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There are scenes of unprotected sex depicted in his story. In all cases it was between the main characters, who are in a committed, monogamous relationships and were tested. If you aren’t in the same kind of relationship, then you should always protect yourself and wear a condom.
Josh shoved another wheelbarrow full of horse manure and bedding toward the pile behind the barns. He was starting to get frustrated with Trent, thinking the younger man had left him with the unpleasant job of cleaning stalls while Trent was checking on the goats. They’d moved the herd to a new pasture last night so it wasn’t a bad idea to take a walk through the herd, but Trent had been gone for an unreasonable length time. He and Trent had been getting along well after the visit from Mitch’s parents a few weeks before, but Josh still wasn’t going to let him get away with dumping the dirty work on him while he screwed around. Entering the relatively dim light of the building after unloading, he saw Trent’s silhouette moving with agonizing slowness toward him. Josh’s frustration boiled over.
“Damn it, Trent! Where have you been?”
Trent continued moving closer without responding. Josh started wondering what had happened. As Trent got closer, he could see something in his arms. Josh watched him with growing concern. Trent stumbled slightly and a thin leg swung out from his arms. Dropping the wheelbarrow Josh raced toward Trent. As he closed the distance, Josh could see that Trent was carrying one of the goats, the cavernous hole he could see in its underbelly clearly signifying a violent end. Stopping just in front of Trent, Josh could see it was one of Trent’s black and white does. The impact tore through Josh when he locked eyes with the younger man and saw tears streaming down his face.
“Something killed her. She was all wadded up in one corner of the new pasture,” said Trent softly, almost without emotions as he cradled the lifeless body in his arms.
Josh gave the corpse a quick look, and then put his hand gently on Trent’s shoulder. “It looks like a coyote to me. Dogs would have killed more and tore them up.”
Trent looked into Josh’s eyes, the seemingly unending stream of tears rolling down his face. “Do you think she suffered much?”
Josh started, and then stopped, unsure of how best to answer Trent. Finally, with a sigh, he gave Trent the truth. “I don’t know, Trent. Sometimes they started feeding on the organs before the animal is dead.”
Trent shuddered, not ready or willing, to continue that line of thinking, “I want to bury her. I don’t just want to throw her in a ravine.”
“I’ll help you,” said Josh.
Josh quickly gathered up a pair of shovels and a feed sack for the body. Helping Trent slide the doe into the sack, they loaded up the ATV and Josh drove them to a quiet meadow along the creek. Pulling out the shovels, and without a word, they dug a small, deep grave and laid the burlap wrapped body in the bottom. Quickly refilling the grave, they stood quietly for several minutes. Trent finally shook his head and turned to toss his shovel into the ATV.
“She was one of my favorites,” said Trent.
“I know, but it happens,” said Josh quietly.
Without looking up Trent asked, “What can we do to keep it from happening again?”
Josh tossed his shovel beside Trent’s, using the few seconds to collect his thoughts. Knowing there was no foolproof system, but that he needed to offer some direction.
“Well we could look at electric fences. They have some you can move around now. I’ll talk to Mitch about getting a couple of donkeys too. They hate coyotes,” offered Josh.
Trent nodded as he sat on the ATV. He didn’t want to talk; he didn’t want to think about his early morning discovery. He especially didn’t want to contemplate the nagging feeling that this was just the first of what would be his normal set of disasters.
Darrin was carefully going through his latest publication. He’d refocused on the research component of his job, wanting to be bullet-proof when he came up for tenure in a few years. Now that he was developing his own reputation as a researcher, obtaining grants had become easier. As he was proofing the last page he felt a presence in the office. Glancing up, he saw that Emma Ruck was standing at his door.
“Hi Emma, what can I do for you today,” said Darrin cheerfully.
“Just thought I’d drop by and invite you and your family to the house for a little New Years Eve party.”
“That would be great, but . . .”
Emma laughed, “Yes, all of your family, including the two trouble makers. Unless they are battling again, and if they are, just let me know and I’ll have a little talk with them. They’ll behave.”
Darrin chuckled at his mentor, knowing she could make grown men cry when she wanted. He had no doubt that she could put the fear of god into two recalcitrant young men. “I’ll be sure and pass along the threat. I know Josh has a healthy respect for you, so casino oyna he’ll be good. As for Trent . . .” Darrin raised his arms in a helpless gesture.
