He kept doing the same things he usually did, and fucking with Red at lunch. (He’d got him to keep the small binder clips on until the wannabe got back, then let Tony watch while he took them off, hiking up his shirt and doing it by flicking them while Bad coached him in his ear.)
Fucking texting was inconvenient. He’d feel better about Red performing for Tony if there was an open line to the room, but he couldn’t sit in the booth and say, “Yeah, boy, that’s right, torture it, hurt it, make it burn.” But the wannabe had just sat there in the chair again, hands clamped down on it like he was restraining himself.
Sue was in the booth Friday, so he texted Red it was a no-go. Red drew a sad face on a piece of paper and pushed it across the desk toward the camera, while printing postage for a customer the whole time. Bad had already texted a sad face back before he pulled up short, appalled by himself.
What the fuck is this, some kind of geeky gay love story? Shit.
But he couldn’t get the text back, and the way Red went still when he saw it (under the surface of the counter, still dealing with customers), then glanced over at the camera, a little smile on his face?
“Man, Bad, you look like you got hit with the happy stick. Glad the guy’s working out. When am I gonna meet him?”
Bad squeezed his eyes shut and took a few deep breaths, telling himself that Sue didn’t actually know about Red, she was just guessing. “Shut the fuck up, Sue.”
She laughed. “Got it bad, Bad? That’s sweet.”
“I’m going on a round,” he muttered, and slammed out of the booth.
Sue’s laughter followed him down the stairs.
He did have it bad, and that stupid sad face text only confirmed something he was pretty fucking sure he already knew. He took people back to the house, because that’s where the toys were. That wasn’t a huge fucking deal. He took boys back to the house who stripped off and knelt, too, even when he hadn’t given the order.
But the way Red had folded that fucking blanket instead of dropping it, placing it on the dresser, smoothing out the top? Fuck. He made the kid a fucking frozen pizza, what the hell was he thinking?
And why wasn’t he calling the kid the second they were both off, or texting him where and when he’d pick him up? Bad didn’t know why he was holding back, but it felt right, so he did. And Red didn’t text him, either.
What the fuck did that mean?
He woke up with a hard-on and a dream of Red in a rubber suit with an e-stim plug up his ass, twitching and moaning and bucking when Bad turned up the current.
Bloody godfucking whore. He scrubbed his face with both hands, trying to rub the lingering desire out of his skin, and dragged himself to the coffee pot.
He texted Red while waiting for it to brew. 5:37 on a Saturday morning. The perfect time to text a college boy.
Get your ass out of bed, scrawny. Meet me at the southeast corner of campus. We’re going for a run.
Then he told himself the phone was probably off, or on silent, and Red would get that message when he woke up at noon and hate himself a little for sleeping in, but by then Bad would have found a distraction (he’d been looking at plans for a greenhouse; today’d be a good day to start that project), and wouldn’t be quite so close to imagining beating Red’s balls with a paddle while the e-stim machine hummed against his prostate.
The phone buzzed.
No fucking way. Thirty minutes.
Yes, sir. And I’m not scrawny.
Bad smiled at his phone, hearing the words in Red’s voice.
Oh fucking shit, he was in way too deep, standing there smiling at a fucking text message. It was pathetic.
He waited for the coffee pot to finish its gurgling and idly played with his cock through his sweats. Taking a run with Red. So many possibilities. Physical fitness for the motherfucking win.
* * *
“Oh Jesus, Red. That’s what you fucking wear to take a run?”
Red looked down at his faggy tank top and skin-clinging track pants. “What?”
“The only way you could look more gay is if those fucking shoes were pink.” Bad pinched a tight little nipple through the shirt, catching Red’s eye. “You trying to distract me, boy?”
“Fuck. No. Just—this is what I wear.”
“God all-fucking-mighty. Bend over. Do some stretches.”
Red glanced around. “Uh.”
“Touch your toes, Red, it’s good for your muscles.”
And oh unholy hell, look at that ass in those pants. Bad wanted to make him kneel right here on the street corner for a spanking.
