Dr. Brad Johnston

by Ron Robbins,

edited by Frank Perry

© 2010 All rights reserved

Chapter One

Chris was driving his pickup along the winding, two-lane county road. On both sides of the road stretched mile after mile of green farmland. As the road curved to the right, Chris spotted a car pulled off to the side of the road. The hood was up and the driver was leaning over the engine. Chris pulled abreast of the car.

"Need any help?"

"Thanks," the driver said. "What I really need is a mechanic. The engine kept stalling out for the last several miles, until finally it quit. I figure it's either a clogged PCV valve or a bad batch of gasoline."

Chris sized up the man quickly before he ventured further. He felt the guy looked harmless enough. He was clean cut, well dressed and educated.

"Hold on a minute, I'll pull up ahead of you." He parked the pickup and walked back to the stalled car. Chris extended his hand, "My name is Chris Brookville, and yours?"

"Brad Johnston; thanks for stopping," Brad said as he shook Chris' hand. "You're the first person that's come along this road since I pulled over a while back. I must really be off the beaten path. I was tired with the sameness of the Interstate and decided to be adventurous and see some of the countryside for a change of scenery. This should teach me not to explore country roads in the future."

"There's nothing wrong with that," Chris said, "you could be sitting on the Interstate just as easily. It's Friday night and most of the locals are either having dinner or off to the mall. Where were you headed?"

"I'm heading to Birmingham, Alabama. Is there a service station around here I can call?"

"The closest service station is Ed's in town and he is closed until tomorrow morning."

"Great! Is there any emergency towing service around that I can call?"

"Nope! The nearest one is in Center, Alabama. That's about an hour away. I'll tell you right off the bat, no way are they going to send anyone out here tonight. Look I'll be glad to tow you into Ed's. It wouldn't be wise to leave your car here over night, not with all your belongings. You really got her packed to the gills."

"Yeah, well I packed the essential things I would need for Medical School. You're right, I would hate to lose anything. The rest of my stuff is in storage until I can find a place to live in Birmingham. I accept your kind offer, providing you allow me to reimburse you for your time."

"Sounds fair to me," Chris said. He hooked the steel tow cable to Brad's Impala and headed to Ed's Service Station.

Twenty minutes later they pulled into the parking area at the service station and unhitched the car.

"I hate to be a nuisance, but is there a motel or guesthouse nearby where I can spend the night," Chris asked.

"I'm afraid not, the closest town is Center, seventy miles from here," Chris said. "Before we go any further, I would like to see some identification."

Brad opened his briefcase and took out his wallet and handed Chris his driver's license and car registration. He pulled out a folder that contained all the University transfer documentation with his photo attached.

"Thank you, Doctor Johnston, that's all I need." Chris said. "I like to be careful of the people I invite to my home. Let's leave a note and the keys to your car in Ed's mail box. He opens early tomorrow morning. I'm inviting you to stay the night at my home."

"I wouldn't dream of imposing on you like that, you don't know me from Adam," Brad said. "No, I'll sleep in the car tonight."

"Don't be silly, I have plenty of room. Everything in this town is closed up tighter than a drum," Chris said. "Grab whatever you need from your car and put it in the back of my pickup."

Brad loaded his suitcase, garment bag, and notebook computer into the pickup.

"My farm is down the road apiece," Chris said as he pulled away from the station. "Ed should be able to figure out what's wrong with your car, he's a good mechanic."

Ten minutes later Chris turned into a road marked Private and continued on until they reached a large wrought iron gate. Chris pulled a knob out on the dash and the gates swung open. They automatically closed again after the truck passed through. The house stood on a grass-covered knoll several hundred yards from the private road. The house itself was a charming antebellum two story brick structure with Corinthian style white pillars that surrounded the entire structure. The house and grounds were well maintained. Chris pulled around to the back of the house and into a charming one story brick building that was converted into a garage.

"This is a beautiful old plantation," Brad said. "Somehow, you don't impress me as a farmer even though the sign at the gate said Brookville Farms."

"You're very observant, Doctor. You're right, I'm not a farmer. This plantation is my home. This place has been in my family for generations. It's enough work keeping track of everything without having the added burden of farming the land. Farming is the toughest business in the world. Not to mention the ups and down of the weather and the market."

They entered the house through the back into a large kitchen. The kitchen dated back to the mid 1800s, with an old open fireplace and brick baking ovens, heavy beamed ceilings, walls and wide-board plank flooring.

"This is a cozy room," Brad said, "it gives me a warm feeling. I feel as if I walked into the past."

"Grab your bags and I'll show you to your room, before I start fixing dinner," Chris said.

