Castle Roland

Forever 1 - Beginnings

by Jack Schaeffer


Chapter 14

Posted: 5 Mar 15

FOREVER 1 - Beginnings
By Jack Schaeffer
Copyright © 2014 - 2015. All rights reserved.

_"A beginning is a very delicate time."_
from Dune (1984) by Frank Herbert, David Lynch

Monday morning. Start of a new week. Start of a new life.

I woke up happy. The sun was shining, the birds were chirping, and I was in my first ever relationship with a guy. And not just any guy - it was Sam. My beautiful, amazing, kind, sweet, sexy Sam. How did this happen?!!

I stood up and floated to the bathroom, where I did my business, and then stood in front of the mirror. I didn't look any different, but I sure felt like a new man. Knowing there was someone out there who was thinking good thoughts about me and looking forward to being with me made me feel warm all over. I couldn't wait to see him.

A scary idea suddenly flashed through my mind. What if Sam had second thoughts this morning? What if he decided he really wasn't ready to be in a relationship after all? He had been so hurt by Jeremy and maybe he wasn't fully healed yet. I so wanted to be his friend and help him in any way I could. If he did change his mind, I knew I would still be his friend, no matter how bitterly disappointed I would be. I owed him that much. And I had promised Tommy, as well.

I shook off the nagging doubts and went in search of sustenance. Sam was not a fickle guy and I was confident once he made a decision, he wouldn't waver. He had that weird thing he did with his eyes - such intense concentration, his brain processing all the inputs - and then he nods and the decision is made, locked in and unchangeable. It was so cool to see, and so Sam.

I was out of cereal and fruit. In fact, unless I wanted to eat the leftover twice-baked potatoes, the cupboard was bare. I had taken all the cheese and crackers to the beach yesterday. What didn't get eaten, I had thrown away. I drank the last of the milk and decided it was time to restock my supplies. Besides, I had a super romantic meal to make and I had no idea yet what I was going to do.

The way I saw it, I had two options. Buy the food already made and just heat and serve. Or, find recipes and try to cook the food myself. I did not have much experience with cooking, but part of me wanted to try to make something special for Sam. And I was sitting in a gourmet kitchen, so I had all the tools. But what if I utterly failed? Then we would go hungry and this would be the one awful meal he would talk about for the rest of his life. How do I get myself into these situations? Ugh!

I went back and forth in my head, driving myself a little nuts. But suddenly I had an epiphany - I could try to make a meal, but have some ready to serve items available as backup, should my cooking prove disastrous. The ready to serve selections had better be fantastic, because I had a feeling that's where we were going to end up.

I grabbed my IPad and googled "romantic dinner". I followed links to Food Network and pulled recipes from several shows. I even watched a video on how to make broccoli salad. It looked doable. I also searched for recipes from Whole Foods, my main source for ingredients. After half an hour of internet browsing, I had my menu: Brandied Shrimp, Grilled Wild Alaskan Salmon with Strawberry-Cucumber Salsa, Broccoli Salad, Emerald Rice, and Passion Fruit Mousse. It all sounded wonderful. And I was so doomed. If I pulled off even one of those dishes it would be a miracle. I hoped Sam would be fine with steak and left over potatoes - and be willing to grill his own dinner again.

I debated some more if I should even attempt such an undertaking, and in the end I decided to challenge myself. It was time to try new things. I was inspired by the fact if I could get a guy to like me - although I was clueless how that happened - maybe I could pull off dinner. People did it all the time, right? I made a list of all the ingredients I needed. It took two sheets of paper. Yikes!

I took inventory of the serving dishes and utensils on hand. In the dining room I found some crystal candle holders and a butane fire starter, but no candles. I pulled out two place settings of nice china, a beautiful white table cloth, and two matching linen napkins. There was a gorgeous collection of crystal glassware, most of which I had no idea of its purpose. Neither one of us drank wine, so I pulled out two water goblets for the table and four martini glasses for the mousse. As if I was ever going to successfully make mousse. Who was I kidding?

