Castle Roland

Shifting Sands

by Jack Scribe, of Honored Memory


Chapter 13

Published: 8 Apr 14

Like the movie Groundhog Day, it was the typical replay of that moment when a guy first wakes up - sensory stimuli competing with human physiology. Dry mouth. Light in the room. Muskiness. The morning woodie. Street noise in the distance. A slight aching of resting muscles. Slow breathing.

Spence smelled the coffee and knew that his brother was getting ready for school. It meant Spence had to get up early and pull himself together in order to have breakfast with Kevin - a half-hour of capsulated quality time together had been part of their routine for years - and finally, drive Kevin to his 7:30 a.m. class. For the second summer session, his brother had switched to a morning schedule.

He reached down and grazed his hand across his pee hard-on. 'Might as well let it go soft before I get up,' he thought while scratching himself. Taking a morning whiz hadn't reached a critical state. And the idea of 'rubbing one out' was something he hadn't considered for quite awhile - not since he'd found his unique part-time employment. Touching a few stray hairs on his scrotum reminded him that it was time to shave down there while showering. 'Before I go to work.' Work was a rendezvous at the Four Seasons scheduled later in the day.

Work. To 'hang 'em up' when Kev was ready for college was part of the plan. 'Four years and it's over,' Spence thought wistfully. 'That's a promise.' By that point, he'd have an MBA, a sound investment portfolio and some sense of a legitimate career path to follow. 'And put this escorting stuff behind me. Retired at 24…no more screwing for a buck. Then it's time for the whole picket fence thing.'

Thanks to a sexy and savvy Seattle stockbroker who Spence first met as a client - and now was a friend - his investment nest egg had grown and even weathered the 2008 financial meltdown. Early that year, the broker had urged caution and shifted most of Spence's investment money into gold and bonds. As a result, Kev's college expenses were now covered. 'If everything goes well in this town,' he thought, 'I'll have enough to swing the down payment for a house behind that 'picket fence.'

Another part of the plan was to keep his mug off the Internet and to maintain a selective memory down the road. 'With gay marriage coming on so fast, who knows if I'll have kids some day? Didn't Cray mention that he'd been fostered by two guys?' And I certainly don't want to be an embarrassment to Kev after he settles down and has a family.

Grooming priorities, the pending need to pee and the job were pushed aside as memories of recent events played in his mind.

The evening with Lou had been almost surreal and now, two days later, Spence still marveled at the string of circumstances that had led up to the assignment with 'LG' - the code name he'd made up for the rich stud from New York that doubled as Lou's initials and the abbreviation for 'large'.

From the chance meeting where he'd flirtatiously talked with that Drew dude in the 'john' at the Barcelona only a month earlier, to the interviews with hunky Brad and macho Mario, to the pool party at his new boss's compound where Spike and Cray entered the picture. He'd never encountered such an interesting mix of characters who were almost joined at the hip by minimal degrees of separation.

The latest chapter of this evolving story was Mario's personal interest in assuring that Spence understood the importance of being entertaining and plying his part-time trade with the firm's 'primo' VIP client…Lou Gallian, Junior. Lou - who later shared his last name, as well as volunteering that he worked in the banking business - had insisted that his 'gift' be properly inspected. In the mostly unfurnished condo living room, Lou talked Spence through a slow erotic body display…almost like directing a dance…in a low assertive voice that was laced with raw sensuality. No dirty talk…that came later.

LG's breathless commentary about each body part was followed by a finger touch, a kiss, a lick, a pinch…all hitting the right spots. As he joked at the time, "Consider it my personal biology lecture tour, 101."

When phase one of the evening was competed, they sat on the carpet and shared a beer. Lou seemed impressed that Spence was also a combination dad and brother to a bright, curious 14-year old straight boy. Lou recalled his 'postpubescent' period - going through those growth spurts and the challenges of continually trying ways to hide hard-ons that popped up when least expected - and still experiencing woodies at inopportune moments.

"I can relate," Spence replied. "I used to get embarrassed when I'd pop a boner in the boy's locker room."