He showed Brad to the guest suite. "If you would like to shower before we eat dinner, go right ahead; we won't be eating for a couple of hours yet. I'll prepare everything and pop it into the oven after we've had our cocktails; after all, we can't neglect the amenities of gentle living, can we?"

"Never let it be said that I didn't observe the traditions of my gracious host," Brad said, "I really do need to shower, it's been a long hot day. The car's air conditioning gave out this morning and I've been baking in the sun all day."

"I plan to do the same," Chris said. "See you in the drawing room when you're finished."

Brad noticed the jazz playing softly throughout the house as he stepped into the second floor hall. Brad thought to himself, 'This is definitely not your normal home music system.' He was hearing a high quality wrap-around sound system with speakers placed for the optimum sound reproduction in every room. The drawing room sound system was first rate. Chris walked into the room carrying a tray of appetizers.

"My, what a transformation," Brad said. "You're dressed like the gentleman that belongs in this setting."

"Thanks, it's not that often I have the opportunity to entertaining a big city doctor. You've given me a reason to dress up for dinner. What can I offer you to drink?"

"Bourbon and soda, please."

Chris fixed the drinks; "I make the first drink, the rest you do for yourself. You'll find all the fixings in the wet bar."

"Where do you hail from?" Chris asked.

"I was born and raised in Manassas, Virginia. After graduating college I returned to join the family real estate business for a year. I was not turned on by real estate and elected to return to college and study medicine. Now I'm off to Birmingham to become a Radiologist."

"Where are the wife and kiddies, Chris?" Brad asked.

"I'm divorced," Chris said, "Mary Lee and I broke up over two years ago. She and my daughters live in Atlanta now. We are still good friends; it was a civilized divorce. Mary Lee and I grew up in this town; we've known each other since first grade. She wanted out of Brookville for a long time. Atlanta is her kind of town; she's in her glory now playing the socialite game. Her folks have a big old house on East Paces Ferry road, just down the block from the Governor's mansion. I see Mary Lee and the kid's a couple of times a month. Either they come here, or I run up to Atlanta."

"I'll bet your dad was disappointed that you walked away from the family real estate business?"

"I'm sure he would have, if he were alive at the time. He died of a heart attack before I joined the business. It was shortly after Dad passed away that I made up my mind to become a doctor. We hired a good manager to run the company and I took off for medical school. It was during my second year at med-school that my Mom started to show signs of dementia. She would call me at odd hours of the day and night to ask me where my father was. Naturally, I became concerned and discussed her condition with my professors. The consensus was that my mother was suffering from some form of dementia and I should get her to a specialist right away."

"To make a long story short, I did take her to a specialist and learned that she was in the early stages of Alzheimer's. The doctor suggested that I start looking around for a good nursing facility or make arrangements to hire a full time nursing staff to take care of her at home. I chose the latter; I could not bear the thought of my mother living in a nursing home. Mother lived at home for almost three years, until the disease progressed to a point where she would babble incoherently and had to be restrained."

"She still recognized me right up to the point where I had to confine her to a skilled nursing home. Of course, I didn't understand a thing she said. I always returned to school depressed after those visits. Seeing my mother in this state was difficult to accept. Towards the end she had trouble forming words, she would babble like a baby. At least with other terminal diseases like cancer or AIDS, you know there is some hope of a remission. A patient with Alzheimer's is terminal as soon as they are diagnosed. They refer to the disease as 'the long goodbye', and it's so true. Your loved one deteriorates a little each day, until their mind is gone. Mom was a very active woman before this happened. She was one of the top sales executives in the commercial real estate market up to the point when she retired five years ago."

"After she was hospitalized several times, I decided the best place for her was in the nursing home. Mom's doctor felt she would receive better care there thab at home. Moving her back and forth from our home to the hospital was a traumatic shock for her in her condition. This time, I agreed with him and I was having problems trying to keep a staff at home. The Nurses' Registry tried their best, but it was becoming more difficult to keep competent nurses on the job. There is such a shortage of qualified help and the good ones want no part of private home care."

"I always thought that a part of her mind was still alive and felt that she wanted to reach out to me. Some days she would try so hard to communicate with me. I could see by her facial expressions that she was trying hard to tell me something. When I didn't understand her gibberish, she became frustrated and agitated. She would shake her head and sigh and just stare at me and say nothing. It was as if she realized at that moment that it was over and the little spark of memory that brought her back, for the moment was gone forever. Then she lapsed back into the dark recesses of her mind once again. Those were the most difficult and painful times for me. I cried after every visit. That is something that has haunted me to this day, and I will not forget."