I showered, shaved, and dressed in my Hawaiian uniform of shorts and a t-shirt. I was getting used to this casual island lifestyle. I decided on flip flops today and after applying sunscreen to my whole head - didn't want to get a headache - I set off for town. The wind whipping around me as I drove down the mountain into Kailua was refreshing, the sun continuing to bolster my great mood.

First stop was breakfast - I was famished. Lanakai Juice made me something called an Acai Extravaganza, a blend of Acai juice, bananas, and soy milk, topped with granola, strawberries and blueberries. I skipped the shredded coconut - not a big fan. But the rest was delicious and very filling.

Whole Foods was hopping on a Monday morning. When it was my turn, I chatted with the charming fish guy who helped me select some wild Alaskan King salmon fillets, which he graciously skinned for me. I could just see myself in the emergency room with knife wounds, smelling like dead fish. He put together a pound of shrimp, assuring me they were already cleaned and deveined, which was good, since I had no idea how to do that kind of thing. I also grabbed two steaks for backup, just in case I ruined the salmon and shrimp.

It took a little over an hour, but I managed to find all the other ingredients on my list, plus items for breakfasts and munchies. I even found six white candles in a box. They were made from organic beeswax. Not sure what made them special - I just hoped they helped set the mood. I looked at my overflowing cart and questioned again my sanity at trying to do this meal. But what else was I going to do all day besides pine away for Sam? Geez, I had it bad for him. I was getting more anxious to see him by the minute.

I hauled it all back to the house - it took three trips to get all the bags to the kitchen. I pulled everything out and sorted the ingredients by recipe across the counter top. I found a solid black apron in a drawer, put it on, and set to work.

The salmon was supposed to marinate before cooking, so I found a cutting board and pulled out a scary looking chef's knife from the knife block on the counter and started dicing things up. I made the strawberry and cucumber salsa to go on top of the fish and put it in the fridge. Easy enough, and it tasted rather good, to my surprise. I chopped some more fresh ginger into a shallow glass dish with a mixture of cranberry and lime juices, red wine vinegar, and some herbal seasonings. I added the salmon filets, flipping them in the marinade to coat both sides, and wrapped it up in plastic to chill with the salsa. All I had left to do with the fish was grill it when the time came. Main dish done. Maybe I could pull this off after all.

The other thing which seemed tricky was the Passion Fruit Mousse. It sounded delicious and it looked elegant in the pictures, but could I create this? My idea of a simple dessert was Oreo cookies and milk. This was more involved. I had purchased extra ingredients on purpose, so I had two chances to figure this out. First I had to find an electric mixer. I knew what one was - my mother had always let me lick the beaters after she mixed up something yummy. But I couldn't find anything in that gourmet kitchen which resembled what she had used.

I was about to give up when I saw on the counter, way under some cabinets in a back corner, a large contraption which looked like it could be a mixer of sorts. It was stainless steel and heavy. I moved it over to where I was working and plugged it in. On the side was the name KitchenAid Stand Mixer. I played with it for a few minutes and figured out how to get it setup and how to turn it on. What's the worst that could happen?

The recipe said I needed to make whipped cream. Ugh…why didn't I just buy it in the can? Oh well. I poured one quart of heavy cream into the mixing bowl, lowered the wire whisk blade into it and started it up. Total explosion! Cream sprayed everywhere! My face, hair and chest were drenched, the counter was soaked, and heavy cream was running down the face of the cabinets and spreading across the floor around my feet. By the time I got the stupid machine turned off more than half the cream was no longer in the bowl. If it had been Sam exploding all over me it might have been fun, but this was a culinary disaster!

It took nearly 20 minutes to clean up the mess from the counter, the cabinets, and the floor. If the vaulted ceiling hadn't been 15 feet high, I would have been scrubbing that down, too. I dried off the soaked apron as best I could. My t-shirt was toast. I was so glad Sam was not there to see this fiasco.