"But tonight, there's no embarrassment in our dicks having fun and a little workout," Lou said with a laugh. He stood up, stroked his growing erection and suggested, "Let's continue our conversation in the bedroom."

Further conversation never entered the picture. Grunts, grappling, groping, sucking, screwing, sweating - Spence wondered who had been physically turned on more. At the end of the evening, after a long shower, Lou made sure it was understood that while he'd had a marvelous time, there were no emotional strings attached. Couldn't be. When he asked if Spence might be available to visit New York once in a while, Spence replied that the only problem was to make sure someone looked after Kevin. Not as a babysitter, more of an anchor for his bro.

"Be creative," Lou replied, "because you're going to earn some frequent flyer miles this summer."

The last he'd seen of Lou was when they'd parted at the elevator. The handsome man had stood in the doorway of his condo, wearing only a pair of pale blue boxer shorts, grinning and giving Spence a thumbs-up sign as the elevator doors closed.

A residual oddity to the date with Lou was the call from Mario the day after. Before Spence could utter a word, Mario gushed about the great feedback he'd gotten from Lou and told him to tentatively make plans for a trip to New York at the end of the month for a few days. "Airfare, cabs…the whole ball of wax will be taken care of," Mario had said. "Just don't think of the guy as marriage material down the road. Ain't gonna happen."

That it "ain't gonna happen" was fine with Spence. While he did his business in the bathroom, he knew Lou considered him a great lay…and vice versa...period. The added ingredients of mutual intellect, sense of humor and social graces rounded things off to an ideal business relationship for both men. 'And a trip to New York once in a while would be nice,' he thought.

"Hey, man. Breakfast's ready," Kevin said in a loud voice.

"Be there in a sec." Spence pulled up a pair of shorts, slipped on a tank top and left the bedroom. He smiled at the way Kevin's voice had lowered over the past year - from scratchy soprano, to wobbly tenor and finally, soft baritone. 'In another year, Kev will be purring to the gals in a voice that'll have them wetting their panties. That is, if girls wear them anymore.' He was sure his brother's peach fuzz would probably be taking a back seat to chin hair sprouts within another year.

Even though he was only six years older than his brother, Spence felt it was more like a generation when it came to technology. When he was 14, text messaging was in its infancy - 'tweeting' and 'sexting' weren't even in the vocabulary. MySpace had just been created, and Facebook was still buried in the minds of some Harvard student brainiacs. Same situation with YouTube - it wasn't around six years ago. He knew these factoids because of a business strategies class he'd taken last semester in Seattle. 'Kev's being bombarded with so much shit,' he thought, 'and part of my job is to help him make sense out of it.'

And then there were all the 'tube' sites that had cropped up - X, Rocket, Red, et cetera. Although Spence had another version of parental control software installed on the desktop computer, he knew that Kevin had figured out how to override the program. 'Like in Seattle, that was bound to happen,' he thought as he entered the dining and living room area. 'These kids are growing up too fast.' He only hoped his brother's curiosity to physically experiment with girls would be contained for another year.

Kevin was sitting at the dining room table, spoon mid-air in his right hand while his left hand turned a page of his book. Spence walked over to the counter ledge dividing the dining area from the kitchen and picked up the thermal coffee pourer. "Hi, Kev."

"Mornin'," Kevin mumbled between chews. He didn't glance up from his book.

"Another hot one, I suppose."

"I thought this desert was supposed to be paradise." Kevin closed the book and looked at Spence with an 'oh, well' expression.

"Paradise…except for summer." Spence poured coffee into a cup that had been set out for him. He smiled at the way his detail-orientated brother had the cup handle set at 'five o'clock'…Kevin did it that way every morning when he was up for school.

He casually inspected Kevin's school dress for the day. The khaki shorts, blue Hurley tee and sneakers with low-cut socks were variations of what he always wore. On more formal occasions, Kevin favored Diesel boot-cut jeans that clung tightly above his buns. One of their small battles this past winter was Spence's insistence that Kevin wear shorts and jeans that were properly sized around the waist. "Showing butt cracks and underwear is way too urban," he'd said at the time. The sagging pant issue faded, and the younger Trotter slowly embraced a more conventional preppy look.

