Wearing nothing but a pair of shorts, Wes bounced down the back steps looking for his partner. Wes was just about to yell when he saw Link coming out of his parent’s garage. Damn, Wes thought, how did I get lucky enough to have that man in my life? Wes watched Link with his broad shoulders and rippling bare chest stroll toward the house. When Link got close Wes grinned and asked, “So, are you done with the lawn?””Yeah, all done.” Wes ducked when Link tried to push Wes’s curls off his forehead. “How’s the house coming along? Do you need any help?”
“I finished mopping all the floors. The kitchen and bathrooms are clean.” Wes sat down on the step waiting for Link to join him. “I think the house will pass inspection.” He grinned and added, “Mom will be surprised. I’m sure she’s wondering what kind of a mess she’s coming back to.”
Link wrapped his arm around Wes’s bare shoulder, pulling him close. “You’re doing a great job with the house, babe.” Wes leaned into the hug and grinned when Link ruffled his curls.
“I think we’re good for now, Link.” Wes ran the down list of chores in his head. “I’ll need to change the bedding before they get back. As long as I don’t mess anything up between now and next weekend, we’re done.”
“When do you want to start moving your stuff up the mountain, babe?”
Wes glanced up, noticing Link looked a little worried, like maybe he thought Wes would change his mind. “Hey, what’s that look for? I’m not changing my mind.” Wes felt his lips curl and knew the grin Link loved so much was plastered across his face. “You aren’t getting rid of me. You got me for life.”
The kiss that followed was more than a simple kiss shared by lovers, the kiss was a claiming. And Wes didn’t have a problem letting Link claim him. He melted into the kiss as his mouth opened in surrender to Link’s invading tongue. Wes felt Link’s arms slowly move to pick him up. He tried to pull back but heard a growl. OK, pulling away wasn’t a good idea. Link was carrying him, which couldn’t be that easy. Wes wasn’t a light weight but Link didn’t seem to be having any trouble. Wes though Link would carry him wasn’t back into the house but he wasn’t climbing the steps. Link’s eyes were sparkling when Wes glanced up into them. Now what? Wes’s feet felt grass under them as Link stood him next to his parents’ hot tub. Link broke the kiss and whispered, “Stay there.” Link stepped into the bubbling water. “Climb in, babe.” Wes let Link guide him across the tub. Wes settled between Link’s thighs until he was relaxing against Link’s broad chest. Link’s bread tickling Wes’s neck.
“I love you, Trapper-Man.” It was almost a whisper but he knew Link heard him when he felt Link harden behind him. Wes chuckled. “Looks like we’ll need to change this water before Mom and Dad get back.”
Wes jerked awake in Link’s king size bed to Gene Autry singing the opening lines of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. He scrambled out of the warm bed and slid across the knotty pine floor, hitting the button on the alarm as he smacked into the rustic dresser. Someday he was going to throw that damn CD out the window. But not today. Wes wanted a shower. He stepped into Link’s massive shower turning the massage head on, he leaned with his hands against the stone wall and let the pulsing spray wash his first day of work fears away. Wes had just turned the water off and was toweling dry when he heard Link calling up the stairs, “Wesley, get a move on. Breakfast is getting cold.” There was an edge to the tone that Wes suspected required a response.
Wes walked over to the landing at the top of the stairs and yelled back down to Link, “Keep your shirt on. I got plenty of time. And I don’t want any breakfast!” Wes finished combing his damp hair and headed down the stairs, running smack into his man.
Link was standing at the foot of the stairs, hands on his hips. “Excuse me? Do you want to repeat that?”
“W…what?” Wes thought back to what he had said while Link stood there like a brick wall. “Oh umm, I’m sorry, Link.” Wes couldn’t meet Link’s dark eyes. He felt his face grow hot and knew it must be flaming red. “I’m just nervous about today. I didn’t mean to snap at you.”
Wes was instantly engulfed in Link’s strong arms. “Today will be OK, babe. Ken hired you because you’re the best. Now you just have to believe it too.” Link turned him toward the table and Wes yipped at the swat on his butt. “Eat your breakfast before it gets colder.”