Before I used up my second and final chance to make the mousse, I looked carefully at the mixer. I had set the speed on the highest setting. Total amateur move. Once I had the speed corrected, the second batch was happily mixing away in no time. After a few minutes, like magic, the cream was firming up into stiff peaks in the mixing bowl.

I put some defrosted passion fruit pulp into another bowl with condensed milk and whisked it all together, then folded in the whipped cream a little at a time. I put some passion fruit pulp in the bottom of the martini glasses as instructed, added the whipped mixture on top to create a second layer, and put all the glasses in the fridge to chill. I did it! I made mousse. It's the little victories in life which bring the greatest joy sometimes. I was so proud of myself. I smelled a little like spoiled milk, but who cares? Sam was getting a homemade dessert prepared by me.

Compared to the mousse, the broccoli salad was relatively easy. I filled a big pot halfway with water, added a little salt, and soon had it boiling. I added broccoli florets to the rolling water for three minutes, then drained them and rinsed them with cold water. They were an attractive, pretty green color. I didn't like cooked broccoli, but nearly raw I thought I could handle. I made the sauce and coated the broccoli with it and put the concoction in the fridge. All I had left to do was add some cooked bacon to it before serving. Easy peasy.

I had two more things to make, but they could wait until later. I cleaned up the gigantic mess I had made so far, stretching my tight back muscles. Cooking was actually hard work - certainly not for the faint of heart. I loaded and started the dishwasher and wiped down the countertops again to make sure there was no more cream sticking to things. I was pleased with my efforts so far. If I could get the rice and shrimp to work, I'd have a really nice meal for Sam.

I setup the dining room table with six candles in holders of different heights. The place settings were arranged around a corner of the large table so we were close together and could look at each other while we ate. I finished off the tablescape with a beautiful flower arrangement I had picked up at Whole Foods. Everything looked perfect.

Which is more than I could say for me. I was a mess. My hair was sticky and my shirt stank to high heaven. I needed a shower and maybe a nap. The shower jets revived me and with a little Bvlgari shower gel I was back to smelling good again. I assumed Sam would be wearing his normal Paradise Pools outfit of shorts and t-shirt so I put on something similar.

I went out to the lanai and sat down on a lounge chair with my IPad to read, a cold water bottle resting between my legs. I promptly fell asleep.

"Hey, Jack. You awake?" Sam yelled, walking up towards the lanai from the pool.

I startled awake and immediately spilled my water bottle all over the front of my shorts. "Crap!" I yelled, as I jumped up, spilling even more water. It totally looked like I had pissed my pants. Sam stopped short, then saw what had happened and was trying not to laugh as he approached.

"Gotta a little problem there, Jack?" he said with his smart ass grin. I couldn't help but grin back. God, he was beautiful.

"Listen, you. That's what happens when you scare the crap out of me. Look at me! I'm a mess. Hey...aren't you early?" I asked, wiping unsuccessfully at my wet pants.

"Nope. It's 3 o'clock on the nose I think."

"Seriously? Then I've been asleep for a couple of hours."

"Well, it must have been beauty sleep then, cause I am looking at you and you look really good to me right now," said Sam, stepping a little closer to me. I could feel my blush spread all over my face and neck. I took one step closer to him without thinking and he reached out and pulled me into a hug. It felt heavenly. My wet crotch was forgotten in the warmth of his arms around me. I put my head sideways on his muscular chest and listened to his heart beat while he held me. I didn't want it to ever end.

His masculine smell was intoxicating and it was causing my dick to stir in the annoying wetness between my legs. I was suddenly embarrassed, so I reluctantly pulled away and excused myself before my hardon was fully exposed.

"I'm just gonna go change into something a little less wet." I turned to head to my bedroom, but stopped and looked back at him. "Sam...I'm so glad you are here. I really missed you today."

He looked at me with his intense blue eyes and I think he wanted to say something else, but instead he smiled at me and said, "Get changed, Jack. Then we can get the pool taken care of and have the evening to ourselves."