“Let’s go,” he said, and took off.
It didn’t occur to Bad until a mile into the run that he’d never gone running with another person. It was Bad’s personal version of don’t shit where you eat: don’t fuck where you train. He took building muscle mass and keeping his body strong a hell of a lot more seriously than he took fucking.
But here he was. With Red.
Bad put on some speed and didn’t wait for Red to catch up.
He slowed down at the top of a low incline hill and looked back, expecting the kid to be a speck in the distance. But Red was halfway up, form shot to hell, bent over and panting, but still lifting his feet, still looking ahead.
“Jesus! Straighten up, boy! You want to fuck your back up?”
Red flipped him off and pulled his body upright at the same time. Bad lingered long enough at the top of the hill to cuff him lightly on the back of the head, then took off again, heading for the orange grove.
“I’m—dying—” Red said when he finally came through the hedge. “You—killed—me.”
“Nah. Why would I do that, Red? Do some toe-touches, boy. I’m gonna take you through some stretches while your muscles are still hot.”
“Take me—through some—stretches, huh?” Red gave in and doubled over, gasping, coughing a little. “Oh my god. Dying.”
“Yeah. Stretches. Follow along, boy.”
“Why aren’t you—dying?” Red looked up from under his hair. “Old man.”
Bad smiled, slowly, showing his teeth. “Make a comment like that again and I’ll run you till you puke, Red. Stretches now.”
The kid wasn’t sure if he’d actually do it, but he damn well wasn’t convinced he wouldn’t.
They ran through Bad’s usual cool-down without speaking, giving him a chance to watch Red figure things out. He was a good mimic, and despite the lazy gym workouts, he found acceptable form without too much slouching.
Damn. Bad licked his lips and moved until he was so close, Red had to look up to see him.
“Hard to believe a little twink pussy like you could keep up, Red. I’m impressed.”
“I get some kind of reward for that?”
“Take off your shirt.”
Red stripped off his ludicrous tank, folding it and putting it on the bench.
God, right here in the open, in sunlight, Red knelt with his head lowered and fucking just waited.
“Open your mouth, Red. Stick out your tongue.”
Bad pulled his cock out and stroked it, looking at that mouth, those lips. Fuck. That one kiss, in the Spark, still burned in the back of his mind, smoldering there, a memory he couldn’t seem to forget or write over with hotter things.
He rolled his cock around on Red’s tongue, coming in from the side to push out his cheek, thrusting deeply enough to make the boy gag.
“Stay open for me. Yeah, that’s right. Just like that. Look at me, Red. Look at me while I fuck your throat open.”
Red’s eyes, dark in Bad’s shadow, shot straight into him.
“Good, yeah, let me see your face, Little Red. Let me see the hole I’m fucking.” He let go of his cock and grabbed Red’s head on either side, fingers sliding through his hair, gripping his scalp. In and out, in and out, working Red’s mouth on his prick like he owned it, keeping it shallow but making sure Red could feel his cock everywhere, so that no patch of his mouth went unmarked.
Bad groaned, taking it deeper, rocking Red forward, feeling that long slide of tongue on his shaft, smooth and rough at once, looking right into Red’s eyes when he went too deep and he gagged again.
“Hold it there,” Bad said, one of his hands going from clenched in Red’s hair to caressing. “Hold it there, boy, swallow and breathe.”
Eyes tearing, Red held still, throat working to keep air going to his lungs.
“That’s it. That’s it. Good.”
He started rocking again, while Red fought himself to stay still, and one of Bad’s hands smoothed over the side of his head while the other controlled him.
“Deeper, boy. Take it in. Take it, Red, just take it.” Red gagged again and Bad pulled out just enough, still uncomfortable, with Red trying to push him away. “No. Red, look at me. Blink one time for yes, two times for no. You want to keep going?”
Red’s eyelashes, beaded with tears, closed one time. Bad waited, but nothing.
“I’m taking that as a yes.”
Red blinked again, forehead crumpling.