He joined Kevin at the table and said, "I'll pick you up as usual." Summer school was over at 12:30 p.m. and Spence worked his schedule around his brother's needs. When the regular semester began, he hoped there would be some sort of parent car-pooling arrangement he could join. 'And maybe a bike in the fall will help him get around.'

"No need," Kevin replied. His smile wasn't cocky, more one of self-satisfaction. "I've joined a study group for algebra and we're meeting at this gal's house. It's not too far from here so I can find my way back by hoofing it."

"Uh-huh." Spence carefully sipped his coffee and asked, "Who's the gal…or should I say 'friend'?" This was a new development and his brotherly slash parental antenna went on full alert. 'Not the time to make jokes.'

"For right now, just someone I've met. Name's Tammy Hansen. Because of a dumb auto accident, she missed too much of last semester…a combination of hospital time and then staying home. So, she's taking the algebra class over."

"She's okay now?" Spence asked. A twinkle in Kevin's eyes signaled an interest in the girl that was more than just studying together. 'My little bro is growing up.' Although he was batting for the hetero team, Kevin had been rather shy around girls…up to that point…and wasn't very aggressive in the early teen, opposite sex discovery process.

"Yeah, Tammy just needs to be careful for a while. Anyway, she and this semi-geeky guy decided to put in some extra study time for the rest of the session and I kinda joined them. We'll all be in the same class this fall."

"Semi-geeky?" Spence was amused at his brother's expression, but very happy he was making some friends.

"You know, a dude who's into doing good in school but tries to downplay it." Kevin shrugged and took another bite of cereal.

"Sounds familiar." Spence poured milk over his cereal and thought, 'No reason to point out the obvious…that Kev's describing himself.' He'd had several conversations with his brother about not rubbing into other's faces how bright he was. "So let me see if I get this picture. Tammy is a looker and smart, and the semi-geek has the makings to become a pal?"

"Got me," Kevin replied with a spontaneous laugh and snorted milk out of his nostrils. He grabbed a paper napkin and wiped his face. "Tammy's cool and I think she likes me. I'm just trying not to be too obvious about letting her know I think she's pretty neat."

"Would I be butting in if I offered some advice? Part of the plan in this little game you're playing is to make her aware of your interest."

"Well, duh. I know that. I just wanna scope out everything first before I move in for the kill."

"Okay," Spence said with a chuckle, "I'll back off and let you decide when it's time to go for the kill. Just make sure it's not too late and all you get is road-kill."

"Funny…hardy, har har. As far as Edward and I are concerned - and he made it very clear it's not Ed - we've hit it off and could become best buds down the road. I'm supposed to go over to his house this weekend and meet some of his friends who'll be in my class. He also doesn't live too far away."

"Buddy, that's good news." Spence was proud his brother was networking to be part of a support neighborhood group. "And if you want to have these guys over here sometime, we can make some food and I'll stay outta the way." He wanted to have a close-up inspection of the new kids in Kevin's life without being considered a 'hall monitor'.

"That would be super. You know, Tammy and Edward more than make up for the screw-ups who're in summer school - kids who don't give a squat about grades but gotta be there to pass." He set down his spoon and looked into Spence's eyes. "Making two new friends that…well, it's more than I expected so soon."

"Then I salute your good luck." Spence lifted his coffee cup and nodded. 'I hope he continues to be choosy about who he hangs with.'

Kevin took his juice glass, lightly touched Spence's cup and they sipped.

"As long as you're home by ten tonight, it's a done deal. What you need to do is write down Tammy's address, her parent's names and their telephone number."

A frown crossed Kevin's face.

"It's just in case of an emergency. By the way, I may have to travel to New York on business the end of the month and we need to figure out how to handle that. I completely trust you, Kev, but legally we need a fall-back plan."