Wes lowered himself into the chair but looked back at Link with concern. “Link, I don’t think I can eat. Can I just have some coffee?”
“Well, think again, because you are not starting a new job on an empty stomach.” Link leaned down and kissed the top of his lover’s head. “Now eat, you don’t want to be late.”
Wes really didn’t think he could eat. He looked at the food then back up at Link. From the look on his lover’s face, Wes knew Link wasn’t going to let him leave without eating. “OK, I`ll eat but I better not get sick.”
“Wesley, you will not get sick,” Link growled. “You aren’t five, and you aren’t going to your first day of kindergarten. Eat!” Wes ate only as much as he thought he could get away with before he slipped his plate into the sink.
Once breakfast was over and the dishes where washed and put away, Link walked Wes out to his truck and kissed him. “Good luck today, babe. Just relax, you’ll be great.”
Wes smiled as he turned his truck down the street to Ken’s Cabinets. He loved the look of the front of the building. It showed the pride Ken took in his business. Ken was waiting for him and after a brief tour of the shop, Ken left Wes to explore his new surroundings. Behind the office and small showroom, was a large workshop with a paint booth and a smaller storage room . A giant roll up door led to the back lot, making it easy to load the two trucks Ken used for deliveries. Ken even had a small forklift. Wes wondered if Ken used the lift. Just looking at him, Wes didn’t think he needed a forklift. Wes walked down the row of work benches, running his hands over saws, planers, routers and sanders. Cabinets full of chisels, clamps and bits. Nail and staple guns hung on the walls. Specialty hand tools he had only dreamed of using. This was tool heaven, a complete shop, and it was his to manage.
Just before lunch Ken was called away. Wes lost himself working on an antique armoire being restored for a local Bed and Breakfast. Wes was surprised when he heard the back door open and Ken walked in. “That was fast.”
Ken laughed. “I was gone three hours, Wes.” Wes watched from the side while Ken ran his hand over the armoire. Wes beamed in pride when Ken whistled and stated, “Hiring you just might be the best thing I’ve ever done. You did a great job.”
“Thanks Ken.” Wes was a bit embarrassed at the praise.
Ken was still checking out Wes’s work when he asked “Did you stop for lunch?”
“No,” Wes blushed. “I guess I got caught up in the cabinets. Seems to be a bad habit I have, or at least that’s what Link says.”
Wes looked up trying to read Ken’s face. “Yeah, he’s my partner.” He wasn’t sure how Ken would handle Wes being gay.
“Is that Linken Walker?”
“Yeah, do you know him?” He shouldn’t be surprised that Ken would know his partner. Link was born and raised here.
Ken smiled, “I’ve known Link most of his life. He’s a great guy.”
“Yeah, he is.” Wes grinned as he thought about the man waiting for him at home.
Wes was surprised when Ken shut the compressor down an hour later. “Let’s clean up and call it a day. You did great today. Tomorrow I’ll take you over to the job site and show you the installation process.”
Wes cleaned up the area around the armoire. Then found Ken in his office. “Hey, I’m heading out. See you in the morning.”
They walked to the door together. “There is one thing I want you to add to your list of duties, Wes.”
Wes tilted his head as he looked at Ken. “Sure, what is it?”
“Stop to eat lunch.” He was smiling, but Wes was pretty sure he was serious from the tone of his voice.
Wes hurried to his parents’ house. Link wanted to take him to dinner in honor of his first full day at the new job. He needed to change out of his work clothes. Then he wanted to bring a couple of boxes of his stuff with him to Link’s house. Wes felt his heart do little flip flops every time he thought about moving in with Link.
Wes chuckled when he thought back to the conversation they had this morning. Well, it wasn’t really a conversation because conversations usually required at least two people. Link had pulled him close and said, “Wes, I’m taking you out after work tonight.” When Wes started to say where he wanted to eat, Link simply added, “We’re going to a real restaurant. You are not going eat pizza every day so you will be ordering something else.”
Wes pulled up to Link’s house about five, almost a full hour before he’d was expected. Link came out of the barn, still dressed in his work clothes. His long dark hair loose over his shoulders. Wes saw the look of confusion on Link’s face and smiled to himself. He was out of his truck by the time Link reached him.