“You be very fucking sure, boy. Because once I start in, I’m gonna keep going, and you gotta trust that I’m not gonna choke you to death on my cock even if you can’t say ‘orange’.”
Chest rising fast, hands balled in Bad’s sweats, Red blinked once more.
“All right, boy. Fuck, you’re a sexy goddamn little cocksucker, Red.” He probably should have tried to find a better patch of dirt for the kid to kneel on, but it was too late now. “You’re too fucking tense. Relax, Red. It’s just like taking it up the ass. You gotta relax or it doesn’t fucking work.”
Shit, he could feel Red’s throat loosen as he breathed into Bad’s cock. Like he was fucking built for taking Bad’s cock.
“Good boy,” Bad said, suddenly breathless. He began rocking again in little thrusts. “I’d like to have you over the bench on your back, tied down, and I’d fuck your throat while your head hung over the edge so I could watch my cock move.” One hand slipped down, brushing over Red’s neck. “I’d tape it so I could show you what you look like with a cock down your throat, Little Red, so you could see how fucking hot you are, letting me do whatever I want to you.”
Red’s eyes fluttered and Bad pushed in, gagging him, but instead of backing off he took a firmer hold on Red’s face and pushed in again.
“Take it, baby. Take my cock now, Red, go on, take it deep.”
Swallow, swallow, try to breathe. Bad’s balls went tight and hot and he pulled out at the last moment, coming all over Red’s upturned fucking face, all over his chest, pumping himself until nothing was left, spunk mixing with tears on Red’s cheeks.
“Yeah. Yeah, boy, that’s right.” He rubbed it in all over, covering Red in his scent, in his seed, but one hand stayed on him, firm over his ear, over his hair, stroking his temple with one dry thumb the whole fucking time. Bad got a good palm-full and leaned down, shoving his hand in Red’s pants, jacking his cock with spunk while his eyes rolled back in his head.
“You’re a good boy, Red,” he heard himself saying, just before he pressed his lips to Red’s.
Red moaned, arching into his hand, into his mouth.
Oh fucking Christ. Bad wanted to give over to the kiss more than anything, but he yanked himself back and pulled his arm out of Red’s pants.
He started walking, because the alternatives—watching Red pull his shirt on over come-stained skin, looking for glistening trails on his face, kissing him again—were unacceptable.
Then: THUD. The impact, from behind, didn’t knock him down, but he did have to catch himself, nearly falling.
“Fuck you, Bad.” The kid hit him again, but he was already turning, and definitely more prepared. “Fuck you! Fuck you for kissing me like that, you fucking sonofabitch! Go to hell!”
“The fuck?” He grabbed Red’s shoulders and pinned him to the nearest orange tree, shaking loose some of the leaves, grinding the kid’s bare back into tree trunk. “What the fuck is your problem, Red? You’re the one who kissed me first!”
“Yeah, I did, and it was fucking stupid, I shouldn’t have done it!” Red shoved him again, but Bad didn’t move, didn’t lose his grip. “Goddamn you, Bad, you’re such a fucking asshole. You make me feel so fucking out of control, like I can’t do anything, I can’t breathe, I can’t think, my heart can’t fucking beat unless you say so, and then you fucking kissed me. Dammit!” Red leaned his head back against bark and closed his eyes. “Damn you. Sometimes I fucking hate you.”
Bad shook his head. “I don’t have a fucking clue what the hell you’re talking about, Red. Hey.” He waited until Red’s eyes opened a slit, leaning in so they were breathing over each other’s skin. “You can lose control all you want to, Little Red. I got you.”
“That’s what makes it worse. That’s what makes it impossible. You’re so—you’re so fucking—”
Bad’s brain supplied plenty of options for the end of that sentence: wrong, mean, horrible, fucked up.
“You’re so fucking perfect, it screws up my head. It makes me want so fucking much more than this. Dammit.” Red shook his head, hands coming up to latch onto Bad’s forearms. “I dream about you, like a fucking stupid idiot. I try not to, but shit, Bad, this morning, when your text came in? I was having the most intense fucking dream about you and that spreader bar. Only the umbrella was a cane.”