"My shrink said it will become less painful and to give it time; so far it hasn't been that way for me. These last three months have been a difficult time for me because I finally had to sort through everything in our home. I never realized how much my family had accumulated over the years. Going through her wardrobe and her personal things was the most difficult and traumatic for me. I remembered happier times when she wore a certain frock, or certain pieces of jewelry. It was tough, believe me. Thank God it's behind me now. Of course the attic was packed with keepsakes I could not part with."

"Lord, I've been going on too long about me and my problems," Brad said. "I'm sorry, I've forgotten my manners."

"You're not boring me. Do you have any brothers or sisters?"

"I have two older sisters, one lives in Santa Barbara and the other in England."

"Why don't they help?" Chris asked.

"That's another long sad story."

"Ah, now we get to the nasty stuff," Chris said. "Fix yourself another drink and follow me out to the kitchen while I fix our dinner."

Brad followed Chris. "Can I help you with anything?" Brad asked.

"You can help me with the dishes after dinner," Chris said.

Chris cut up potatoes and began assembling the ingredients for the scalloped potatoes he was preparing for dinner. The steaks were marinating in a dish on the counter.

"You're very well organized," Brad said.

"I enjoy cooking," Chris said. "Please go on with your story."

"My mother was my father's second wife. Dad was fifty when he married my mother. When I came along, it was a big surprise. My mother was more surprised than anyone. She thought she was beyond child bearing age. Surprise, surprise! Naturally, I was a beautiful child and perfect in every way." Brad chuckled; "I didn't disappoint them, either. I was an exceptional child, intelligent, well-behaved, good looking and the perfect little gentleman. Why wouldn't I be, with two loving and supportive parents who doted over me? They took me everywhere and treated me as a young adult. They hired private tutors for me and took them along with us when we traveled the world. I was enrolled in the best private schools and flourished in that environment."

"Not many children were as lucky as I was. I had a wonderful life. College was a breeze for me. I earned my Masters in Chemical Engineering at twenty-two."

"My stepsisters were already married with grown children when I arrived on the scene. My nephews are even older than me and I'm their uncle. It's always been a little joke in the family. I never really had the opportunity or the desire to become close to my stepsisters. We all had our own lives and had very little in common. As I said, my stepsisters were both in their twenties when I came along and the age gap was just too much. The only thing we had in common was having the same father. It didn't endear them to us when Dad left his entire estate to mother and me. They have not spoken to us since my father died, not that they did even before he died."

"Overall, I've been a lucky guy, even though I lost the two people I loved most in this world. I took my Dad's death pretty hard. My mom told me it's okay to mourn his loss, but it was wrong to dwell on it. Dying is part of life and I should remember my father for the good times we had together and not for his silence in death. I'm really grateful that I could be with them during the good times."

"Have you sold the old homestead?" Chris asked.

"No, I leased it to the Canadian government for the next two years. I've had a contractor convert one of the outbuildings on the estate into a storage building. After it was completed, I stored everything of value in the renovated building. I'm amazed at the technology available today for long term storage buildings. The building has a computer controlled air-conditioning system, a sprinkler system and foolproof security. For added protection, everything is packed in reinforced airtight storage bins that will protect the contents from all kinds of damage, such as pests and water. The initial cost was high, but certainly not as expensive as a bonded warehouse would cost. Most of the family heirlooms are on loan to the museum, at least until I decide what I want to do with everything."

"There was a big uproar from my half-sisters when my father's Will was read as they weren't mentioned at all. My mother felt badly about this. To make amends, she allowed them to pick out one antique of their choice from Dad's collection. However, they rejected my mother's gesture. They were angry that our father didn't care enough for them to remember them in his Will."

"In a way, I can understand their feelings," Chris said. "He could have left them something, just to acknowledge them."

"My father was very generous to my sisters while he was alive. As a wedding present, he gave each of them a priceless bedroom suite of Louis XVI antique furniture and released their trust funds which were each worth a million dollars."

"Well that's a different story," Chris said. "I think he was very generous. I suppose they felt they were entitled to an equal share in the estate?"

"That would be my guess," Brad said. "You see my mother worked for my father in his real estate business before they married. She not only became his top salesperson, but the top salesperson in the Commonwealth of Virginia in the commercial real estate market. Mother had purchased stock in the company over the years and became a large stockholder. So it was not as if she didn't pay her way. After they married, she was the one responsible for quadrupling the firm's business. So if anyone was entitled to his estate, it was my mom."

"How did she really feel about you walking away from the business?" Chris asked.