"Yuk…not a baby sitter," Kevin said with a major emphasis on baby. It was a statement, not a question…with a suggestion of a pout. "Gimme a break."

"Come on…a baby sitter for a stud like you." Spence laughed and added, "No way. Think of it as someone for you to call if needed…and maybe have dinner with. Something like that." Even if he was keeping his end of the conversation on a lighter vein, it was very clear that Kevin was approaching another rite of passage. "I figure I'll leave on Friday and return on Sunday, so there are only two days to be concerned about."

"Wow, I can just see this," Kevin said, shaking his head. "Some little granny-type shuffling around with a feather duster while she bakes cookies for me." He flipped on a devilish grin and added, "Now, if you found a granny who's 18 and in a bikini…then I'd feel safe."

"Actually, if you leave out the granny and bikini, I think that I've got a great guy who would be ideal. He's someone I met recently, who's a local and will be going to the U this fall. Just for the record, his boyfriend just finished his MBA and is working at one of the casinos." Spence wondered how he'd approach Cray and Spike with this favor. 'Maybe I can cut a deal with Cray on an hourly rate,' he thought, 'and give him a chance to earn some extra cash for school.'

There was no reaction from Kevin other than to spoon in another bite of cereal.

"Just hear me out, Kev. Cray's a few years younger than me and Spike's probably a couple of years older. It's not like I'm farming you out to a couple of old fuddy-duddies." Spence knew it was a leap to ask the duo for help - from meeting Spike and Cray at the cookout, to his curious encounter with Spike in the company of Lou, they were hardly close buds. However, there was no choice; he was short on options.

"Cray and Spike. Hmmm…you're telling me they're cool guys who won't jump on my young bones?" Kevin asked in a lighthearted manner. "Actually, since these guys aren't old farts, it might be kinda fun."

"In fact, Cray reminds me of you a little - mature and bright for his age."

"Yeah, yeah, go ahead and flatter me," Kevin replied. He turned on a playful smile and added, "I need my ego pumped up."

"Right…like your head can be inflated any larger than it is." Spence winked to signal he was kidding.

"Okay, they're two cool dudes. I get it. Maybe, I dunno…it's just that this has never happened before." Kevin leaned back in his chair and frowned a little as he digested the plan.

"What I was thinking is we could all get together for a simple dinner - here or out someplace - so you can meet them. And if you're not comfortable around them, we go to plan B."

"Which is?"

"Damned, if I know." Spence was mentally preparing himself for the well-worn two steps forward, one step back approach in their brotherly bartering. "If you became friends with Geek Boy…"

"Edward, and he's only semi-geeky. Remember?"

"Got it." Spence replied with a smile. "Anyway, if you hit it off with Edward, maybe his folks would invite you to sleepover."

"If I had to sleepover somewhere, I'd rather do it at Tammy's place." Kevin turned on an angel-with-a-halo look and cocked his head. "Just joking."

"Wishful thinking. And to quote our mom when I was your age - 'In your dreams, mister'." He reached over and lightly gripped Kevin's hand. Spence didn't want to play the 'Mom' card but he needed to make a point so they could mentally and physically move on.

Kevin turned his hand over and intertwined his fingers in Spence's, like they'd done since Kevin's fingers became large enough to make the spread.

"Seriously, can I invite Cray and Spike over for some chow later this week?" Spence was thankful his brother didn't resent - at least up to now - the parental role in their relationship. 'The next couple of years will be the hardest,' he thought. 'If I can just get Kev to 18 without any major shit happening, it'll be a win.'

"Yeah, yeah…like I have a choice." Kevin stood and picked up his empty cereal bowl. "Actually, it would be nice to meet peeps who are your friends."

"And we can have Tammy and Edward over real soon." Spence was going to joke about making it a 'play date' but decided that the remark might not be taken lightly.

The brothers quietly straightened up the apartment and left for the day.