“Oh, Trent understands about surviving. I’m sure he will recognize the alpha bitch,” said Emma with a chuckle.
Darrin’s eyebrows shot up, not certain how to respond. Fortunately Emma continued without a discernible pause. “How are the papers coming?” asked Emma in a typical change of topic.
Familiar with his faculty mentor’s communication style, Darrin made the transition seamlessly. They discussed the progress he was making and she offered a few suggestions before leaving his office. Darrin had always equated Dr. Ruck to a force of nature and this little visit just reinforced his opinion. But he would be certain to pass along the invitation to everyone, especially the two young lovers.
Josh and Trent rode behind Darrin and Mitch as they drove the handful of miles to Dr. Ruck’s house. Darrin had already told them that it would be a good idea to be on their best behavior tonight, or Dr. Ruck would have a talk with them about how to conduct yourself when a guest in someone else’s home. Frankly, Josh was terrified of her anyway so he had no inclination to cause trouble.
Glancing across the pickup Josh watched Trent for several minutes, chuckling a little to himself at how he had dressed. While the other three were wearing new Wranglers and dress shirts, Trent was wearing the latest styles of layered clothing, completely with skinny jeans that tapered to almost nothing at his ankles. Josh knew that Trent was amazingly attractive; he’d seen him nude every night since Mitch’s parents had left because they had continued sleeping together, losing the underwear after a few nights. But Trent was already a slender guy and Josh thought the tapered pants made his legs look like toothpicks. But he was happy, and that made Josh happy, so he certainly wasn’t going to say anything about it.
Trent glanced over at him, reached over and took Josh’s hand in his and squeezed it. Trent glanced at the three handsome men in the pickup with him and sighed to himself. He felt a little like the ugly duckling in comparison to them, and he was well aware that he might have been more comfortable with jeans and boots too. He had them, it wasn’t that, but he had on what he wanted to wear. No one had said a word to him about his clothes. He had seen a slight smirk on Josh’s face as they left, but he hadn’t said anything about it either.
As they turned into Dr. Ruck’s driveway, Trent thought about their invitation. Darrin had made it clear that everyone was invited, including Trent. This would be the first New Year’s party he had ever attended. Last year the guys had really not done much of anything. They had eaten tons of food, sat around the television to watch the ball drop in Time Square, then waited an hour to see the countdown in Bricktown. It had been all pretty low key. As they rolled to a stop, Trent thought to himself that he hoped this wasn’t going to be a night of old people sitting around talking and getting drunk. But he was certain of one thing, regardless of everything else, he wanted his midnight kiss from Josh.
As they all walked into the house together, it was obvious that someone who knew how to have fun was throwing this party. The house was large, and actually arranged with several different seating areas. The largest one was a nesting of large comfortable looking chairs. But the other two were obviously arranged with the younger attendees in mind. They were each set up with different game systems and already had several people battling for supremacy in differing worlds. Darrin glanced back and had to smile when he saw that Josh and Trent both were already entranced by the games.
Emma saw them come into the house and moved over to them. “Hello! I’m glad you could all make it. There’s tons of food and beverages.” She turned to Trent and Josh, “Sorry guys, but the punch and pop for under aged are over there,” she said pointing to the area closer to the gaming consoles. The two younger men glanced at Darrin and Mitch and when they got the nod of approval, headed for the food and video games. Emma snagged Mitch’s arm and directed him in the opposite direction. “I want to see what you think of the punch, Mitch. I mixed it up special.”
Darrin’s head snapped to his mentor, wondering what she was up to because he clearly recognized the subtle tone of deviltry in her voice. She might be one of the most successful researchers in the department, but Darrin also knew she had a streak of orneriness a mile wide too, and he had a feeling Mitch was about to get a large dose of it.
As they walked up to the punch bowl, Darrin noticed several grins shot their direction. He scanned the area, trying to figure out what was going on while Emma ladled them both glasses of punch. They both sipped the potent concoction carefully and watched the room. Suddenly Darrin was startled by a snort and canlı casino laughter from Mitch. Looking back, he saw that his husband looking at his punch and laughing louder by the second. Darrin glanced into his own glass, and then with a flick of his head he locked eyes with Emma, and saw barely contained mirth blooming across her face.
