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Authors: Christopher Koehler

Tags: #Gay & Lesbian

Tipping the Balance (6 page)

BOOK: Tipping the Balance
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“I’ve already got it,” Drew said with a smile.

Chapter Four


spent the drive home flying on an adrenaline high. Drew rocked. That man was awesome, no two ways about it.


He laughed out loud. He hadn’t made too big a fool of himself, not since he’d picked up the phone and called Drew in the first place. At first, he’d been so nervous he could barely speak. But he’d planned ahead, and he’d stuck to his script, pages arrayed before him on the desk. It was probably a little stilted, but it helped put his mind at ease.


And then Drew had asked him a question he hadn’t planned on, and Brad panicked. He’d never been one of those people who thought fast on his feet, and as nervous as he’d been, Brad froze.


Then he’d frantically rifled through his papers, trying to find something he could modify on the fly.


“Are you reading from a script?” Drew had chuckled.


“No,” Brad had said, letting his pages of scribbled conversation scatter as he dropped them on his desk. “No, what gives you that idea? Just busy… with paperwork.”


At the time, he’d been petrified, but there in the car, Brad thought it was pretty damned funny. Making a script to call someone, then getting caught at it and playing it off. He still wasn’t sure if he’d gotten away with it, only that Drew had let it go.


Drew was a class act, Brad could tell, a man more sophisticated and suave, if that was the word, than he’d ever be. He was a big lug, and he knew it. You could put him in a fancy suit and teach him to tie a Windsor knot and curl his pinky while drinking tea, and he’d still be a big lug yanking on his collar because it felt like it was strangling him.


Just the thought of himself all dressed up like that made him snicker. Brad, with his neck like a tree trunk and thighs to match. In a suit. Drinking tea.


But Drew…. Brad stopped laughing. He hadn’t been able to take his eyes off Drew the entire lunch. Every time he felt uncomfortable or even scared and started glancing around, the sight of Drew pulled him back.


“Fuck, he’s handsome,” Brad whispered. Drew was just average height, but Brad liked that better. He’d been around tall and rangy rowers for five years, and not one of them had ever caught his eye.


Drew’s brown hair sparkled in the sunlight when they stood in the parking lot to say goodbye. That was the word, sparkled. Maybe it was some gay super hair product or good genes or something. Brad had brown hair, at least what was left of it from where it was noticeably thinning on top. He just clipped it super short every other week and left it at that. But even when he’d had enough hair to style, it had never looked like Drew’s.


Blue eyes that danced when he smiled. That was just weird. Blue eyes usually bugged him. There was something off about them, the way they were different colors from ice blue to flat-out gray, but all still blue. His dad had blue eyes, and they’d never held a hint of warmth. But Drew’s… they looked so friendly, so inviting.


Muscles that showed, even through his business-casual clothes. Brad wasn’t cultured or sophisticated, which he imagined meant things like knowing about art or fancy food or… something. He didn’t know. That was him. But he knew muscles. He knew what time in the gym felt like, and what it looked like later, after you’d recovered and built the muscle. Drew had muscles.


Drew had earned his muscles the hard way too. Brad had never juiced. He knew people who had, people who’d done Deca and then Clomid to keep their balls from shrinking. He could always tell. The thought made him curl his lip in contempt. Juicing was cheating. That was for pussies, pussies and….




Brad had forgotten that Drew was a homo, that it was another man whose appearances he was so hung up on. But damn, those pecs alone, hidden behind Drew’s dress shirt, they’d taken a lot of time to sculpt like that. A lot of guys just did the bench press for their pecs and left it that, but it took a lot more than that. It took time with the incline press, the dumbbell flies, pull-ups…. No, those muscles made Drew look like a man, not just someone who was male. Maybe that was it. There was something manly about Drew.


Was it gay to appreciate another man’s masculinity? Brad shook his head. It couldn’t be. It was just acknowledging all Drew’s hard work in the gym, that was all.


But even if that was the case, that he just appreciated Drew’s efforts in the one area he happened to know something about, Brad was forced to admit that there was more to it than that.


Brad shifted uncomfortably as he drove. He’d boned right up as soon as Drew got out of his car. He was just glad Drew had gone into the restaurant ahead of him so he couldn’t see the wood Brad had been pushing. But he’d been hard for the entire lunch, balls so tight they ached.


That was totally gay, and Brad knew it. That pissed him off. It scared him. That wasn’t who he was.


Was it?


That wasn’t who he wanted to be.


But what if he secretly did?


“Damn it!” Brad yelled, bellowed, as he pounded the steering wheel in frustration. “I’m not gay!”


Then he noticed the dashboard clock.


“Shit!” he screamed, well and truly pissed.


It was 4:00 p.m. Lunch had lasted hours, and he’d never noticed. He’d been gone from the office all afternoon. If his dad had dropped by….