Mid-July occupancy at the Reflection Bay Resort - to quote the general manager - "sucked". Like the glittery Strip hotels 12 miles west of the lake, the year had all the makings for a long, hot and quiet summer. However, the budget had been adjusted accordingly, and the resort was performing somewhat better than planned. The lull also allowed Jack Gamble some free time on Saturday to be with his boyfriend - now officially his partner - and to attend the party that evening hosted by the lesbian couple.

Phil Perez was on a quick run to Trader Joe's to pick up a bottle of house-gift wine and Jack had volunteered to clean up the house. Between feeding periods - after dinner the previous evening, and that morning's late brunch - the guys had made good use of the horizontal part of their growing relationship and hadn't bothered to be tidy. Dishes filled the sink - not enough for a dishwasher load, so Jack decided to clean them with a little Palmolive and 'elbow grease'. He padded around the kitchen, still wearing only a pair of gym shorts and made short work of washing, drying and storing away.

The big news - and no one other than his partner to share it - had been Jack's decision to move in with Phil the next month. He was planning on organizing his personal possessions into three piles over the next couple of weeks: keep, throw away and donate. The 'keep' pile would be the smallest and would primarily consist of personal papers, books, clothing, computer and a flat screen TV. 'Time to put my trailer park days behind me,' he thought with a shake of his head, 'and join the real world…with Phil.' He planned on taking a one week's vacation in mid-August and use the time to move the 'keep' stuff to Phil's house, dispose of the rest, and clean up his trailer in order to get his deposit back. 'Wonder how long it'll be until I really think of it as our home?'

The sudden quietness from the laundry room signaled the sheets were ready to be moved to the dryer. That morning had been especially amorous: Phil squatting over Jack's erection in a reverse jackhammer movement, which gave the term, 'pucker power' a whole new definition. When they climaxed together, Phil sprayed Jack and the bed with eight volleys of cum. Jack's face, chest and the sheets were sopped with semen - ergo a load in the laundry to wash out the load that had landed there. As Jack transferred the clean, wet sheets to the dryer, he marveled at Phil's ability to shoot in volume and strength, in comparison to his much more modest ejaculations. A sudden spurt followed secondary oozes.

It amused Jack that Phil had a porn star's money shot ability; they had joked about it after the first couple of times together. Now, it was part of Jack's dirty-talk repertoire, and he loved - like earlier - to have his boner fucked by Phil's topside approach with a 'messier the better' conclusion. 'And to think of all those little sperms, wagging their tails, going to waste.' But it only takes one…and in Jack's case, the result had been Cray.

The rumble of the garage door announced Phil's return from the store. Jack pushed the dryer's 'start' button. He grabbed a fresh set of linens from the closet, quickly depositing them in the bedroom and hustled out to the kitchen in time to meet Phil.

"Hey, babe." Phil carried a paper Trader Joe's sack in one hand and used the free one to pull Jack into a quick embrace and kiss. He set the sack on the counter and pulled out a bottle. "I got a bottle of French champagne for the girls' anniversary." Billy Jean Metcalf and Mary Grace were the hosts and honorees of that night's party. Billy Jean taught at Phil's school and Mary was an English teacher at another high school.

"Bubbles are always good for a gift…but they'll probably not open it at the party."

"Save it for later when the time is right," Phil replied with his eyebrows wiggling. "Is Taittinger considered good stuff?"

"I'm sure it is," Jack replied. "I know we serve it at the hotel…they'll appreciate the thought." He admired Phil's trim form that snuggly filled the white T-shirt and 501's. 'Doesn't look like any school teacher I remember,' he fondly thought. 'Sexy man - with a Latin flavor - and a classiness in spades.'

"Ten friggin' years together - in gay and lesbian years, that's more like seventy real ones." Phil laughed and removed a carton of eggs from the sack. "I also got some things for breakfast tomorrow…eggs and that Canadian bacon you like. Plus some other basics."

"Why don't you stow everything away and I'll make the bed. The sheets just went into the dryer."

"Good idea." Phil raised an eyebrow and smirked. "No matter what the thread count is, crusty is crusty."

