"Well, of all the nerve." Sean banged the telephone down on the cash register counter. "Well, shit!" he added.

"What was that all about?" the shop assistant, Mike, said, looking up from the other end of the counter, where he was polishing glass vases with a tea towel.

"That was Roger Bailey."

"Why does that ring a bell?" Mike said. "Oh, isn't that the guy you said you've run into a couple of times? A real cute guy."

"Yes, that's him. He just had the nerve to ask me out."



"And . . . the problem with that is . . . ?" Mike left that hanging. Just that morning Sean had asked him if he knew a guy named Roger Bailey and had proceeded to say he was real cute.

"He had the nerve to tell me he'd just gotten into town and an old friend of mine I'd gone to Atlantic City beach with had told him he should look me up when he got here."

"And I still don't see what the problem with that is."

"He said he didn't remember his name. He was just fishing and taking a chance I'd gone to the beach at Atlantic City. The nerve of him. I know what he wants."

"You're not making any sense, sugar," Mike said. "But I know you're rattled, so I guess you have a right to be addled." He gave a little snort of self-congratulatory appreciation for his clever turn of the phrase and went back to polishing the glassware. "But I still don't see what your problem is," he spoke to a glass vase, "Just this morning you were practically scheming about how you could meet the guy."

"You wouldn't understand. And I don't have time for this. The boss is going to cut out my liver if I don't find the supplies we need in the next three days. This is a hell of a time in the year to be brought up short in product."

Sean wanted to change the subject, and he sure as hell didn't want to do any more explaining about Roger Bailey. Yes, this morning he wanted him, even more after he'd told Mike what a muscled dreamboat Bailey was--with curly auburn hair, bedroom eyes, and a million-dollar smile. But that was before Roger had called him. Sean knew why he'd called him out of the blue like that. He thought Sean would be easy. And he knew Roger had gotten his name and number from Phil--who had probably lied to him, bragged all about a nonevent. Well, if Roger Bailey was that sort of guy, just looking for a quick trick, Sean didn't want to have anything to do with him.

"You're blushing, sweetie," Mike called out, breaking into Sean's private snit. "You're thinking you blew it by not saying you'd go out with that guy, aren't you? And you're thinking of him and what the two of you can do together."

"Am not. And pay attention to what you're doing. If you break that glassware, we'll really be in for it."

"If you don't make those calls and get your crisis settled, we won't be needing this glassware," Mike retorted.

The words from both were a little testy, but they weren't showing angry faces and were used to bantering about like this.

I probably should just tell Mike, Sean thought. But I don't need another person laughing at me. Mike probably would be bringing it back up to needle me about for months.

His mind went to the first time he'd seen Roger Bailey--the previous Friday when he'd gone down to the Toms River boardwalk for a hot dog at noon. He kept his blush as he remembered the catsup and mustard that had squirted out of the end of that damn thing and how he had marched right off to the public restrooms. He was standing over a sink, having taken his shirt off to scrub at the stain and standing there bare-chested, and only then had realized that there was a beach bum who had come on to him before flashing him and making suggestive facial expressions. Sean realized that the guy probably thought Sean had seen him at a urinal when he came in and that the shirt stripping was a flirting gesture.

It had been the clearing of a throat in a very deep register off to the side that had made Sean turn his head and realize that the beach bum had been bellying into a line of urinals. Except now the guy was grinning at Sean and flashing his dick.

He was still grinning at Sean when Sean had fled the men's room, shirt in hand, and he'd followed him to the door, his fly open and his hand cupping his cock.

And that's the first time Sean had seen Roger Bailey, approaching the men's room, his jaw dropped.

The worst thing is that Roger was probably the best looking man Sean had seen in months--certainly better looking than the guys he'd been dating.

"Sir, I'd like to place an order for Valentine's Day."

The voice of the old man standing in front of him at the counter brought Sean out of his painful reverie.

"Um, sure. Just tell me what you'd like."

"This number A18 in the catalogue here, I think. You can have it ready that morning?"

"Um, yes, sure, just fill this form out and that will be $26.87. Cash or credit?"

All the time Sean was writing the order up he was praying that they could get the supplies in that were necessary to fill this order. And there would be many more orders like this over the next three days. If they failed to fill the orders, nobody likely would be shopping here for next Valentine's Day, which was the shop's Christmas, Easter, and the whole family's birthdays rolled into one in terms of annual sales.

"Did this Robert guy leave a number so that you can call him back and claim to have had a brain fart when you told him no."

Mike was at his elbow. Obviously all the glassware had now been polished up.

"His name was Roger. Isn't it time for your lunch break?" Sean hissed.