“Have canes, too.” He squeezed the kid’s shoulders. “I texted you because I woke up from a dream I had you strung up in the swing with an e-stim dildo deep in your ass. You ever felt that, Red?”
“No. No, sir.”
“You want to?”
Red sighed, body deflating, face falling back into lines Bad recognized from the mirror: resignation, tamped down despair. “Yeah, all right. That’d be good. Won’t be thinking about much else with an e-stim dildo in my ass, right?”
This was it, this was the crossroads, and Bad knew what he should do. He should take the kid back to the house, maybe play out his little caning wet dream (though he bet Red had never been near an actual cane), come on him again, maybe finger him while he was still spread wide, teasing him, taunting him. That’d be good. He’d drop the kid off at the dorms, maybe make a plan to meet up later at the Spark.
That was the sane, reasonable way to go. Give him what he needed.
Instead, Bad pressed him back against the tree and kissed him. “You got a fucking problem with me kissing you?”
“No,” Red whispered, staring at his lips. “No, Bad.”
“Good. Put your damn clothes on, let’s get back to the house. I think the first pot of coffee’s probably crap by now, but I’ll make another one. You drink coffee, Red?”
“Fuck yes, please. Wait, do you have your truck here?”
“No. Why would I have the truck?”
“Then—how are we getting to your house?”
“Jesus, Red. We’ve got fucking legs. Come on.”
Red groaned. “You gotta be kidding me. How far away is it?”
“Two miles. Little more.” He backed off so Red could move. “You can go back to your room if you—”
“No. It’s fine. I can make two miles if there’s coffee at the end of it.”
“We’ll see how you behave.” He clamped down on the back of Red’s neck. “Tell me more about this dream, Red.”
Two and a half miles passed a hell of a lot faster when he was making Red detail out his twisted little fantasies in between sprints.
* * *
They ate cereal standing up in the kitchen, waiting for the coffee to re-brew.
“I can’t believe you actually eat Wheaties. I don’t know anyone who eats Wheaties.”
“I keep meaning to cut out grains, but I’m not gonna eat a fucking cheeseburger wrapped in lettuce. Plus, I like Wheaties.”
“This is weird,” Red said.
“This. You. Wheaties. Cheeseburgers.”
“Christ, we gonna go over this shit again? I’m not a fucking ogre, Red. There is no cave.”
Red grinned. “I don’t know. I bet there is. I mean, technically the cave part was off, but the rest of it was pretty accurate. And I never even thought of e-stim like it’s something I could actually do.”
“Well, running electrical to caves is so touch-and-go,” Bad deadpanned.
“Yeah. That must be it. Tripped up by logistics.” He finished his bowl, took it to the sink, rinsed it. “You got a dishwasher, or—”
“Leave it. I don’t let people load my dishwasher.”
“Oh yeah?” Red glanced around, gestured with his bowl toward the washer. “Show me.”
“Show you my dishwasher?”
“Show me the right way to load this bowl. Top shelf?”
What the hell. He’d need to put the dishes in, anyway. Bad rinsed his own bowl and opened the door. “Bottom shelf, back row. It’s a smaller model, because I don’t need much and the cycle’s faster, so the only way to get plates in is loading bowls in the back row.”
He turned a look on Red, expecting the kid to drop his eyes, but he didn’t. “You studying me, Red?”
“Yeah. You’re kind of a neat freak, Bad. It’s, uh, funny.”
Only Bad had the impression “funny” wasn’t the word he meant.
“I’m detail-oriented, scrawny. Coffee’s done and cups are in the cabinet.” He stalked back to the bathroom and took a few deep breaths.
No. This was a stupid, terrible idea. He had to get his shit together and stop thinking of fucking stupid ideas like offering Red a room for the summer. He stared at himself in the mirror and tried to get it together.