I quickly changed into a different pair of underwear and cargo shorts and returned to the lanai. For two seconds I thought about going commando just to tease Sam a bit, but I didn't want to be a tease. He said he wanted to go slow, and so did I, really. At least that's what my head and my heart were telling me. My dick had plans of its own.

"All better, Jack?" asked Sam, smiling as I returned.

"A lot better," I answered. "Now that that problem has been solved, how was your day, Sam?"

"Pretty good, except for wanting to see you. Whadda ya say we get the pool done so we can relax?"

"Works for me. What do we need to do? I didn't watch you while you worked last Monday."

"Follow me, young padawan, and I will show you the ways of the pool force."

"You dork," I said, laughing. "Lead the way, oh Master Wainwright." We walked back along the pool and down the steep steps to the pool's pump room. Inside, I stood back and watched Sam do his thing. He pulled samples of pool water from a spigot into a small beaker and then dipped some colored test strips into it. He told me he was testing the pH and chlorine levels. The pH was fine, the chlorine was a little low.

"Jack, do you think you want to do any more swimming today?" he asked.

"Not unless you do, Sam."

"Okay. I didn't bring a suit, so we'll skip it. I think I'll shock the pool then. You can't swim in it until late tomorrow morning. Will that be okay?"

Shock? I immediately had images of me falling in the pool accidentally and being electrocuted. "Is it dangerous?" I asked.

"What? No, I'll just put in an extra amount of chlorine to be sure to kill any algae before it has a chance to grow. We do it maybe once a month if we can. Why, what'd ya think I meant?"

I lowered my eyes, slightly embarrassed at my pool ignorance. "I thought you sent some kind of electric charge through the water. I didn't want to get electrocuted." He chuckled, but in a kind way, punching me lightly on my shoulder.

"No, silly. You won't get hurt. The worst would be maybe your eyes might burn a little. No big deal. But it's best to stay out of the water so the system has a chance to filter as much of the pool as possible."

"Fine by me, Master," I said, bowing to his superior aqua intellect with a grin.

He finished the normal Monday routine by opening some filters in the main water pumps and removing a couple of nasty looking clogs from the pipes. I thought it was kind of gross, but he didn't seem to mind. I guess when you do it all day, every day, you get used to such things. Me, I wasn't planning on cleaning pools a lot. Unless Sam wanted to start a pool cleaning business, and then I would be his first employee for sure. To work with Sam everyday would be awesome. Of course I might pass out frequently due to sudden blood loss from my brain to parts down below. My dick had been constantly hard since I started staring at his magnificent ass while he tested the water. His ass was testing my resolve to go slow, that's for sure.

After putting in enough chlorine to "shock" the pool, Sam finally declared the job finished for the day. He closed everything up and we walked together back to the lanai. It had taken a little less than an hour to service the pool.

"Are you hungry yet, Sam?" I asked.

"I'm good. But whatever you want to do, Jack. Do you need help with anything?"

"I might. I may have bitten off more than I can chew. We'll have to see if I can pull this meal together. Would you mind grilling again, when we get that far?" I remembered how excited he got when he did the grilling the last time.

"Sure. No problem," he said with a happy grin.

I grabbed us a couple of water bottles and we sat on separate lounge chairs next to each other to relax. I had some time before I needed to start the rice and shrimp.

"So, Sam. Tell me about your day." And he did. It might have been a little boring to the average person, but I was fascinated because it was all about Sam. I loved the sound of his voice. At one point I closed my eyes and just listened to him talk, imagining each scene and being there with him as he did his work. He had a simple joy in life I could hear in his words. I envied his free spirit, but I was getting there. And I was getting hard again - his voice was sexy. Everything about him turned me on. Get a grip, Jack.

"So enough about my boring day. What'd you do today, Jack?" I told him about my shopping, the prep so far, and the overall meal plan. I was pretty excited to serve him the fancy dessert and he seemed excited to try it. I hoped I didn't accidentally poison him or something. I left out the part where I coated the kitchen in heavy cream. I wanted to impress him, not scare him away. Apparently the only other thing I had done all day was sleep.

