."

"I'd pay you a hundred dollars for a night."

"Well, then . . ."

"I've got use of a cabin over on the Dan River below Boyd's mountain. Maybe in a week or two . . ."

"Why not right now?"

"Now's not a good time. I've got these land deals to work. Another couple of weeks and . . . oh shit . . . what the fuck!"

Monte had swiveled around on the cock, facing the front of the Land Rover. He had planted the heels of his feet in the floor of the vehicle and gripped the tops of the front seats with his hands and was pushing back and forth with his channel on Carson's cock, fucking himself hard and deep on the shaft. Immediately lost to the moment, Carson grabbed Monte's waist in his hands and helped with the push and pull as he threw his head back and howled to the ceiling of the vehicle.

"Cabin now. Cabin now," Monte was chanting in a mantra.

They were barely in the front door of the cabin, when Carson pushed Monte down on all fours on an oval braided rug, mounted him like a dog, and rode him for a half hour.

On the second day, when Carson's interest seemed to be flagging a bit, Monte begged to be fucked in the shower and then to have his wrists bound to the headboard and for Carson to punish him roughly. Any time there was a gleam in Carson's eyes in response to something that could be done in sex, Monte wanted to do it. There was nothing that Carson could conceivably think of asking Monte to do that Monte wouldn't do.

Monte kept Carson in the Dan River cabin for three days, riding the cock and being ridden by the cock in every conceivable location and position and time of day or night.

On the afternoon of the third day, Carson asked Monte to go back with him to Richmond. There he could enroll in a community college that Carson would pay for, and Carson would set him up in a small apartment. Carson's wife need know nothing of the arrangement, Carson said. He had gotten away with such an arrangement before.

* * * *

The afternoon of the fourth day, Ervin had the hood up on his Ford pickup and was seeing what he could do about keeping the truck going through another winter, when he sensed he wasn't alone. He looked up and saw Monte opening the gate of the fence surrounding the farm yard. The young man looked hot and tired--as if he'd been walking for miles. And, as it turned out, he had been. Jack Carson had let him off out on Route 41, and Monte had walked the dusty dirt back road into the farm.

As Monte approached, Ervin came out from underneath the hood and turned toward the young man. Monte was only wearing jeans and was barefoot. Ervin was the same.

"You've come back."

"Yes."

"To pick up your things or to stay?"

"To stay through the summer. Like we agreed."

"You been with that EnergyFuture huckster, Jack Carson, all this time?"

"Yes, sir."

"Thought so. Haven't seen him around."

"Was it long enough?"

"Yes."

"Good."

"He treat you right?"

"Nothing to complain about."

"OK, then. Best you get under the spigot and wash down."

Ervin watched Monte as the young man went over to the spigot next to the horse trough. He unbuttoned his fly and stripped off his jeans. Then he bent over to get his head under the spigot.

A low growl came up from deep inside Ervin's chest and, trembling, he walked to Monte, stripping off his own jeans as he moved. His eyes were on the curve of Monte's naked back. That image was what aroused Ervin the most. And it had been four days of foregoing his needs, living the sacrifice.

Monte felt the strong hands on his waist, and he moved to the side, as they guided him, coming down on his belly on the rim of the nearly empty horse trough, letting his head drop down into the trough and grabbing the far rim of the trough with his fists, while Ervin kissed and stroked his back with gliding hands. There was no resistance in the young man whatsoever. It was like he hadn't been gone the three days and more. There'd be no apologizing--indeed Ervin couldn't imagine that there would be--and Monte was as ready to be spiked by Ervin as he ever was.

Ervin's hands glided down Monte's back from his shoulder blades to the small of his back, where they fanned outward to the young man's hips. Monte raised his hips as Ervin's meaty cockhead moved into the crack and dragged across the puckering hole, again and again, while Monte gasped and sighed.

"Yes," Monte murmured in a husky voice, "Put it in me. Fuck me, daddy. Be good to me."

There was no hesitancy, no resistance.

Ervin's hands tightened over Monte's bulbous buttocks and spread them as his cock head pressed against the hole and pressed into the cavity.

Monte gasped and pushed back on the cock, taking it inside him. "Ride me, daddy. Fuck me deep."