"Disappointed, but not unhappy about my move," Brad said. "Mom said she was glad in a way, because she felt I wasn't aggressive enough to motivate the sales force. The company needed a dynamic manager who could motivate and train a sales force."

"She was right about me, and a smart business woman to boot. The company is doing well under the CEO we hired. I'm Chairman of the Board and do my best to direct the future growth of the company. I feel I earn my salary since we have increased our sales and earned a healthy profit every year since I've been in control."

"My instincts about you were right," Chris said. "What threw me off was that junker you're driving around in. I'm sure you can afford a better car than that heap."

Brad smiled, "That was my Dad's old car. He was a shrewd old horse trader. He drove around in a plain old car when he was making deals buying land. He always came across as a down-home good-old-boy. His technique worked and he made money."

"Well, dinner is ready," Chris said, "would you like a nice red wine to go with your dinner?"

"That would be perfect," Brad said. "I must compliment you on your fine collection of Chinese porcelain. It's been a while since I've seen such fine pieces outside a museum. I've noticed that you have some fine antique pieces scattered throughout the house. One never knows the treasures he'll find down a country lane."

"You're an interesting person yourself," Chris said.

They finished dinner and cleaned up the kitchen. Chris fixed espresso coffee.

"Let's have our coffee in the living room," Chris suggested.

Brad followed him into the living room. "That was a delightful dinner, you're a fine cook," Brad said. "It sure beats the candy bar and soda I planned to dine on at Ed's."

"What would you like to drink with your coffee?" Chris asked.

"Brandy or cognac, if you have it?"

"A man after my own heart," Chris said.

He poured a snifter for each of them and passed Brad a cup of espresso.

"Thanks, this has turned out to be a very pleasant evening," Brad said. "I can't thank you enough for your hospitality and for helping me out of a sticky situation."

"You've not told me why you wanted to specialize in Radiology," Chris said.

"It's one of the few areas in medicine where I rarely come in contact with a patient for one thing, I'll never be called out in the middle of the night for an emergency and finally, the convenience of selecting any location I want in the country."

"Makes sense to me," Chris said. "Are you into sports?"

"I'm an outstanding tennis player, good at golf, and fair at polo," Brad said, "I'm a excellent sailor and in college was State diving champion, and captain of a winning soccer team. I must confess I haven't been on a horse in over a year. I really should get in shape again now that I have the time."

"You're not a bit modest, are you? How about a game of tennis in the morning before breakfast?" Chris asked.

"You're on," Brad said, "I think I have a pair of shorts in my bag, if not, I'll have to borrow a pair from you, I'd never be able to find them the way my car is packed."

"If you can't find a pair, you can play in your boxer shorts," Chris said. "We will be playing on my court, no one will see you."

"This has been a pleasant evening, but it's been a long day and I'm tired. I'm an early riser, so if you don't mind, I'm off to bed," Brad said. "Will I set off any alarms if I make a pot of coffee early tomorrow morning?"

"Yes. The alarm will go off if you open a window or walk out into the hall without punching in the code. The code number is 1947, the touch pad is to the right of the light switch."

"What do you do around here to amuse yourself?" Brad asked.

"I find plenty of things to do to occupy my time. I happen to enjoy the simple pleasures of life. Like playing tennis or a round of golf, horseback riding, fishing, a little gardening and taking care of my pool. I guess I would be considered a Squire in England. My hobby is hunting for collectibles and antiques. I enjoy taking in the local auctions or checking out the Saturday flea market. I usually hit the antique shows in the larger towns and stop in the little shops along the way. It's fun, and every once in a while I discover a real treasure. I found a few kitchen utensils that dated back to the mid-19th century. It's discoveries like that that make collecting worthwhile."

"That's something I would enjoy if I had the time," Brad said. "maybe down the road. I expect to have more free time once I get squared away in Birmingham. I've been told that Alabama is a treasure land for antique collectors. That is an area I've always wanted to explore."

"Well, Chris, I've enjoyed your company, but as pleasant as this may be, I must get my eight hours of sack time in if we're planning to play tennis tomorrow morning. Goodnight, till it be morrow."

Chris chuckled, "Me thinketh the spirit has taken hold of your brain, young knave, for you do walk in an unsteady manner."

"You're right, Squire. It's been a long time since I've had this much spirits."

"Don't worry about the internal alarm system tonight," Chris said. "I'm afraid you might forget and set off the alarm. Are you sure you're okay?"

"I'll be fine, see you in the morning."

Chris smiled and watched Brad as he beat an unsteady path to the stairs. He continued to watch as Brad found his room and switched on the light.

After watching the late news Chris locked up the house and set the perimeter alarm system and went to bed.