“I can’t believe you—”
Mitch’s laughter chose that moment to erupt. “Boobs! You put ice boobs in the punch! Oh. My. God. I love it!”
Emma’s mirth finally burst out. “Yes, I thought it was only fair after you served me punch with penis ice cubes a few years back. It took me awhile to find them though!”
Mitch and Emma teased each other for several minutes and then the party settled into a predictable rhythm. Darrin watched as Mitch hammered back several more of Emma’s special glasses of punch. Knowing neither of them wanted the boys to drive them home, Darrin relegated himself to fruit juices and water for the evening, with no remorse at all. Settling in with one of the older gamer groups, Darrin was soon having a great time.
Trent and Josh had also quickly become involved with another of the groups, mostly undergraduates that for one reason or another Dr. Ruck had invited. It seemed that they were not the only same-sex couple among the younger crowd. A few others were sitting very close and exchanging touches and glances.
Mitch, by far the most gregarious of the four, had worked his way through the crowd and ended up seated and chatting with other guests. He became engrossed in a discussion about pasture forages with someone from the agronomy faculty. For Mitch, the conversation was fascinating and critical to their livelihood.
Trent was enjoying just watching as Josh and another guest played against each other. Suddenly his skin began to crawl as someone sat very close beside him, almost touching. Trent glanced over to see a very familiar look, one he had seen time and again from the johns. This guy was looking for one thing, and Trent wasn’t interested. He started to move away, and suddenly felt a meaty hand on his shoulder.
“Hey, I’m Mark. I haven’t seen you around campus.”
“I don’t go to the university. I work for Maverick Cattle,” said Trent trying to be civil. He again tried to leave, but this time Mark pinned him to his seat. Mark leaned and in a husky whisper said, “Come on, stud. I know your type. You need a little dick.”
“A little dick is all you’d ever have to give too.”
Trent’s head spun, to see Josh standing beside him. His arms folded over his broad chest, looking protective, and very angry. But apparently Mark’s survival instincts had never developed since he continued to hold Trent down and looked at Josh.
“Move along, Junior. The little hipster twink and I were having a discussion.”
Josh moved forward, ready to rip Mark’s hand off his boyfriend, when he felt a slender hand gently restrain him. Glancing to his right he saw it was Dr. Ruck, and the look on her face would have made any sane living creature flee in terror. As she stepped forward, Mark locked eyes with her and his hand slowly slid off Trent’s shoulder.
“Mister O’Brien, I guess my decision invite you tonight was a poor one. Come with me, I believe we need to visit . . . outside.”
Mark rose, slowly, stiffly, as Emma watched him with arched brows. As he slowly followed her out the front door, Mitch sat down beside Trent. He turned to Trent and asked quietly, “You ok?”
“Yeah, fine. Don’t worry about me.”
“Trent, you’re part of our family. We just wanted to make sure that you are ok,” said Darrin as he sat on Trent’s other side.
Trent was suddenly overwhelmed. The three men he had known for little more than a year were suddenly forming a protective guard around him, and worried about him. He’d never had someone looking out for him before. He’d always had to protect himself, but now he had three people, all of whom looked like they were ready to rip off Mark’s head.
Suddenly they heard a sound almost like a dog’s bark. Darrin looked out the front window and could see Emma having a discussion with the miscreant who had touched Trent. Mark’s head was down, and Darrin could well imagine the words Emma was slicing through him with. Suddenly it ended with her spinning to the door, and Mark stumbling toward his vehicle.
Emma reentered the house and paused for a spilt second and then walked over to Trent. Kneeling in front of him, Trent was surprised to see that the woman looked visibly shaken.
“Trent, you must accept my apologies. I have no idea what made him think that was acceptable behavior, especially as a guest in my house. I can assure you that he understands now, and he understands very clearly.”
Trent was now feeling overwhelmed. He might not know Dr. Ruck well, but he certainly knew she was important and well regarded. Looking from Darrin, to Mitch and finally to Josh, he stopped himself from his initial response to dismiss her kaçak casino need to apologize. His place in all this, his acceptance into Mitch’s family, he really couldn’t believe it, but he knew he was not going to get away with denial.