"You and that fire hose of yours," Jack said. He reached down and squeezed Phil's denim-clad crotch. "Not that I'm complaining."

"Neither am I." Phil took Jack's hand and held it in place for a moment.

"Keep that up, buster, and I'm going to personally attack you." Jack squeezed the outline of Phil's growing member. "But I think we should save up our energy for later."

"Two old duffers like us? Good point. We need to be our sparkling best for the party."

"We don't have to be at their house until seven," Jack replied as he removed his hand. "You still want to watch the Dodger game this afternoon?"

"If you're up to it. They play the Giants."

"Even though I'm still a Padres fan, it'll be a good game." Jack stood back and let Phil store the items in the refrigerator. "Will the girls have food enough for dinner, or should we eat something before we go."

"Mary's a great cook and we'll probably have to hold back at the party, so not to stuff ourselves."

"Not your usual lesbian cuisine?"

"Which is?" Phil asked.

"I dunno…something butch like hearty meals with lots of meat and potatoes. Probably passed around on Brawny paper towels." Jack laughed and added, "Only kidding."

"You better be or I'll have you dust my Hummel figurines, Wedgwood collection and antique demitasse spoon collection."

This caused Jack to laugh harder. Phil's house, appointed with masculine furniture - as much as Drexel Heritage off Macy's floor could muster, circa 2002 - and contemporary poster art, was hardly considered frou-frou or stereotypically 'queenly'. "Actually, I'm looking forward to meeting the couple…as well as the rest of the guys and gals you're social with." Phil had assured him they wouldn't be the only boys at the party but he decided to touch on the subject again.

Even with the ongoing game suspension of Manny Ramirez, Dodger Blue ruled the day and L.A. creamed the visiting Giants. During the seventh inning stretch, Phil prepped a platter of cheese and cold cuts and refreshed the iced tea they were drinking. It had been decided to forgo the two or three afternoon beers that usually accompanied a game on TV. "No reason to get a buzz on too early," Phil had said, "and then hit a sinking spell at the start of the party."

A quick shower - this time without the favored 'baƱo de sex' feature, shave, teeth brushing and the guys were ready to head out. Each changed into similar khakis; for the rest, Phil chose a busy Tommy Bahama shirt and Jack slipped on a pink polo, and they both wore sock-less deck shoes. However, to soften the 'Bobbsey twins' image, Phil's Topsiders were a light tan, while Jack's were the traditional brown.

Using familiar back street shortcuts, Phil easily traversed the less than two-mile drive and they were cruising around for a parking space in less than five minutes. Like many older planned communities in Las Vegas - and Phoenix or Palm Springs for that matter - Billy Jean Metcalf and Mary Grace's neighborhood consisted of gently-curving roads, a blend of grassy lawns and desert landscaping, and variations of four or five basic house plans. The cookie-cutter stucco and tile roof structures harkened back to the 80's American dream of a double garage, three bedrooms and a family room. Twenty years later, 'family' meant two lesbians rather than a gaggle of crumb snatchers.

From the number of vehicles, Jack guessed this was a well-attended party. Except for a yellow Mustang convertible and a Crossfire, the cars were a mix of SUVs and sensible sedans. Phil found a space a half-block away and they walked back to the house.

"Ready for close-up inspection?" Phil asked. He held the wine bottle in one hand and punched the doorbell with the other.

Jack smiled when he recognized the chimes tuned to the opening notes of _I'm Every Woman. _"As Phil's new boyfriend? I can do that…as long as they're not a tough crowd." He looked around the quiet neighborhood before giving Phil a peck on the cheek.

"Naw, pussy cats all." Phil turned and returned the kiss on Jack's lips.

The door quickly opened and a bemused expression crept over a woman's tanned face. She was on the short-ish side, maybe 5'5", with short brown hair and gray-green eyes. Jack guessed she was probably in her late-40s.

"Busted," Phil said. He grinned broadly and licked his lips. "Billy Jean, this is my…partner, Jack Gamble."

