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Authors: Christopher Koehler

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BOOK: Tipping the Balance
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“So wait,” Brad threw back over his shoulder, “you said Nick worked for you? On houses?”


“Yeah, I needed some help a few summers ago, and he needed money. It’s not like coaching pays that much, and it’s basically seasonal,” Drew said, pleased at the chance to bait a trap. “So he helped me out, and apparently he’s quite handy. It didn’t take long before we realized if I put him in charge, we got more done. Every summer since, he’s my crew leader. I don’t know what I’m going to do when he graduates and moves on.”


They found a bank of lockers with open doors. Drew handed Brad the swimsuit and towel he’d brought for him.


“That’s so cool!” Brad said. He held the suit up. It was volleyball-length and made of an iridescent purple fabric.


“Yeah, it really has been. I’ve gotten to work with my best friend, and we’ve stayed friends,” Drew said.


“No, I mean the suit, but do I want to know why you’ve got clothing in a size that will never fit you?” Brad said.


“I don’t know, do you?” Drew said coyly.


Brad looked pained. “I asked, didn’t I?”


Drew laughed, trying not to read too much into it. “I’ve got a hot tub and a wide circle of acquaintances. People crash at my place after going to the clubs or after parties, things get left behind. See? Perfectly tame.”


“Glad to hear it,” Brad said, unbuttoning his shirt.


Drew looked away quickly. There was no way he could risk looking. He’d brought a square-cut Speedo, and he’d be unable to hide the tumescence that would inevitably result from watching Brad strip. But he was freakishly aware that the subject of his fantasies was taking off his clothes just a few feet away. He turned slightly away from Brad, just in case, the same old story of the gay man in a straight man’s locker room.


“I didn’t know you were in construction,” Brad continued as he changed.


“I just kind of stumbled into it, really. I started flipping houses on the side not long after I got into real estate. It seemed like a natural progression,” Drew explained, “and it turned out that I really liked it. Maybe even more than real estate, if you want to know the truth.”


“That’s cool,” Brad said.


“It’s nerve-wracking. I’ve got a major opportunity coming up, one that might allow me to move more into renovation, but without Nick there, I’m really not sure how it’s going to work,” Drew said, his mind full of everything he wasn’t telling Brad. But springing, “Hey, wanna come work for me?” on Brad seemed a little sudden. Drew knew he had to work his way around to it, build a case and pique Brad’s interest, then spring it on him.


“Hey, Drew?”


Drew looked up. “Yeah? Ouch!”




“You just whipped me with a towel.”


“Uh-huh,” Brad laughed. He had a huge shit-eating grin.


“So that’s how it’s going to be,” Drew said, nodding slowly. He finally got an eye-full of Brad, whose tree trunk-like thighs were barely contained by the borrowed bathing suit. And that fur on his belly! Drew’s throat went dry.


Brad’s eyes were bright. “C’mon, let’s go play in the water.”


first plunge into the water felt balls-shrinkingly cold compared to the oven-like heat of the air, but after that first bracing plunge, the water was refreshing, and Brad and Drew had a great time racing down the flumes. The faster runs, in particular, were largely rug rat free, and in any event, the lifeguards did a good job of keeping the fully grown from plowing into smaller, lighter people by making them wait a few extra moments before barreling down the flumes on their rubber mats.


“Oh, man, that was just what I needed today,” Drew said as he flopped down onto his beach towel on the grass under an enormous shade structure.


“That was a blast,” Brad said. “Thanks for calling.”


Brad stood, looking down at Drew, who fortunately had his eyes closed. He paused with the towel over his head, the water running down his shaved head unheeded. Water ran onto his chest, tracing rivulets around his pecs, pulling his chest hair together. It trickled its way down over the merest hint of a belly and disappeared into the borrowed swimming trunks, but Brad didn’t notice.


He’d been right with his speculations about Drew’s body at lunch almost two weeks before. Drew obviously knew his way around the gym. He was toned and built but lacked that fake shredded look of the dedicated gym rat who lifted lots of weights but did nothing with them. Whatever Drew did for exercise and fun was clearly working for him, because Brad couldn’t take his eyes off him. He looked like what Brad thought a man should look like, not a ’roid droid.


Brad swallowed the lump in his throat. Then his eyes traveled further down Drew’s body, and he forgot how to breathe.


He’d been around guys in Spandex before, seen plenty of packages barely contained by the stretchy fabric of high school wrestling or collegiate crew unisuits. He’d even seen guys popping boners in uniforms that left nothing to the imagination. They did nothing for him. Nada. Zilch.


But Drew in that little Speedo?


He was mesmerized. He was entranced. All he could do was stare at… it.