"Any time you say I can go to lunch is time for my lunch break, honey," Mike said, with a big grin as he turned and sashayed toward the shop door. "See you in thirty. Hope you have the crisis solved by the time I come back--the one about this Ralph guy, I mean." Mike was laughing as he disappeared in the direction of the boardwalk.

"You don't understand," Sean called after him, talking to himself more than Mike, as he knew Mike was out of hearing distance.

It wasn't just the stained shirt incident. That wasn't the last time he'd encountered the Roger dreamboat. Just the next night, Saturday night, Sean had gone to Phil's house to watch the Knicks and Celtics NBA game and for beer and pizza. He'd had a rough week--and Saturday--trying to line up their supplies for Valentine's Day before the shop owner, Tom, came back and found out the crisis they were in by not having gotten their orders in sooner.

Not "they," of course. It was Sean's job to keep up with the orders.

Half way through the game, he went up the stairs to Phil's room, fell across Phil's bed, and was out like a light.

When he woke up it was morning, and Phil, tousled hair and all--but probably not any more tousled than Sean's was--was staked out in his armchair, in his underwear, with a blanket haphazardly half covering him.

Startled awake, Sean sat up on the edge of the bed. The movement had been too rapid, though, as he'd had too many beers the night before, so he let out a moan and had to sit there, waiting for the room to come into focus.

"I didn't. You didn't. We didn't . . ." he mumbled at Phil. It's not that he never had. He just never had with Phil and had no intention of doing it with Phil. He was a nice guy and all, but they weren't anywhere close . . . although Phil had made clear he wanted to and had been wining and dining him to build up to it. Sean had no idea whether he would go with that buildup. And he certainly had no plans last night to . . .

"Didn't lay a hand on you. I like my men to have some memory of what we did. You were half asleep when you came over. You obviously needed the sleep."

"Crisis at work," he muttered. "Sorry. Thanks for the use of the bed, though."

That was all fine and dandy--except when Sean exited the room, his clothes rumpled and his head looking like a tossed salad and not helped a bit by Phil standing in his doorway in his underwear, smiling and casually leaning against the doorframe, there was the jaw-dropped dreamboat Sean had almost run into outside the boardwalk men's room. He was walking up the stairs--just in sleeping shorts. And it didn't help that he made Phil look like a toad.

And his jaw was dropped again. It remained dropped, when, as he turned to the side to let Sean rush by down the stairs, Phil, completely unembarrassed and, of course, providing no satisfactory explanation, introduced the dreamboat with, "Hi, Roger. Sean, this is Roger Bailey, the new roomy in the house."

If that hadn't been bad enough, before Sean had reached the front door, he called out, "Nice score last night, wasn't it?"

Sean had no doubt that Phil wouldn't have bothered to tell Roger that he was talking about the point spread in favor of either the Knicks or the Celtics on TV the previous evening. How the hell would he have known the game score? He left the game half way through.

"But it's all shit down the toilet," he muttered. "Time to make begging calls." Sean reached for his vendor list.

Later that evening, as he was preparing for a double date with Phil, he finally got around to checking his voice mail.

"Hi, Sean. This is me, Ken Staley. Remember the Atlantic City trips? Well, I met a real cute guy here who is moving to Toms River," he said. "Said he didn't know anyone there, and he's into guys. Thought I'd give you firsties on him. He's really worth the effort. A real sweet guy. So, I gave him your name and telephone number. I hope that's OK."

"Shit," Sean said, as he clicked off. He was way past wanting to hear any more voice mails like that for a while. "Shit, shit, shit," he repeated, as he heard Phil's car horn sound down on the street and reached for a half-length tank top to top the baggy beach shorts he was wearing.

* * * *

Sean didn't think he'd ever been both so angry and frustrated, as he sat there with his eyes boring livid holes into the back of Roger Bailey's head.

It hadn't been Phil's car horn that sounded down in the street. It had been Roger Bailey's car horn. Phil had neglected to tell Sean who they were double dating with. It was with the new roomie in Phil's group house, Roger. And the dyed-blonde bimbo transsexual who serviced any of the guys in the group house who wanted it, Chris Turner, had been dragged along as Roger's date. The word "dragged" fit, because Chris seemed three sheets to the wind before Sean had been the last of the four-some to be picked up.

Dinner at a pizzeria, where Phil and Roger talked NFL football and Chris made eyes at a guy tossing disks of pizza dough to please him and Sean kept pulling at the hem of the too-short tank top he unwisely had decided to wear. And then it was the movies--an action adventure, of course, that had no plot as far as Sean could see, but had enough bare-chested muscle to give him a little buzz--and, as a result, Phil more leeway in the placement of his hands in the darkened theater than he'd managed ever before. Sean allowed a palm to be placed on his belly where the bottom of the tank-top didn't meet the waistband of the shorts, but he only permitted the hand to lay on his basket for a few minutes at a time.