Bad slammed back out of the room, determined to break Little Red until the kid realized survival meant staying the fuck away from Bad, but when he made it back to the kitchen, Red was standing there with coffee up to his nose, inhaling steam with his eyes closed.
Shit. He wanted to break Red. He also wanted to kiss him again. And the part of his brain that wanted that kiss didn’t give a shit that Red was a college kid, that he’d leave in twelve months for the rest of his life, or that Bad didn’t want a goddamn boyfriend. There was no fucking sense to it, no way to reason with it.
Red opened his eyes and smiled. “Hey. Wasn’t sure how you took yours, so I just poured and left it.”
“Me too. Why mess around, right? If you gotta put a bunch of shit in your coffee to drink it, maybe you just don’t like coffee.”
Bad poured his into his usual mug, rinsing and putting away the mug Red had brought down for him. (Red watched, not quite smirking.) “Tell me what you like, Red. Tell me what you don’t like.”
“It’s a dumb question. You already know what I like.”
“Fine. Tell me what you don’t like.”
“So you can only do the things I don’t like? No thanks, Bad. Think I’ll just keep doing what we’re doing. Sounds like that’s what’s gonna work out best for me.”
“I know you don’t like my fingers in your mouth.” The kid’s nose wrinkled. “You don’t like it when you think you’ve done something right and I punish you for it.”
“Well, that leaf thing was a fuckin’ setup, Bad. There’s no fucking way I bit down.”
Bad shrugged. “I wanted to keep whipping you. That was hot as hell, you taking all that, Red.”
“It was—it wasn’t hot. It hurt like you were just ripping my skin open and whipping on exposed nerves. But when I got home, it wasn’t as bad as it felt like it was. I thought I’d be bloody, but I wasn’t. Just red and sore as hell.”
“I wouldn’t go that rough on you in the dark with a switch. I could make you bleed, if you wanted me to, but not with something I didn’t know exactly how to use. And hell, Red, that’s not something I do with someone who won’t fucking talk to me.” He watched Red over the rim of the mug, which Red was holding up to his face, still, like a shield.
“Sounds like a lot of wasted breath to me,” Red muttered.
“Breath wasted telling me how I can get you off better? Explain that, Red.”
“It’s not—look, I’m fucking leaving in a week. This is a waste of time we could be spending doing other things.”
Evasive little shit. “Yeah. I’m building a greenhouse out back today.”
“Oh.” Shit, the kid looked sad. “Right. Okay. Well, you can drop me at the horseshoe. Or I can walk, now that I know where we are.”
Bad let it sit for a long moment without saying anything at all, because Red was indulging in a little self-pity now, and it’d eat at him better if Bad let him feel it. When he judged Red had decided everything in life was against him, he said, “Nah, fuck that. Need another pair of hands. Put your coffee down and bend over, Red.”
“You heard me.”
They just looked at each other while Red calculated the possibilities. Then he put his goddamn coffee down and bent over, bracing himself on the counter.
“That’s good. Stick it out more for me, Red. Let me have that ass.” The kid had no idea what was coming—a spanking, a grope, a wooden spoon—just how Bad wanted it. He peeled down the crappy pants to upper thigh and smacked Red’s sweet round ass, watching it jump. “I know a lot of women who’d kill for this ass, Red.”
“Thank you, sir.”
He smacked it again. “Don’t mouth off.”
Another smack. “You have a tone, Red. A real smartass tone.” Bad took those firm globes in his hands, squeezing them, mashing them into each other and pulling them apart. Bad gave him another smack, then crossed the kitchen and grabbed the vegetable oil. “Appreciate the jock strap, Little Red. Real nice.” He tugged out the elastic waistband and let it snap back into place. “You like jock straps?”
“Yes, sir.” The tone was gone. Damn fucking straight, little slut.
“Me too. Got one on right now. Maybe I’ll get it nice and ripe for you, then let you wear it.” He tugged on Red’s hair. “You know how you’d be wearing it, don’t you, Little Red?”
“Yeah? How’s that?”
“On—on my face? Sir?”