Brad wanted it. He didn’t have a name for it, but he wanted it.


Actually, he did have a name for it, he thought guiltily.


He started drying his head vigorously, even roughly, hard enough to leave the skin of his scalp red and angry.


“You’re quiet,” Drew said, propping himself up on his elbows.


“Just thinking,” Brad said.




“About that big opportunity you were telling me about. Sounds cool. What’s up with it?” Brad said. He tossed the towel on the ground, awkwardly smoothing it out and laying down next to Drew.


“I’m trying not to think about it,” Drew groaned.


“If you don’t want to talk about it….”


“No, it’s cool. You’ve heard of the Bayard House, right?”


Brad nodded. “It’s supposed to be the mayor’s mansion, but it’s totally uninhabitable or something.”


“Basically, yeah,” Drew said. He sat all the way up, facing Brad. “What updating’s been done hasn’t been all that compatible with the rest of the building. The city government decided it’s time to get serious about preserving the mansion, because there’s so little of the old city left. So there’s a call for bids specifically aimed at younger firms to preserve and adapt the old mansion to the needs of the twenty-first century.”


“Wow,” Brad breathed. “That sounds… awesome.”


“It sounds terrifying,” Drew said.


“Terrifying? It sounds like a blast.”


“I mostly do flips, but lately I’ve worked with a designer on actual renovations. She thinks we should do it. We’re both young, new in this business and all that, but….”


“But you’re not a contractor?” Brad prompted.


Drew plucked at a grass stem. “No, and that’s the big stumbling block, or one of them. I’ve got a contractor I usually work with. He’s retired, but he’s willing to inspect my work and sign off if I pay him as a consultant. But by no stretch of the imagination is he new to this business, one of the requirements of the job. That’s even assuming he’d be willing to work on this. It’d be pretty big, and that’s another thing. It’d take all my time.” He groaned and lay back on his towel, covering his eyes with one arm.


Brad watched him, considering. He was kind of jealous, actually. When it came down to it, he liked the housing trades. He liked being physical and working with his hands. He liked being outside, at least when it wasn’t quite so sweltering. That was why crew had been such a good fit for him, and the same things that had drawn him to rowing were what he liked about home-building—working with his body in the outdoors, working as part of a team for a greater whole.


Despite his dad and that damn double-cross about where he’d be working, he liked the idea of his job. It was at least familiar territory while he figured out if this was what he wanted to do with the rest of his life. But for someone with some experience in the home trades, someone adrift and looking around after college, this sounded like a dream job. That said, he knew he could never do anything like that.


“So are you going to do it?” Brad said, trying not to sound too excited.


Drew looked up at him. “Probably,” he said. “Yes. I don’t know.”


“So long as you’re sure and all that,” Brad said.


“I’m sorry, I’m sure this sounds pretty pathetic,” Drew said, sitting up again. “Sorry to dump all this on you.”


“No, it’s totally okay,” Brad said. He smiled. “I like hearing about it.”


“Oh,” Drew said, smiling shyly in return.


Brad looked back at him for a few moments. Then the tingly fluttery feeling got to be too much. “Hey, let’s slide some more. I’m getting hot again.”


Drew didn’t say anything for a minute, but Brad could tell he was up to something. He could see the muscles in Drew’s legs bunching.


Sure enough, Drew sprung up. “Last one in buys dinner!”


And he was off, pelting across the pool deck, Brad in hot pursuit, the booming voice of the lifeguards chasing after them, demanding they walk.


Laughing like maniacs, the pair of them, they slowed down fractionally, each trying to beat the other to the stairs leading up to the top of the water slides.


A few
hours later, Brad felt let down going home, as if going back to the ordinary world were a return to the world he’d seen on old TV shows, a world of monochrome where the afternoon had been in laughing, breathing color.


He realized he’d felt happier that afternoon than he had all summer, happier with Drew. He frowned, thinking. Drew was his old coach’s best friend. In some ways, maybe Drew was his last connection to crew, his last connection to the best part of college. That had to be it.


But that didn’t change the fact that he’d spent the afternoon romping and playing with a half-naked gay man and had a fine time doing it too. Drew was Drew. There was just something about him that Brad liked being around, and if Drew liked dick, then Brad had spent the afternoon with a man who liked dick. That was all. It didn’t have to Mean Anything. He could almost see the capital letters floating in the air.


Brad wasn’t one to analyze things, but there wasn’t really anything wrong with a straight guy like him having a close gay friend, was there? If that was what this was. He squirmed. He so didn’t want to think about this.

Chapter Seven

BOOK: Tipping the Balance
5.53Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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