Chapter 2

Brad was already in the kitchen when Chris strolled in just after seven o'clock. Brad was typing away on his notebook computer.

"Good morning, how do you feel this morning?" Chris asked. "Still feel up to playing tennis?"

"I feel great," Brad said, "why wouldn't I want to play? It's a beautiful morning."

"I thought you may be feeling a little hung over this morning."

"I was beat last night and the cognac didn't help. I should have known better. The last time that happened was at my graduation party a hundred years ago; sorry about that, it won't happen for another hundred years."

"I see you found your tennis shorts," Chris said, "don't tell me you forgot your shoes and socks, or do you plan to play barefooted?"

Brad laughed, "I think I'll wear shoes and socks for that, my feet are not that toughened yet. I hope you don't object to me walking around barefooted? I'm one of these peculiar people that like to walk around that way. I also sit on my feet. If it bothers you, I'll dash up to my room and reappear in the proper dress code."

Chris laughed, "It doesn't bother me as long as you keep them washed," Chris said.

Chris pored himself a glass of fresh orange juice and drank it down.

"Speaking to you as a doctor, I would suggest that in the future, you eat the whole orange. It's much better for you than drinking that orange juice," Brad said. "If you want to build up your electrolytes before the game I would recommend Gatorade instead."

Chris smiled and shook his head, "Are you going to be like this for the rest of the day, Doctor?"

"No, I'll restrain myself as long as I'm your guest. That free information is worth fifty bucks at today's billing rates."

"I'll deduct it from your tab. What is so interesting on your computer screen?"

"This is a textbook on Radiological Diagnostics and Other Case Studies. Computer graphics is the greatest way to read and study x-rays. Let me show you," Brad said as he pointed at the screen. "You see how they use colors to display a tiny lesion in the duodenum." Chris leaned over his shoulder as Brad changed the colors on the screen to separate the tissue in the X-ray.

"That's something," Chris said. "It's really amazing the strides computer science has taken in the last five years. Are you ready for our game?"

"You bet, be back in a minute."

♦  ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦

They were walking back to the house after their game.

"You're good," Chris said. "You weren't bragging last night."

"I was a state champion in high school and college. I was also the tennis pro at our country club," Brad said. "I was thinking very seriously of turning professional at one point, but the desire to pursue a career in medicine was much stronger. When I see how much these tennis pros earn today, I could have kicked myselffor that decision."

"Chris, would you mind calling Ed about my sick car?" Brad asked.

Chris called Ed and talked to him for a good ten minutes before hanging up the telephone.

"Well, Ed checked your car over from bumper to bumper. He suggests you junk it. That car has over 200,000 miles and it will never pass the state inspection. He can patch it up temporally, at least good enough to get you to Birmingham. He said the car is not reliable and he recommends that you not drive it any further. The transmission is leaking fluid and could quit at any time. He's holding off fixing the car until we get back to him.

"This sounds serious. What would you do in my situation?"

"Get rid of that piece of junk. You were lucky yesterday; you may not be the next time. You should call some of the leasing companies and make a deal on a new mid-size car. Hell, you can charge it off to the company anyway. That's my advice, Doc."

"Right, I know I'm asking a lot, but would you mind helping me select a good car? I'm absolutely useless when it comes to automobiles; they all look alike as far as I'm concerned."

"Sure, I don't mind, if you would like to stay over for another day. We'll get everything squared away for you and I'll take you to one of my favorite restaurants for an authentic barbecue dinner. The aroma of the place will drive you crazy. In fact, I'm willing to bet you that they are already starting to smoke the spare ribs now for tonight's dinner. It's one of my favorite down-home restaurants, what do you say, Doc?"

"Sounds great, I'm going to owe you big, when this is all over," Brad said.

"You bet. I'll make the reservations now, then we can drive over to Ed's and unload your car and bring the stuff back here. Ed closes up at noon on Saturday. Once we've taken care of that, we can take our time finding you a car."

"Before we start, let me make a call to Harold Wilkins, my VP of Finance, he's the one who is going to have to handle the paperwork on this deal," Brad said. "He should know someone at one of the car rental agencies."

"Now you're using you head," Chris said. "Go ahead and make your call."

Brad spoke with Harold and made notes as they talked. Brad hung up the phone.

"Hal suggested that I lease a full size car from the closest rental car agency and send him the bill. He'll check with the leasing company we use on Monday and get me a good deal. Our insurance will cover the car rental. It will also take care of Ed's services."

"It's good you made that call," Chris said. "Before we leave, let me call one of the major car rental agencies at the Anniston County Airport to see what they have to offer."