So natural; so giving, Ervin thought. No hesitancy in the young man. Freely giving and taking pleasure. So . . . earthy. It would be a sacrifice to give him up.

Then Ervin was inside Monte, stroking him vigorously and hard and singing his hallelujahs to the noonday sun above, not caring who or what saw them. Though this be sin, his mind screamed, he would make the most of it.

Thrusting again and again. Monte pushing his rump back onto the cock, crying for more of it, deeper and harder. The two of them coming in a gush, almost simultaneously, Ervin flooding Monte's channel deep, as the urgency had provided no opportunity for niceties. Monte arching back to him after the ejaculation, the two men kissing deeply, Monte whispering that Ervin could do it again, if he wanted. Monte not begging for it now, but not avoiding it either. Always ready, always open for it.

After lunch, they both climbed up the White Oak mountain ridge, sat near to each other on a rock, and stared down into the valley. It was Friday, Ervin's day to open himself to the word for Sunday's preaching. He was too full of the moment, though, to meditate. He wanted Monte up here for a time--to see and understand what he had sacrificed for. Afterward, Ervin would send him back down to the farm and would mediate for a word. He would cheat today, though. He sometimes did, but he always pretended that the word only came to him after meditating up here. He already knew, however, that the word that would come to him today would be "thanksgiving."

"See how beautiful it is down there?" Ervin asked.

"Yes."

"Pristine farm land. Never developed as anything else but fields and meadows--for more than three hundred years--and maybe longer, by the Indians, before that."

They were both silent for a few minutes, their hands entwined.

"And, thanks to you, it will stay that way."

They were silent again, gazing out over the valley.

"Did you have any trouble getting that Carson guy to drive you away after I left on the false fire alarm I set up and Lamont left as planned too?"

"No, none at all. You managed with the land sales OK?" Monte asked.

"Yes, Sadie Harrison hauled out her checkbook. The three days that EnergyFuture shyster could have been making land deals but was holed up with you somewhere, Sadie was buying up from whoever wanted to sell. Lamont Jackson's already sold out and gone from the valley. There's no way that EnergyFuture bastard's going to get that land from Sadie. She's already arranging to put it in the nature conservancy, so not even death is going to help them."

"So, we got what we wanted?"

"Yep. EnergyFuture can't get enough parcels of land together now to put in the uranium mine here. Sadie rattled the government in Richmond and came up with information not contained in any of those pamphlets they gave us. Only an open-pit strip mine would work here, it seems. All that radiation exposed and going up in the air morning, noon, and night, and probably coming back down as far away as Danville and Chatham. Now if they want to do their mining here in Virginia, they'll have to go back across the county to that Coles Farm tract. And that can be an underground mine. Still dangerous, but not like they wanted to do here."

"I'm glad you got what you wanted and the valley will stay as it is," Monte said.

"I hope it wasn't too much of a sacrifice, son," Ervin said. "I didn't know of any other way to get those three days out ahead of the Carson snake. I knew it had to be by sacrifice. I hope that brute wasn't too rough on you. I hated asking you to do that for us--keeping him occupied to give Sadie time to buy the land out from underneath him. But what we did here, we did for the glory of the earth. Can't do no better than honor the earth, my momma always said."

"Naw, it was OK," Monte said. He turned away from Ervin, so that the older man couldn't see him smile. "One thing I thought of while I was gone, though," Monte said.

"What's that?"

"I think rather than going into Danville for community college in the fall, I'll go up to Richmond. I think prospects there might be better than down here."

"Whatever suits you, son."

"You would be OK with that?"

"It will be a sad day when you move on, of course. But you have been a sin that I must work on. Not your doing, of course, other than being here. My weakness. You've made such a sacrifice for this valley. It will be my turn to make a sacrifice too. Not today or tomorrow, of course. But, yes, going to Richmond will be a good idea; you should find friends of your own age there. And I've ever said I have no hold over you, that you can do what you like."

"I think I'd like that . . . going to Richmond. I got a friend there who says he'll put me up while I'm going to college."

Monte had to stay turned so that Ervin couldn't see how hard he was smiling about just how much he thought he was going to like that. As sacrifices go, it had been a pretty easy one--a lot more enjoyable than he'd thought it would be. That Jack had a cock as good as a black man's.

 

Habu

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