Brad gunned the engine. He had to get back to work.


pulled up outside his house—his dad’s house, really, even though both Sundstrom boys still lived at home—with a feeling of dread curdling in his guts. It wasn’t that Randall Sundstrom was physically abusive, but he sure yelled a lot. Brad was sick of the yelling.


His shoulders slumped, and he got out of the car. He swung the disreputable backpack he still carried over one shoulder and looked at his house, wishing he were anywhere but there. He might as well face the music, but coming hard on the heels of his afternoon, he was so not in the mood for this.


Brad had barely shut the door behind him when he looked up to see Randall standing there waiting for him. “Hi, Randall.”


Randall acknowledged the greeting. “Where were you this afternoon?”


“I’m sorry, I just lost track of time. It won’t happen—”


“I’m tired of your excuses, Bradley,” Randall said calmly.


“Look, I said I was sorry—”


“Sorry doesn’t cut it in the grown-up world, Bradley. You’ve always been feckless. You treat life like a joke. When’re you going to grow up?”


Maybe when you treat me like a grown-up?
Brad thought. “What—”


“The sales office was closed all afternoon. That’s simply inexcusable,” Randall said. “Where were you?”


“Meeting with a real estate agent to find out what I could do to make Suburban Graveyard more appealing to his clients,” Brad snapped, voice dripping sarcasm. That was it. He’d had enough. Pushed by his fears and insecurities, he’d hit the limit of what he was willing to swallow. “That not what you were expecting to hear,
? Figured I took the afternoon off to go joyriding or something? Sorry to disappoint you, Dad, but I’m trying to do the job you dumped on me. Besides which, there weren’t any cards stuck in the door when I got back, and no messages on the voice mail.”


Randall stared at him for a moment. “We don’t want Realtors bringing people in, Bradley. You have to share the commission,” he said, emphasizing the


But Brad was having none of it. “Right now, there’s
no one
coming in. So all of nothing is… nothing. You told me I had to do this. If you’re not going to tell me how, then back off.”


“No cards just means no real estate agents, Bradley,” Randall said with exaggerated patience, “it doesn’t mean that no one came by. The people we want don’t leave their business cards in the door. They’re just ordinary people who want to buy a house.”


“Yeah, they’re beating a path to our door, that’s for sure,” Brad said, laughing. “Whole busloads of ’em, all panting to buy one of those horrible houses. Whoever designed those must have a lot of hostility to work out.”


Brad didn’t wait for an answer. He stomped off to his room, ignoring his dad’s demands that he come back. He threw his backpack into a corner of his room and slammed the door behind him. If Randall was true to form, he’d leave Brad alone in his room.


Brad relaxed fractionally now that the door was shut and locked. Whatever else he could say about living at home as a college graduate, at least he had a spacious room to call his own, including an attached bath. If it had had a kitchen beyond the small dorm-style fridge he stored beer in, it’d have been like living on his own. His dad was an asshole, but he was still a home-builder and developer, and the Sundstrom house showed it through details, finishes, and touches large and small.


Part of him wondered if it was his dad’s way of keeping his sons dependent, but mostly he just liked hiding back in his room, kicking back in a battered recliner and cracking open a beer or four. But if this job Randall had dumped on him ever started paying, he was off like a prom dress, out of there, and into his own place.


He didn’t figure the shit job was his dad’s way of keeping him down, as his brother Philip made bank with his job at Sundstrom Homes. Why Philsie didn’t leave was anyone’s guess, but he was the oldest and clear favorite. Brad had a shit job because he was Brad.


He sighed and opened a beer.


Brad was pissed but unsure why beyond the catch-22 his dad had put him in, although that was enough. It angered him that he was playing by a set of rules he didn’t know and, for all he did know, changed on him at his dad’s whim. Brad felt like he’d had a good idea and taken positive steps to do his job, a job he didn’t want, and then got crapped on.


No, he brooded as the booze worked its liquid magic, there was something else going on. He and his emotions and motivations weren’t really on a first-name basis. He’d always been content to go with the flow, riding the wave of whatever he felt without bothering with the whys and the how-comes. Life was simpler that way, and Brad liked simple.


But lately, his emotions were turning on him. Starting this summer, he’d been buffeted by an unaccustomed melancholy. He’d looked the word up once, and it seemed to describe his mood. He missed his old life, plain and simple. The parties. The gym.




He missed that most of all. He’d proven himself there. Even if Morgan had finally beaten him on the ergs, proving once and for all that he was faster, Brad had enjoyed the process.


But the thought of crew led him directly to Drew. Crew and Drew. On his third beer, the rhyme made him snicker. But the direction his mind—liberated by alcohol and an empty stomach—headed when he thought of Drew, that scared him.


He thought about how hard he’d been during lunch. That scared him too. He’d sported a monster boner for another man.

BOOK: Tipping the Balance
6.2Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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