Throughout dinner, Roger had looked embarrassed and wasn't making eye contact with Sean. Sean, embarrassed as well, assumed Roger was thinking that he was as loose as Chris, but was the property of Phil. God knows what Phil had told the guys in the house that Phil had done with him, Sean mused.

And then it was to a house on the Toms River ocean beach front that Phil knew was empty and for sale. Here there was a driveway running by the side of the house, where Roger's car could park in the shadows of the house and they'd be facing the ocean surf close enough to hear it with the windows of the car down and to be dazzled by the moon reflecting off the surface of the water when they weren't doing anything else.

Roger and Chris were in the front seat and Phil and Sean in the back, and if Sean had not been so angry at what was going on in the front seat, he probably wouldn't have let Phil get to third, let alone steaming right by first and second all by himself.

It was when Chris' head disappeared from above the back of the passenger seat and Roger laid his head back on the driver's seat head rest and sighed that Sean lost it. Phil already had one arm around him in the center of the backseat and the other hand high up the leg hole of the baggy shorts and inside his thighs, meeting no physical resistance as short and loose as Sean's clothes were, when Sean gave in to "what the hell" and "he thinks I'm a slut anyway" instincts.

He'd show that judgmental Roger Bailey, no matter what a dreamboat he was, he thought. And then he proceeded to do so.

No one could be more surprised than Phil, when Sean turned toward him and then threw a leg over his lap and was in his lap, facing him. He pulled the tank top over his head and unbuttoned Phil's shirt.

Phil moaned loudly as Sean pulled his face to one of his nipples. Sean hoped to hell that Roger, in the front seat, with Chris' head in his lap, was hearing that moan well. Sean knew for a fact that he was a whole lot better cut than Chris was--and better equipped below to boot.

Sean's instinct was to pause when he felt how hard Phil's erection was against his crotch as he straddled his lap, but he was pissed and it wasn't like he'd never done this before and hadn't considered the possibility of doing it with Phil. And there were those thoughts of those hunky superhero actors in the movie they had just seen. The wings of Phil's shirt were pulled away from his chest now, and the muscled bod was very nice too as they kissed. Sean's nipples hardened against the steel of Phil's pecs. They both were hard and ready for action. Sean didn't know who slipped unzipped and removed his shorts, and his briefs as well, but before he knew it, Phil was fumbling around with a condom and then was inside him, and he was riding Phil's cock in a forward and backward and side to side motion of his hips.

Sean wished he had eyes in the back of his head. He wanted to know if Roger was watching Phil and him through the rear-view mirror as Chris gave him head.

He sure hoped so. That would show him for being so judgmental. Bet he was sorry he wasn't the one in the backseat.

But then the act itself consumed his attention, his tenor moans were slithering up from Phil's baritone moans, and he didn't care whose cock he was riding as long as it took him to an ejaculation, which it did.

Why had it taken him so long to let Phil fuck him, he wondered. But then he wondered why Phil couldn't be Roger instead.

* * * *

Sean was so intent standing on the sidewalk and pretending the display in the shop window needed attention so he'd have some relief from worrying about the shortfall of supplies coming in from vendors that he didn't see the young man come up from behind him and almost caught the man's toes when he took a step back.

"Oh," he exclaimed when he turned and saw Roger Bailey standing there, looking sheepish.

"Hi . . . Sean," Roger said, clearing his throat between the words. "Here . . . these are for you."

"These? For me?" Sean asked, trying not to laugh. "Flowers?"

"I know, corny, right?" he said in a tone of voice that indicated he only now realized that it was, in fact, corny.

"No, I actually think it's . . . sweet . . . but . . ."

"But?" Roger asked, prepared to be crushed.

"This is where I work. A flower shop. Have you heard the expression 'taking coals to Newcastle'?"


"But . . . sorry, it's still cute. And I certainly need the flowers."

"I . . . thought. Well, we seem to be in embarrassing situations every time we meet . . ."

We? Sean thought. I'm pretty sure I'm the one who's been caught with his pants down each time. But he wasn't about to say that out loud.

". . . and I thought maybe we could start again and do it right. I still want to go out with you."

"Surely Chris has you fully occupied. You two were really going at it last night."

"Me and Chris? Going at it?" Roger laughed nervously. "Chris passed out and keeled over on me in the car. I was doing everything I could just to pretend like I wasn't even there. I don't really get turned on by . . . well, you know. Phil didn't tell me who he'd hooked me up with."

It was Sean's turn to say. "Oh . . . well. Maybe we can talk about this later. Right at the moment, I'm up the river and looking for a paddle."

"Excuse me?"

"I work in this flower shop and the owner is away but will be back tomorrow."

"And so?"