"I should probably get started on the remaining prep, Sam. You can stay right here if you want and just relax. You've worked hard today." I stood up and headed into the kitchen. He was right behind me. I had to smile to myself. Could he be any more perfect?

"What can I do to help, Jack?"

"Can you fry up some bacon?"

"Yeah, I think so. Show me how to turn on this fancy stove first." We pulled a sauté pan out and had a fire under it in no time. I grabbed the bacon out of the fridge and gave him a sharp knife and cutting board.

"Chop up the bacon in fairly small pieces, then toss it in the pan. When it all looks crispy enough for your liking, pull it off the fire. That'll be a big help, Sam." He happily stood at the island counter and chopped away.

I put a cup of long grain white rice in a pot with a little less than double that amount of water and put it on another burner. Once it came to a boil I reduced the heat to a simmer and put the lid on. As soon as the water was gone it would be done - or so the package instructions said. I had my doubts. So far, too much had gone right with this meal. I feared I was due for a mishap soon.

But it never happened. Sam finished frying the bacon and I moved it to some paper towels to drain the grease off. Once it cooled a little, I added it to the broccoli salad and stirred it in. The rice fluffed up perfectly. I let it sit on the stove while Sam got the grill hot. I told him what the fish guy had said about cooking the salmon and left him to it.

Meanwhile I melted some butter and garlic in a pan, and when it was smelling heavenly, I put in the shrimp and some Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, salt and pepper. After 2 minutes, I added some ketchup and oregano, and continued to stir the shrimp as they cooked. It was smelling so good! When they looked done, I added some brandy and finely chopped parsley, stirred it around, and called it done.

Sam pulled the salmon off the grill onto a platter, its red-orange flesh glistening, while I stirred some chopped cilantro, parsley, parmesan cheese and lime zest into the warm rice. I put a helping of rice on each of our plates, a piece of the salmon on top of the rice, and then added some of the strawberry-cucumber salsa on top. I carefully balanced two shrimp on each piece of fish. The rest I put in a bowl for the table. A helping of broccoli salad completed the plates.

"Oh man, Jack. It all looks amazing! How did you know how to do all this?" Sam was beaming at me. I could have died right then a happy, happy man. But I still hadn't been kissed, so I decided to hang on a little longer, just in case Sam had any designs on my lips.

"I really don't know what I'm doing, Sam. I just pulled some recipes off the internet and hoped for the best. I wanted to make this dinner special for you. Thanks for helping with the fish. I would've never pulled it all together by myself. It does look good, doesn't it. Let's eat."

I lit the candles and turned down the lights. The sun had not quite set yet, so there was a little light coming from the lanai, but it still was magical sitting there with Sam, enjoying good food with a good friend. We talked a little here and there about nothing important as we savored our delicious meal together. There was a lot of silent looking at each other, our eyes communicating much more than our words ever could.

We polished off all the shrimp - they were unbelievably good. Sam asked for some more rice and another small piece of fish. I guess that meant he liked it. I was stuffed. I decided maybe I could cook after all. Not sure I wanted to do it every day, but for Sam, I could be persuaded. He finally pushed his empty plate away from the edge of the table and put his napkin on top.

"Jack, that might have been the best meal of my life," he said, smiling at me, his blue eyes dancing in the candlelight. I rolled mine in mock rejection of his praise. "No...seriously, Jack. That was fantastic. I would've had no idea you had never cooked before. Well done, man. You can cook for me anytime."

I blushed for the hundredth time and looked away shyly. This guy really liked me, didn't he? It was a good thing, because I had strong feelings for him which were way deeper than I knew how to define or speak of yet. We sat there just looking at each other and grinning, both of us basking in the flickering candlelight and the warm feelings enveloping us.

Sensing we were close to getting carried away in our emotions, Sam wisely suggested we move to the lounge and watch a movie. He picked an action flick with Bruce Willis, which we watched sitting next to each other on a leather couch with a full seat cushion separating us. Might as well have been a mile. Thankfully with all the shooting and fisticuffs, the feelings which had threatened to overwhelm us faded into the background a little bit. But I knew they were still there. I just had no idea what to do with them. I was scared and excited and anxious and happy, all at the same time.