Bad got up close, one of his hands still pulling Red up by his hair, the other coming down over his mouth and nose. “Just like this, until my cock was the only thing you could smell, the only thing you could remember smelling in your whole fucking life.”
Red shivered in his grip. “Yes, sir,” he whispered.
“Uh huh. Brace again, and stick your ass out.” Bad ran his hand over Red’s ass, then poured oil right at the top of his crack and let it drip down to his balls before going in and spreading it around. “Oh yeah, that’s real good, that’s fucking good right there, Red.” He gathered oil on a finger and pushed in inside. “Fuck, boy, you’re tight. Too bad you’re too tight for my cock. It’d probably rupture your tiny little hole.” He pulled his finger out again and gathered more oil, pressing it in.
Red pushed back, arching, trying to take more.
“Hungry little pussy. Come here, pussy. Let’s see what you got.” A second finger now, and Red moaned, wiggling. “Yeah, that’s good. Go on, boy, fuck yourself on my fingers, take ‘em deep. How’d you like those markers, huh? You like it when I shoved that one in so deep you had to shit it out, pushing and grunting like a fuckin’ animal?”
“Yeah. Yes, sir. I—I liked that.”
“I fucking bet you did.” The kid pushed back harder, ass muscles tensing, milking Bad’s fingers. “Aw, fuck me. Christ, Red.” He smacked Red’s ass again, one side then the other, keeping up a rhythm with Red’s little thrusts. “Yeah, you like that, too, huh, boy? Being full and having me spank you at the same time.”
Shit, shit, this was fucking hot. “This ain’t far off, Red. This ain’t far off at all.” He kept the smacks coming, crooking his fingers this way and that way, stretching Red’s hole. “All right, that’s it. Be still.”
Red obeyed, panting into his arms.
“You stay just like this, boy, until I come back.”
He gave Red a good hard smack and walked away. He needed his skinny plug and a lot of lube. The oil had been a stupid choice, but he’d wanted inside Red’s sweet pussy, and the oil was the first thing he could find. Was it silicon you weren’t supposed to mix with oil? Or plastic? Fuck, not that it mattered, because he only had one plug that would be even halfway comfy for tight little Red.
He returned, lubed up the plug, and took good aim at Red’s hole. “Be a good boy,” he said, pressing it in nice and slow. “You ever had a plug in before, Red?”
“N-no, sir. Ugh. That’s—”
“Hang on. Give a good breath out and push down, and it’ll be in.”
Red exhaled and pushed, and yeah, his hole ate the widest part of the plug and sucked in nice and firm. Bad turned it, playing a little, then rested the base securely against Red’s cheeks.
“Looks damn good on you, boy.” He reached around, snaking a slick hand under Red’s jock to cup his junk. “You like it?” he asked, even though the answer was hard and hot against his palm.
“Yes, sir. Please, Bad, can I—”
“Nope. Pull up your pants, we’re going to the hardware store.” One more smack to Red’s ass. “That’s a little baby plug, Red, for your tight little pussy. We’ll have to work you up to that dildo I’ve got in the bathroom, won’t we?”
Red pulled his pants up and stood, slowly, tentatively. “Don’t think there’s time for that in the next week, Bad. Hell, I don’t think there’s time for that in the next year.”
“You doubting I could provide the right incentives?”
“I’m doubting a guy my size could physically take something the girth of your thigh. This feels—odd. I like it. It’s kind of distracting, in a good way.”
“We’ll see how you like it sitting in the truck. I’m gonna take the bumpiest fucking roads I can think of, just to hear the noises you’ll make with that plug fucking you all the way to the store.”
Red looked up at him, smiling a little. “Yeah, okay. I’ll have to get my poker face ready.”
“I’ll find something unpaved.”
“You really got a jock on right now, Bad? Or were you just fucking with me?”
“Take a look.”
Fucking kid looked uncomfortable as hell, like it was a trap, like the second he touched Bad, he’d spring on him, fuck him up. But Bad stood there, hands on his hips, and waited for those pale, skinny fingers to find the waist of his sweats, tug it down.