“Thank you. I don’t think I did anything to encourage him. But I didn’t like him touching me,” said Trent quietly.
“Trent,” said Emma softly, waiting for him to look at her before he continued. “You did nothing wrong. I’m just so sorry it happened.”
Trent managed a heartfelt, if slight, smile. “It’s ok. But I don’t want to spoil the evening.”
“That’s very nice of you, Trent. And it really isn’t ok,” said Emma. She continued to kneel in front of Trent for several long seconds, and suddenly leaned forward and hugged him tight. Releasing him, she met Trent’s eyes and smiled. “Darrin was right. You are an outstanding young man.” With that proclamation, she stood and joined the other guests, assuring them that all was well.
Darrin and Mitch soon followed suit after they were convinced that Trent was ok. But when he looked at Josh, there was a firm look of determination that kept Trent from trying to dismiss him. Josh simply sat beside Trent, wrapped his arms around him and held him for the rest of the evening. When the clock struck midnight, Trent was greeted with a soft and loving kiss that left his body tingling.
The ride home was quiet, each man lost in his own thoughts about the evening. They all had baggage. Given, it was from differing sources, but baggage nevertheless. After a brief goodbye, Josh and Trent walked the short distance to Trent’s house and some much needed rest. The pair moved through their evening routine and soon their bare bodies were spooned together as Josh held Trent very protectively.
The events of the night and the support from so many differing sources had Trent worried. Too many good things were happening, far too many. Trent lay in Josh arms, trying to decide what he needed to do to protect these people who seemed to feel a need to support him. As the stygian night began to lighten, he finally collapsed into an exhausted sleep.
Darrin was sitting at the table, the house quiet for once, thumbing through, of all things, seed catalogs. He had been thinking about putting in a vegetable garden for a couple of years now, and the visit from Mitch’s parents over Thanksgiving had cemented the idea in his mind. During the winter break he had ordered catalogs from a variety of companies. In the midst of all the activity over the break, ending with the near disaster at Emma’s, this was the first time he’d had time to look through them.
He was looking for vegetables you couldn’t buy in the supercenter. Nothing was exactly set in stone, but he was leaning toward some of the old varieties. Ones he could remember his grandfather raising when he was little. He could remember being so excited when he got to wander along with his grandfather and pick what was ripe. He was still smiling at the thought when Trent walked into the house. Darrin heard the refrigerator open and close, then felt Trent moving toward him. Darrin was certain that his curiosity was just getting the better of him. When the footsteps stopped, he looked up and smiled.
“Hey Trent, what’s up?”
“Nuth’n much. What’re you look’n at?”
“Seed catalogs,” said Darrin, “I’m thinking about putting in a vegetable garden this spring.”
“Really? You want to grow your own like Patsy and Mike?” said Trent.
Darrin chuckled a little at Trent’s sudden interest. Mitch’s parents had certainly captured the young man’s attention. “Yeah, something like that.”
Trent pulled out a chair and started looking through the pages spread out before them. Darrin chuckled to himself at how readily Trent had assumed Darrin would be ok with him helping. That was certainly a very different person than the one Sheriff White Cloud brought to the ranch all those months ago.
They looked in silence until suddenly Trent’s excitement escalated as he read one of the descriptions. “This is that Amish one, Brandywine. Patsy said it was the best tasting tomato she’d ever had!”
Trent twisted the catalog so Darrin could see, and watched with a smile as he dutifully wrote down the name on a slowly growing list of seeds they were going to order. The minutes ticked by quickly as their common interest made the selection process fun and the conversation animated. Darrin was actually surprised at how much information Trent had. He’d apparently pumped Mike for information when they were visiting.
As they finished the last brochure, Trent looked down the list. “You know, these are all heirloom,” he said.
“Heirloom? What’s that?” asked Darrin.
“They are the ones that will come back the same if you save the seeds. Patsy and Mike said they tasted the best,” explained Trent.
“We did good then,” said Darrin with a smile.
“Yeah!” said Trent. Trent paused for a few seconds in thought. “But we can’t plant any of this for months.”
“Some of it we can plant pretty early, like the kale and peas. But the tomatoes and peppers we’ll start in the house, and we’ll have to do that pretty soon,” said Darrin.
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