"Jack, it's a pleasure." She took Jack's hand and shook it with a firm grip. "So, you're going to make an honest man of my friend and colleague?"

"If he'll let me."

"Let him?" Phil replied with a laugh. "We've certainly had enough practice."

Jack felt his cheeks flush.

"Ewe, TMI." Billy Jean smiled and stepped aside. "Come on in and mingle. Between Mary and me, there are plenty of teacher friends from our schools who are invited. But there are several civilians…so don't fret about a pop quiz at the end of the party."

"By the way, congratulations on your 10th anniversary," Jack said as they entered the home. "It's a goal that we plan on matching."

"Here's something to add to your wine collection." Phil handed the bottle to Billy Jean and added, "Best wishes for many more years."

"Thanks. It's been a good ten years." Billy Jean took the wine, closed the door and pointed to the covered patio. "Phil, the bar's outside and I'll let you two mingle. Mary's in the kitchen getting the food ready and I need to help her set up the buffet." She turned to Jack and added, "I'll be sure you meet my other half as soon as I can pull her away from KP duty."

The interior of the home was a collection of durable antiques - early American vying for attention with Victorian. An overstuffed sofa and chair that were upholstered in a muted flame stitch pattern and the surface of the coffee table was covered with dust catcher knickknacks. A hand-woven tapestry behind the sofa signaled that it obviously had special meaning for the two women.

"I'll introduce Jack to the troops." Phil watched Billy Jean disappear through the doorway off the dining room and put his hand on the small of Jack's back. "All set, buddy?"

"Let's do it. Why don't we start out with just first names? It's easier that way."

Jack scanned the living room and beyond, and decided that there were probably close to 50 guests. With the exception of a couple of women and one hot guy who were in their 20s, the group was definitely middle-age - with emphasis on the middle - and most maintained the professional bearing of teachers. Other than a few stereotypical exceptions of a couple of flamboyant guys and some female butch girls, the crowd was similar to what you'd see on a busy day at Costco.

They worked their way through the clusters of guests in the living room and got to the outside bar. During the 30 foot trail, a few of Phil's fellow Coronado High School teachers seemed aware that Jack was the man, and offered congratulations. Jack was able to match the twenty-ish cutie - who turned out to be a postman - with a thirty something restaurant manager at the MGM Grand.

"You want a beer, or some wine?" Phil asked. A long table supported two galvanized tubs filled with ice - one for a variety of beers in cans; the other for white wine.

"Beer's fine. I plan on being a sipper tonight and save my energy for later."

"Same here." Phil found two Corona lights and popped the cans. He smiled and nodded in the direction beyond Jack's back. "Turn around. Mary Grace just dropped off a platter of food and is coming our way."

A smiling woman with long blond hair waved as she walked towards Phil and Jack. Like several of the other females, she was wearing shorts, a loose blouse and sandals.

"Phil, I'm glad you two could make it." She drew Phil into a hug and they did air kisses. "And this must be Jack." She smiled, and then switched on a questioning expression.

"Hi, Mary. I understand you teach at the rival high school?"

"Yes, good old Green Valley." Mary shook Jack's hand and continued, "I don't remember us ever meeting, but you look familiar for some reason."

"Maybe you've been out to the Reflection Bay Resort at Lake Las Vegas. That's where I work."

"He's one of the hotshot managers," Phil added with some pride.

"No, from somewhere else, plus that resort is too rich for my pocketbook. I…what's your last name, Jack?"

"Gamble. Jack Gamble."

Mary's mouth dropped open and formed an 'O'. "That's it. I had a student in this year's graduating class that looks like an 18-year old version of you - Cray Gamble. Are you possibly related?"

Suddenly, the air seemed to close in on Jack, even though they were outside. He grabbed Phil's hand for support and squeezed hard. "Cray?" he croaked. His lower lip trembled and he turned to look at Phil. "Cray's my son." He felt faint, his legs became rubbery and he leaned into his partner's smaller frame. Phil's arm immediately swung into action and supported Jack as he started to fall.

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