“Ohhh shit,” Red mumbled. “You do. Does that mean you’d actually—”
“I ain’t telling you any of my plans, Red, so you can cram all your questions right up your ass. Gonna get crowded in there, though.”
Red rolled his eyes, still staring at the top of his jock. “God. And you’re hairy, fuck, not like you ever—ugh. The dreams are gonna be so much worse now.”
“Yeah, I really don’t think my roommate wants to wake up to me humping the bed in my sleep, Bad.”
“I can see that. Well, hands off, we got shit to do.”
Red stepped back. “So I’m gonna have this thing in. At the hardware store.”
“Yep. I might think of replacing it with a bigger one later.”
“Maybe you should think of replacing it with your dick.”
Bad caught up Red by the throat and pushed him back into the refrigerator. “When you have a request, Red, you’d better make it just as fucking sweet and polite as you can. You got something to say? Look at me.”
The Adam’s apple under his hand jumped. “I—”
“Look at me.”
Red looked up, eyes the color of the ocean far out in the distance, dark blue and deep. “Please fuck me with your dick, Bad. Please. I think about it, like, all the time.”
“Let’s see how far we get with this greenhouse,” Bad said. He should’ve said You wouldn’t like it if I told you how I fuck, Little Red, so you might as well be happy with what you got. But Red wouldn’t take that for an answer, and Bad wasn’t about to explain this particular kink right now with a plugged college boy pinned to his fridge. Plus, they had shit to do. “Let’s go.”
He couldn’t quite find a dirt road, but he did manage to hit every construction zone in town and drive on the worst parts while Red writhed and hung onto the bitch handle.
* * *
Somewhat to Bad’s surprise, Red was a decent hand with PVC.
“I didn’t know you could use this for structure. I’ve only done irrigation with it.”
“You’ve done irrigation?”
“Yeah, Bad, I’m fuckin’ full of surprises.”
Bad reached over, stuck his hand in the kid’s pants, and tugged on the plug before ramming it back in. Fuck, the way Red went so completely still turned him on.
“Volunteer project,” Red said, a few minutes later, dry-fitting pieces together. “I got involved through the high school, and kept doing it for the rest of senior year. Community beautification.” He stood up, slowed his motions when he remembered the plug. “Flowers and ground cover at the parks, in front of the city buildings, shit like that, but digging trenches and working out how to maximize coverage without wasting too much water was my favorite part.”
The kid really was full of surprises.
“That what you’re in school for?”
“MBA or they wouldn’t pay.” He glanced up, eyes glinting in the sun. “My parents think it’s the only degree worth having. I’ve got a whole country song about it.”
“That’s what you’re working toward? A degree you don’t even want, Red?”
“Better than no degree at all, judging by statistics on earning potential. I don’t know. It’s just something to do. I graduate next year, and then I have no idea what I’ll do. What about you, Bad? You working Campus Safety forever?”
“Until I retire, yeah, the lifetime plan. No. I just started work on an MBA, too. Want to own my own business.”
“Cool. Doing what?”
It was clearly an indicator of something that Bad even allowed himself to be backed into the question. Sue knew he was getting a degree, but every time she’d asked for specifics, he’d hedged and managed to change the subject.
But Red was looking up at him, length of pipe in one hand, joint in the other, waiting for him to say something.
Not that it was a secret. His mom knew. So did the folks over in Riverside, where he taught.
Bad dropped the hammer he was holding and said, “Yoga. If I could do anything, that’s what I’d do. We don’t have a studio in town—or we did, but the instructors imploded and it closed—and if I can get all of my shit together, I’d like to open one. And we’ve got a lot of storefronts downtown sitting empty.”
“You do yoga. Huh. Like downward facing dog and shit?”
“I mean, you don’t look—usually, the yoga people are all skinny and, like, willowy.”
“You trying to say I’m not willowy, Red?”