"And so, he will be expecting to see this place stuffed with flowers--we certainly have enough orders to fill. And the day after that is Valentine's Day. I order our supplies--our flowers--and somehow I screwed up and our orders didn't get in. And now I don't think there's a flower left unspoken for in New Jersey."

"Oh, so, if you got that crisis solved, maybe you'd go out with me?"

"If I got that solved, I'd do anything you want." Immediately regretting that, though, Sean gave a nervous laugh. Roger joined him--his laugh just as forced as Sean's.

"And I guess these flowers won't help much," Roger said, extending the hand holding the bouquet he'd brought.

"Sure, they'll help. They're the nicest thing that's happened to me today," Sean said, giving him a wan smile and taking the bouquet.

"Well, then, happy early Valentine's Day," Roger said. "I guess I should leave you to work on your problem and call back after Valentine's Day."

"Yes, I guess so," Sean answered, the regret evident in his voice. "I'm sorry. I don't mean to be a grouch. I hope to be in a better mood after the 14th, if I still have a job."

"Well, then," Roger said. He already was backing off. Then he turned and disappeared around the corner.

"Shit," Sean muttered under his breath.

* * * *

"It's a beer truck."

"Yes, but the important point is that it's a refrigerator truck." Roger had come into the florist shop later that afternoon and coaxed Sean out on the sidewalk to see something.

"OK, it's a refrigerator truck. A truck to haul cold beer," Sean answered, his voice flat and still quizzical. He didn't really have time for this. He had made nearly thirty phone calls and was still batting zero on getting an augmented supply of flowers in the shop by Valentine's Day.

"Yep, it would keep beer cold, but there isn't any beer in it."

"So? Look, Roger, it's great seeing you again, but I have a whole lot--"

"It doesn't have any beer in it to make room for other things that need cold storage--like flowers."

"But I don't have flowers that need cold storage. I have more than enough cold storage for the flowers I have on hand. That's the problem."

"I found you a large order of flowers. Nearly all the way to Philadelphia. But we have to pick them up ourselves. This afternoon. So, I borrowed this truck."

"You found flowers?"

"You wanna go with me to pick them up? I've paid for them already."

"I don't know if we can afford--"

"Look, it's pretty simple, Sean. You need flowers; I got you flowers. You pay me what your boss would think they're worth when you see them. I'll swallow the rest. All I want out of it is for you to say 'yes' to a date. Deal?"

When he put it that way . . .

* * * *

"OK, just pull off there on that track off the road," Sean said. He hadn't said a word in the last twenty minutes as the roads they were on going west from the coast got smaller and smaller. This one was barely graveled and the trees met overhead.

"That track up there? That's barely a fire trail."

"This is barely a fire trail," Sean answered Roger, his voice petulant. "Just pull in there."

"OK, if you want. Do you have to . . . ? Whoa!"

Roger had forked off into the smaller track as Sean had asked and had stopped just beyond sight of the graveled road and turned his eyes to where Sean was sitting in the passenger seat.

"Here, is this what you want?" Sean hissed. He had unbuttoned his shirt and pulled his shorts and briefs off his legs and was holding his cock up, pointed at Roger. He unfortunately couldn't help from going hard, which somewhat negated his intent to make Roger feel like a worm.

"That's very nice," Roger said, when he could catch his breath. "But--"

He didn't have a chance to get beyond the "but" before Sean had reached over, put a hand behind his neck, and brought his face in for a kiss. His other hand had gone to Roger's crotch.

Roger didn't fight him, but when he pulled away, he said, in a low voice. "That was very nice too, but what's this all about?"

"You're just driving deeper in the woods to get into my pants, aren't you? We aren't really going after flowers, are we? You've just seen how easy I am with guys--or have been given the impression that I am--and this truck and everything is just to get me out in the woods like this. You just want to fuck me."

"Well, that's the long-term goal, yes," Roger said, with a sloppy grin. "You're a knockout and I'm into sweet-looking guys like you, so I admit that's the long-term goal. Why else would I be working so hard to get it if I didn't want it? I could have chewed nails when I saw you giving it to Phil last night. But we can sneak up on it and only do it if and when we both want it. All I'm after, for starters, is a date."

"But bringing me out here and all . . ."

"There really is a nursery up ahead, at the end of this road. There really are flowers I've paid for--that I've outbid other florist shops for. And if you want to have them in your shop for when your boss shows up tomorrow, we'd better take care of that first."

"But then we'll . . ." Sean suddenly realized that he really did want what he had suspected this was leading to--had wanted Roger to fuck him from the moment he'd seen him.

"Oh, yes, definitely," Roger answered, with a grin, as he put the truck back in gear and took another look at Sean's exposed cock. "Then we certainly will."



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