Chris found that Avis had a Buick Park Avenue on hand and reserved it in Brad's name.

"Okay, Doc, let's make tracks."

When they reached Ed's, Brad signed over the car to Ed for one dollar. They loaded his gear into Chris's truck. On the way back to the house, Chris said, "Why don't we leave everything in the truck for now and we'll head straight to Avis? I'll leave it locked up in the garage and we can unload it into your rental car when we get back. I'll drive the Porsche to the airport and you can follow me back in your rental car."

"Sounds like a good plan. After we shower, I'll rustle up breakfast," Brad said, "unless you would rather I didn't muck about in your kitchen?"

"That's fine with me," Chris said, "fix anything you like, I'm not a picky eater."

By the time Chris came down for breakfast, Brad had everything prepared. He popped the bread into the toaster when Chris sat at the table. He had made them each a Spanish omelet with home fries, sausage and buttered toast.

"Everything looks great," Chris said, "where did you learn how to cook?"

"My parents sent me to The School of Culinary Arts to learn how to be a good cook. My folks entertained a lot and loved to cook. They taught me everything they knew, but I wanted to learn more. I really enjoy cooking. As a graduation exercise, I had to prepare a dinner for fifty people. My folks allowed me to use our home for my final exam. They invited twenty-four couples for my special sit-down dinner. That was my most challenging dinner. It was a seven-course formal dinner for fifty people. I planned everything from start to finish, including the table placement and decorations. Of course I had four people helping me in the kitchen plus four servers, but everything went off without a hitch, it was absolutely perfect. Naturally, yours truly passed with flying colors."

"Maybe this place I'm taking you tonight is not such a good idea, now," Chris said.

Brad laughed, "Anything one step above institutional food will be gourmet dining for me at this point. As much as I enjoy cooking, I'm lucky if I can find the time to eat at all. This is a treat for me. My days of living in a one room apartment with a Pullman kitchen are over. I never had the desire or space to do any serious cooking during medical school. Now that I'm a resident I plan to rent a nice furnished apartment with a fair-sized kitchen that will be able to store some of the tools I need to prepare a first class meal. Yes sir, life is looking up for old Brad."

"This food is delicious, Brad, if you decide to chuck medicine, I'll set you up in the restaurant business. I'm sure we'll make lots of money providing you start wearing shoes."

"I'll take it under advisement," Brad said. "I'll let you know in two years."

They finished breakfast and cleaned up the kitchen before heading out in Chris' Porsche on the road through the hills to Anniston. Along the way Brad asked Chris to pull over to the side of road.

"What's up, Doc?"

"The view from the crest of this mountain is absolutely beautiful," Brad said. "I must come back here soon and take a photograph of this breathtaking setting. I want to capture this on canvas one day; thanks for stopping. I've made a promise to myself that I would never again pass up the opportunity to capture a scene that I feel would lend itself to canvas. The view of this valley will make a wonderful painting. I've let too many opportunities slip by; I feel good about this place."

They got back into the car, "Don't tell me you are a painter too?" Chris asked.

Brad smiled, "My teachers thought I was, and I always felt I could be better if I worked at it. That's another reason I chose radiology. I'll have more time to pursue the things that are really important to me. Cooking and painting are the two things I find that help me to relax and to collect my thoughts, not to mention the pleasure it give others. I've no desire to marry or to raise children like you have."

"I've never met anyone like you before," Chris said. "You have it all together and know what you want in life."

"I wish that were true. If I had it all to do over again, I wouldn't have wasted so much time in pursuing a career other than medicine. In two years' time I can begin to work at my profession and do some good in the world."

"How old are you?" Chris asked.

"Twenty-eight. In two years, I will almost be middle aged by my parents standards and I have yet to make my mark on the world, which is something I am not proud of."

"That's not old by today's standards," Chris said;"you're still young and have your whole life ahead of you. If you continue to take good care of yourself you should live a long time."

Chris turned into the Anniston County Airport and drove to the Avis parking area.


They were both having a cup of coffee on the deck.

"I've had a delightful weekend," Brad said, "I'm sorry it has to end so soon. You've been a gracious host and I can't thank you enough for everything you've done."

'I've enjoyed your company," Chris said, "it's not that often I entertain an intellectual that can cook and play a mean game of tennis. I'd like to keep in touch with you and maybe do this again. I usually get into Birmingham a couple of time a month, particularly when the antique shows are in town. The shows run from Friday to Sunday. I usually hit the shows early on Saturday morning. Perhaps we could have dinner together?"