Red cracked a smile. “All right. Well, I think it’d be cool to walk into a yoga place and see a guy like you. Instead of, like, an ethereal blond lady in a leotard.” He went back to his dry-fittings. “So, what are your start-up costs for something like that? You’d need mirrors. And you’d probably want something specific for the floors, or can you throw a yoga mat down on anything?”
“Wood floors would be nice, but to keep the initial investment low I’d probably try to find a place that starts out usable.”
“And what else? A sound system for, like, rain tracks or some shit. Do you want separate rooms for different classes, or are you planning to teach all of them yourself?”
“In the beginning, maybe. I only teach two classes a week now, and I’d have to look seriously at the numbers to see how many I’d need to run at once to pay the bills.”
“You teach now? Can I take one of your classes? I mean, next fall, when I’m back.”
“Red, I can show you yoga right now for free. But yeah, sure.”
“Cool. You looking for investors, or you got some money saved up?”
“It’s more what I don’t have.” Bad gestured at the house. “Mortgage is set to be paid off in seven years, if I keep going at the rate I’m going. So if I was smart, I’d keep working at the school full time, take all the extra shifts I can, and wait until then to open up shop.”
“And if you were dumb?”
“I’d get a small business loan and open as soon as possible. Keep working shifts at the school for as long as I could juggle both things, hope like hell the yoga studio was making enough by then to quit the school.”
Red reached for the hammer and stood up, rounding to the other side of the frame, which Bad had laid out before he’d gotten weirdly sidetracked by the conversation.
But Jesus, Red was easy to talk to.
“Yeah, I can see that being pretty risky. Maybe there’s a way to split the difference. I mean, working Campus Safety and your own place for seven years sounds insane. Working both for three sounds pretty nuts, but maybe doable. And you never know what might happen in seven years. I mean, hell, Bad, if a yoga studio opens down the street tomorrow, you’re gonna be pissed.”
“I know it. I stay up at night obsessing about it, wondering who else in a ten mile radius is looking at the same thing I am, thinking they’re gonna be the genius who gets all the business of every yoga practitioner in town.” He stood up, grabbed the closer end of the frame and helped Red lift it. They’d built half of it, leaving two more supports for the end, when they had it standing.
“We’re fuckin’ lucky you want a tiny little greenhouse,” Red said, hammering over his head.
“That’s called good planning. And I’m relying on bending the PVC into ribs to make head room.”
When both of them stepped back a few minutes later, they had a believable center beam, supported on both sides and in the middle with two-by-fours in an inverted-V.
“Okay. What next? The long pieces down the sides, I guess? We’ll just lay them out, and—”
“Red. Come here.”
Red squinted, the sun in his eyes, and walked closer. “Sorry, did you have a different thought? I didn’t mean to take over.”
“How’s the plug feel?”
“Uh, good. Good.”
So foolish, and so fucking risky, so much more risky than a small business loan and an Open sign.
Bad took Red’s face in his hands and kissed him, standing in his back yard, sun beating down on them both.
“Fuck,” Red whispered. “I don’t know what that was for, but you should tell me so I can do it again. Fuck, Bad. I’m so screwed.”
“Me too.” As if proving it, Bad kissed him again. “You think we attach the bottom rails of PVC before we fit the ribs in?”
“Yeah. And attach each rib to the top frame as we go. Keep the stability that way.”
Red’s hands came up and closed over his forearms. “So, yoga, huh? That’s good for flexibility, right?”
“Okay. I’ll, uh, add it to the list of shit I can do over the summer. You’ll have to, you know, test me. When I get back.”
Maybe it was the heat, or the confession, or the taste of Red on his lips, but a switch flipped in Bad’s head. He was done thinking he could fight this shit and win. And he had no intention of losing Red for three months, but now wasn’t the time to mention it. “Let’s get back to work.”
“Right.” Red turned his face and kissed each of Bad’s palms before stepping away. “So, so fucked,” he muttered.
“You want a beer, Red?”
“Not if you have, like, anything else on earth to drink.”
“Bottle of water, coming up.”
Bad went into the house, already working out how he could clear space in the guest room for Red’s stuff.