After the credits started to roll on the screen, I offered to get dessert and Sam was all for it. I carried two of the martini glasses filled with mousse to the lounge with two spoons. Sam took one bite and started raving about it.

"Oh my god, Jack. What is this? It's fantastic!"

"It's passion fruit mousse." It really was amazing. I decided passion fruit was now my favorite fruit of all time. Sam finished his quickly, nearly licking the glass. "Would you like another one?" I asked. He nodded his head, then jumped up to get it before I could even move. He came back smiling ear to ear.

"Jack, this dessert put the whole thing way over the top. I can't believe how good this stuff is. Passion fruit, huh? This wasn't your idea of stirring up some passion of our own, was it?" His smart ass grin was teasing me again.

"Not even a little bit, you jerk," I replied, grinning back at him. At the same time, I was silently hoping passion would definitely become a reality between us sometime in the future. If not, my balls were gonna burst and I would be done for.

After he finished the last of his second mousse and licked the spoon clean, Sam said, "So, Jack. What's on your agenda for tomorrow?"

"Don't know. Let's see. Clean up the kitchen. Miss you. Clean up myself. Miss you some more. Think about where you are and what you are doing. Lament you're not with me. Maybe read a book. Miss you even more. You know, this and that," I replied.

Sam's eyes were smiling, a mischievous grin letting me know he liked how I was thinking about tomorrow, which was nice, but I was serious. I really would spend the day missing him. I was dreading it.

Sam started looking at me with that intensity he gets. I could see the wheels in his head turning, working on a problem. Then, like tumblers in a lock, his thoughts must have fallen into place, because he nodded once to himself and smiled.

"Gotta call Tommy. This will just take a second, Jack." He pulled his cell phone out of his pocket and started dialing. I decided to give him some privacy and took the empty mousse glasses and spoons to the kitchen sink. I was hand drying the crystal glasses - didn't think it was safe to put them in the dishwasher - when Sam walked in.

"Hey, Jack. I have an idea I want to run by you for tomorrow." He was clearly excited about it.

"Shoot, Sam."

"Okay. I spoke with Tommy and asked him if it was okay if you tagged along with me tomorrow while I worked. I told him you had helped me a little with the pool here and were a natural. He said no problem." Sam was grinning big. A little devious, this one. Interesting.

"So whadda ya think, Jack? You wanna hang out with me tomorrow?" He looked like a little boy who just asked his parents for a puppy. How could I say no to him?

"Absolutely, Sam!" I said, ending the suspense. "I would love to hang out with you. Sounds like fun. Beats sitting around here all day alone." I was grinning myself now, so hard I could feel it in my jaws. I get to spend the whole day with Sam. Hurray for me!

"This is so cool, Jack. I can't wait. We'll have a blast. And we only have three pools to do, so it won't be too hard a day. Oh man, it's gonna be great." He was giddy with excitement. Excited to be with me.

I looked at him across the kitchen and something inside of me - a switch, a circuit, I don't know - flipped over. Here I was with this amazing, sexy guy, who I still barely knew, and he was overjoyed at the prospect of spending time with me. Doing nothing, really. Just hanging out, being together. I couldn't believe it was happening. I couldn't quite comprehend what I was feeling, but I knew it was way more than I had felt with Fred or Billy. Sam was fast becoming much more than a friend. It made me happy - and it also scared the crap out of me. It was way too soon to talk about it, so I kept it to myself. Instead, I started asking the many questions popping into my head.

"So, Sam. How do I get to you tomorrow? I have no idea where you live or where you work. Where are we going? And what will you need me to do to help? Oh...and what in the world do I wear? I don't have a Paradise Pools uniform?" He sat on a stool at the island counter and laughed lightly at me.