"It's a date, I'll call you with my new address and telephone number as soon as I'm settled in," Brad said. "Seriously, I would like to see you again. Well, I should be on my way; I'll grab my bags from the bedroom and be off."

Chris picked up the empty coffee cups and loaded them into the dishwasher. He helped Brad carry his bags to the car.

Brad closed the trunk and shook hands with Chris.

"Again, many thanks, Chris." He climbed into the driver seat and drove off.

Chris waved and watched him disappear onto the main road.

Three Months Later

Chris was watching the national news on TV when the telephone rang. He picked up the phone.

"Brad, so you didn't drop off the face of the earth after all. I never thought I'd hear from you again. I didn't know where to send my note thanking you for that antique copper mold you sent. I treasure that gift and think of you every time I see it. I had the authentication certificate framed and mounted on the wall under the mold. How are you doing? Have you found an apartment yet?"

"I'm glad you like the gift. I didn't know what to buy for the man who has everything. I'm sorry for not getting back to you before this; it's been one hellish quarter. I finally found a wonderful apartment and moved in this past weekend. I've had very little time to myself since I arrived here. I'm finally able to see the light at the end of the tunnel."

"You'll love this apartment when you see it. It's in a refurbished mansion that the university owns. The estate was left to the University two years ago, and they finally completed the remodeling last month. My real estate agent didn't hesitate when she saw the place; she planked down a deposit to hold it for me. Is that luck or what?" "It is really quite charming, I was able to select the furniture, and wall treatments before the building contractor had finished the renovation. I splurged a little with the window treatments, but I figured since this will be my home for the next two years, why not be comfortable? It's really more space than I need, but I couldn't resist this apartment. You must stay with me on your next visit."

"Are you inviting me to me to Birmingham to see your apartment?" Chris asked.

Brad laughed, "I thought you invited yourself three months ago?"

"I'm not that gross," Chris said, "my recollection of our conversation was that we should get together again the next time I was in Birmingham. I never implied that you should put me up for the weekend, I would never impose on you like that."

"Chris, stop snowing me, you're welcome to stay here whenever you're in town. The kitchen is perfect for my needs, except it is not equipped the way I would like. I'm planning to fly up to Manassas over the Thanksgiving holiday and pack up my own kitchen appliances, and some of my furniture."

"What are you doing Thanksgiving week?" Brad asked.

"I'll probably end up in Atlanta for Thanksgiving dinner with Mary Lee's family."

"Can you drive a truck?" Brad asked.

"Of course, why?"

"How would you like to fly up to Manassas with me to drive the rental truck back to Birmingham? I'll pay all your expenses and hire someone to load and unload the truck at both places. I've never learned how to drive a truck," Brad said.

Chris laughed, "My God, I don't believe it. There is something you can't do? Sure I'll join you, I'll be glad to help. When do you want me up there?"

"I'm flying up the Friday before Thanksgiving to make sure the packers prepare it all properly. Everything should be ready and the truck loaded by Monday night. You can fly in Monday evening and we'll leave early Tuesday morning. That should put us in Atlanta by Wednesday afternoon, if you want to have dinner with your loved ones. If not, we'll drive on down to Birmingham and unload the truck Wednesday. I'll cook us a nice Thanksgiving dinner while the movers lay the rugs and move the furniture. How does that sound to you?"

"Sounds fine to me. I'll book a flight into Dulles International for Monday afternoon around four o'clock, you can pick me up at the airport. Incidentally, I would like to have Thanksgiving dinner with you, providing you'll let me watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade on TV?"

"I think that can be arranged. If you're not planning anything for Halloween, why don't you plan to drive over on Friday afternoon and join me for a masked costume ball at the University. I've been told it's like Mardi Gras in New Orleans. I'm planning to go as Romeo and I've already rented my costume. Let me know if you would like to go, the tickets are going fast."

"I'll be there on Friday and I'll rent a costume in Atlanta."

"Great, maybe we can do some antiquing on Saturday, if you're up to it?" Brad said.

Brad called him late on Friday evening to tell him about the change in plans for Halloween. Chris was out, according to Jamie, the man who answered the telephone. Brad left a message and his phone number.

It was the following night before Chris returned the call. He apologized for not returning the call sooner, but made no mention of Jamie.

"No problem," Brad said, "it wasn't urgent. Look, it was thoughtless of me not to ask you if you would like to bring a guest along to the ball. I think I can still get another ticket, if you like? I'll call to give you directions to my apartment and to let you know your prepaid airline ticket will be waiting for you at the Delta counter. I've found out since we last spoke, that I must attend a seminar in Boston all of next week. I'm leaving on Sunday and will not be back in town until two o'clock on Friday. In any event, you never know what the weather will be like in Boston. So I could be delayed."