“Hey, babe, you’re early. Is everything OK?” Link wrapped Wes up in his arms.
Wes leaned into the hug. “Sure everything’s great.” Wes grinned when Link added a kiss to the hug.
“How was your first day at work?”
“It was great. I don’t know why you were so worried.” Wes laughed.
Link growled and raised that eyebrow.
“Seriously, Link, I had a great day. Ken even left me alone for a while when he got called away this morning.”
“So why are you here early? Didn’t you go home first?”
“Yeah, I did. Got some boxes here too.” Wes looked over at his partner leaning on his forearms over the bed on Wes’s truck. “You still want me to move in, don’t you?”
Link grabbed Wes and pulled him in to a firm kiss. Wes’s curls entwined in Link’s fist. “What do you think, babe?”
Wes couldn’t answer, he was trying to recover from the searing kiss.
“Let’s get these boxes inside and you can start unpacking them while I shower.”
Link came back into the bedroom just as Wes finished putting his stuff away. Damn, Wes loved looking his partner. Link’s shiny damp hair was tied back at his neck. Dressed in jeans and a long sleeve shirt folded up on his forearms. His hair contrasted against the dark salmon of the shirt. “Wow, Trapper-Man, you clean up good.” He gave Link a peck on the cheek as they passed each other.
“Hey, babe, you didn’t tell me why you got here early.” Link said as they left the bedroom.
“Ken called it a day about four. He said we’d put in a full day.” Wes couldn’t help the flush that was coloring his cheeks.
“Looks like there might be more to Ken’s decision, babe.” Link turned Wes to face to him. “Wanna share?”
“W..well, I sorta got lost in the project he left me with when he took off and didn’t stop for lunch.” Link’s eyebrow did that arching thing, and Wes added, “It won’t happen again, Link. You’ll be happy to know I’m under orders to stop and eat lunch every day.”
“Good for Ken.”
“Speaking of Ken, why didn’t you tell me you knew him?” Wes demanded. “I didn’t get this job because of you, did I?”
Wes lowered his gaze knowing Link was watching him. “Stop and think before you get yourself into trouble, babe.” Link waited until Wes looked at him. “I haven`t seen Ken in a couple of years but do you really think Ken would hire you if he didn’t think you were the best for the job?”
“No, I guess not. He seemed surprised that I knew you, but he wasn’t shocked when I said we were partners.” Wes looked at Link to see how he was going handle the fact that Wes told Ken about their life.
“Tell me, Wesley, just how did we become the topic of conversation today?” That damn eyebrow was arched again.
“Well,” Wes took a deep breath and spit the words out as fast as he could. “Weweretalkingaboutlunchand…” Wes stopped when he felt Link’s hand on his arm.
“Try again only slower this time.”
“We were talking about me missing lunch, and I told Ken that you thought it was a bad habit, only I used your name.” Wes was watching Link’s eyes. “I’m sorry, Link; it just slipped out.” He waited until Link nodded then continued. “Then he questioned your name like he knew you. So I told him we were partners. Then he said Linken Walker?” Wes couldn’t tell what Link was thinking. But he could feel himself blushing.
“Anything you want to add, Wesley?” Link was still calm. His tone hadn’t changed so Wes still didn’t know if he was in trouble or not.
“Ken said he’s known you most of your life. He said you were a great guy.” Wes took a big breath again and added, “I don’t see any reason to prove him wrong, do you?”
Link’s face broke out in a big smile. “No, I don’t see any reason to spoil my good guy reputation.” Link held his hand out for Wes to take. “Come on let’s go get some dinner.”
“You aren’t mad?”
Link laughed. “No, but this conversation isn’t over just yet. We can talk more about it at dinner.”
Wes grinned when Link parked his Jeep in front of their favorite Italian restaurant. He decided not to mention this was a glorified pizza joint. Wes was reaching for the door handle when Link’s hand squeezed his knee. “No pizza, babe. They have plenty of other things on the menu.” There went Wes’s hopes of pizza.