"Jack, you're so cute. Alright, let's have you drive to our warehouse in the city. I'll meet you there in the morning, and then we'll take the company truck. Your car will be safe enough. As far as clothes, just wear those sexy shorts you have on, a t-shirt, and your flip flops. I might be able to find a company shirt for you to wear if you want. Actually, that might not be a bad idea. People will just expect you to be with me then. Cool!" He was really getting into his plan. It made me so happy to see him excited like this.

Sam gave me directions to the warehouse and we agreed to meet there at 8 o'clock. He thought it would take me maybe 45 minutes in the morning to make the trip in traffic. It was getting late, and Sam really needed to leave. Neither one of us wanted him to, but I took comfort in knowing I would be with him all day tomorrow. He helped me quickly clean up the kitchen and we put everything we could in the dishwasher. The rest I left piled in the sink. I'd get to them later.

I walked him to the big front door. "Don't forget your shades and sunscreen, Jack. You're gonna need ‘em tomorrow," said Sam.

"I won't. And don't forget to call me when you get home tonight. Cause...well, you know…" This time he didn't make fun of my concern for him. Instead, he looked at me with gratitude in his eyes.

"I do know...and thank you for caring, Jack. It means a lot to me." I couldn't help myself. I took two steps towards him and his big arms opened up and he pulled me in. I couldn't look at him just then or I would have cried, so I rested my head sideways on his chest with my arms pulled into my own. He held me tightly and we just stood there enjoying the blissful moment. Never in all my life did I think I could feel what I felt when I was in his strong arms. I never wanted him to let go.

But he had to. So I reluctantly stepped back and smiled at him, knowing we both wanted more but it wasn't time yet. We said nothing else - it wasn't necessary. We knew. He looked at me with those smoldering blue eyes and nodded once, this time to both of us. Then he stepped through the door and I watched him drive away.

I stood there long past the time the lights of his white truck had disappeared into the darkness. My thoughts and feelings were in their usual jumble, but I didn't care. And I didn't feel like I had to figure them out anymore. Let them be. I felt fully alive for the first time. And I had a guy in my life who wanted me all for himself. Life couldn't get much better.

I finally dragged myself to the kitchen to shut things down, but decided to wash the remaining dirty dishes so they weren't hanging over my head in the morning. I left them to dry on towels next to the sink. I started the dishwasher and made sure there was nothing else out of place. Then I closed up the lanai, grabbed a cold water bottle, and headed off to bed.

Sam called me a few minutes later. "Hey, Jack. I made it back to my place in one piece."

"Good to know, Sam. I like you in one piece," I said.

"Jack, thank you again for the amazing dinner. It was very special to me. You outdid yourself. And I had a great time hanging out with you tonight. Can't wait for tomorrow." He was still giddy, like a little kid. I loved it.

"I had a great time tonight, too, Sam. I always do when I'm with you. Tomorrow will be great. I just hope I'm a help to you and not a hindrance."

"You'll do fine. Hell, if all you do is stand there and let me look at you, it will be an exciting day for me, if you know what I mean." I blushed, even though there was no one to see it. He had it bad for me, too, apparently.

"Thanks, Sam. I'll try not to be too much of a distraction for you. You do have to get some work done, ya know." I could sense him smiling through the phone.

"Sleep well, Jack."

"Good night, big guy," I said.

"Night, little man."

I lay there in the dark thinking about Sam and me, trying to fall asleep. I would have expected to be horny after a day like today, but strangely I wasn't. Yes, I wanted sex with Sam - badly. But every day I spent with him increased my awareness of how much more I wanted with Sam, besides sex. I was beginning to believe all those other things, like friendship and stability and permanence, and dare I say it, love, might be possible with Sam. Until I knew for sure, sex just might mess it all up. I was suddenly so grateful he was guiding us to wait, difficult as it was.

Could it be he wanted the same things as me?

Author's Note: If you are enjoying this story, please take a moment to comment in the Forum on CastleRoland – you can click the link labelled "Forum Discussion" just under the story synopsis at the top of this page. Or, if you prefer, send me an email to I would love to hear your thoughts about the story.

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