Wes couldn’t help but laugh as he told Link, “I know, I know, I’ll get something else.”
When the waiter came to take their order, Wes grinned as he looked over at his partner. “I’ll have the Chicken Scaloppini
The plates had been cleared and they were waiting for dessert when Link brought up their earlier conversation. “Babe, I’m not upset about you telling Ken we’re partners. I don’t hide my sexuality, but I don’t flaunt it either.”
Wes’s head snapped up. “I didn’t flaunt it!”
“Shh, babe, I know you didn’t. Today, our being partners came out in casual conversation. I’m OK with that. Actually, I’m OK with the whole town knowing I love you but sometimes they don`t want to know.”
“So you really aren’t mad at me?”
“No, I’m not angry.”
“Then why do we need to talk about it? I’ll be more careful next time.”
Link moved his hand closer to Wes’s hand on the table. Their fingers brushed together. It was enough to calm Wes. “You said Ken wasn’t surprised when you told him we were partners.”
“No, he didn’t even comment on it.” Wes thought about that for a minute then looked up as he understood. “Ken said he’s known you most of your life, so he knows you’re gay.”
Linked smiled “Yes, Ken was the first person I told. He gave me the courage to tell my parents.”
Now it was Wes’s turn to raise an eyebrow. “Why would you tell Ken?”
“Ken works with at risk kids,” Link started, but before he could continue Wes interrupted him. “You were an at risk kid?”
Link sighed as he touched Wes’s fingers again. “We really need to work on your jumping to conclusions, babe.”
“Sorry.” Wes mumbled the apology while heat from embarrassment crawled up his neck.
“Thank you.” Then Link continued, “As I was saying, Ken works with kids who are at risk of dropping out of school or getting into trouble with the law.” Link paused while he took a bite of the Italian Chocolate Cake and vanilla ice cream they were sharing. “During my first summer break from college, I asked Ken if I could help with the kids. So we spent a lot of time together that summer.”
“But why did you tell him you were gay?”
“Easy, I’m getting to it.” Link took another bite, “Hey are you going to help me eat this?” Link fed his lover a spoonful of ice cream.
Wes laughed, “Link, I can feed myself.”
“I know but this is more fun.” Wes watched Link’s eyes twinkled as he offered Wes another bite. “OK, back to my story. I was having some trouble trying to decide if I should have that talk with my parents. I guess Ken noticed, so he invited me to his place one Saturday for a barbecue. And a talk.”
“Well, I’m not sure how Ken knew I was gay, but during the meal he started telling me about his family. And how they reacted when he told his parents he was gay.”
“What? Are you telling me Ken is gay?” Wes had lowered his voiced almost to a whisper. He looked around the restaurant, hoping no one heard him.
Link grinned. “Yeah that’s what I’m telling you. I think I was as surprised as you are now. And remember, Ken will tell you if he wants you to know.”
Wes nodded his understanding.
“But the point to the story is; because he took the time to talk to me about his life, I admitted to him that I was gay too. He was the first person I told. And he encouraged me to tell Mom and Dad.”
“Were they OK? I mean, how did they take it?”
“I’m sure they were hurt. You know, disappointed because they weren’t getting grandkids. At least not in the conventional way. They were worried about my safety.” This time Link laughed “I wasn’t always the size I am now.” He flexed his arms to make the point. “But they were great. They’ve always been supportive.”
“Mine too, when I told them, they said they already knew and were just waiting for me to tell them”
“Parents know more then we give them credit for.”
“Um, Link?” Wes had turned a beautiful shade of red.
“Yeah, babe.” Link’s look was intense. “Just say it, you can ask me anything.”
“Um, did you and Ken, um, ever, um, you know, um, get together?” Wes was totally embarrassed but needed to know.
Link took Wes’s hand in his, not caring if anyone saw them. “No, honey, we never did. Ken was, is, a great mentor and friend, but that’s all. Maybe we were too much alike, but we just never were drawn to each other.”
“He doesn’t know what he missed out on then.” Wes’s eyes were staring right into Link’s heart. “I love you, Trapper-Man.”
“I love you too, Wes. Let’s go home.”