Chris took down the directions. "You are my date for the Halloween party," Chris said, "I'll try to be at your place by five on Friday."

Chapter 3

Chris arrived a little after four o'clock on Friday. Brad had Chris park the Porsche in his spot in the garage. Halloween was not a good time to leave a Porsche parked in the street.

"I've invited some friends over for drinks before we take off for the Halloween party tonight. They will be sharing a ride with us. I thought this would give you the chance to meet a few people before you hit the party. Let's take your bags into the guest room first."

"I can see what you mean about the living room," Chris said, "it's fabulous."

Brad walked him through each room and back into the living room.

"Let's sit down and have a glass of wine before I start fixing dinner," Brad said.

"I can't believe you whipped this apartment into shape so fast. I like the colors and the window treatments. I can see why you want your own furniture and paintings. I must compliment your interior decorator, I like it."

Brad smiled, "Thank you for the compliment, sir. I called a decorator in Atlanta and asked them to recommend the best workshop in town. Would you believe the best house is out of Atlanta? In any event, they drove down from Atlanta and measured everything very carefully. We discussed the fabric and window treatments and you see the results."

"You're a very talented doctor. You never cease to amaze me, Brad. Thank you for inviting me."

"You're welcome. It's good to see you again; I had almost forgotten how handsome you are."

After dinner they cleaned up the kitchen and dressed in their costumes. Chris was dressed as Robin Hood and Brad as Romeo. Chris helped Brad set up the bar and filled the silver desert tray with the goodies Brad had prepared for his guests.

"Tell me about the people I'll be meeting this evening," Chris asked.

"One couple is Paula and Jack Lund. Jack, is one my teachers at the hospital. Then there are two fellow residents, Shaun Dunn and Carol Wall, from the hospital. All four are a lot of fun, we've been hanging out together. I've been lucky to find such friendly people so early in the game. You've brought me good luck, Chris."

"I've checked with a couple of knowledgeable antique buffs at the hospital and they told me that the antique shops in Birmingham are pricey. They suggested we try the stores in Guntersville and Huntsville for the best buys. It's only a two-hour drive and there are several shops worth checking out. I copied down the names and their locations. If we have time, we could also visit the NASA Space Museum in Huntsville while we're there, I understand the show is well worth the trip. I'll leave it up to you. Alternatively, we can relax and play it by ear. I'm completely open to any suggestions."

"Do you have the weekend off," Chris asked.

"Yes, I can live like a normal person once again."

"I'd like to do Huntsville tomorrow," Chris said. "We can get an early start and be over there by the time the shops open. Then see the NASA show after lunch. Then head back here for dinner at a restaurant of your choice. Maybe you can make the reservations tonight."

"Good thinking," Brad said. "I'll do that before my guests arrive. The good restaurants are usually packed on Saturday evening, be back in a few minutes."

The doorbell rang while Brad was in the den. Chris opened the door to let the company in. Chris introduced himself and invited the couples in.

"Brad will be here in a minute, he has set up the bar in the kitchen, please help yourself" Chris said. "Would you ladies like anything?"

"I'll fix Paula's drink," Jack said as he and Shaun walked into the kitchen.

"I'd like a club soda," Carol said. "So, you're the good Samaritan that helped Brad," Carol said. "He neglected to mention that you were tall, dark and handsome. If that happened to me, I'm sure some toothless, potbellied old geezer in a beat-up old pickup would have stopped for me."

Chris laughed, "One club soda coming up."

They were all in good spirits by the time they left for the party.


They were sitting in the living room having their second cup of coffee. "Is there anything special you'd like to do today?" Brad asked.

"No, not really. I think Shaun has a thing for you."

Brad smiled, "You're very observant. You certainly speak plainly, right out with it without any warning. When did you figure out I was gay?"

"I'm not one to beat around the bush, would you rather I took two more visits to broach the subject. I was certain you were gay the night I took you out to dinner," Chris said. "Does that bother you?"

"Not at all, I admire your honesty and saves a lot of time. I feel sorry for Shaun; he's really a nice person. I met him at the Gay Alliance coffee my first week here. We dated a few times, but that's all. It's sad in a way, he has a lot on the ball, but the chemistry was not there for me. One thing is for sure, he doesn't give up easily. Shaun thinks I'll change my mind in time, but that will never happen. I thought I had made that quite clear to him on our last date. I would like to keep him as a friend, but nothing more."

"Well, Shaun is not convinced yet," Chris said.

"You may be right, he called earlier this morning and wanted to know if you were my new heartthrob?"

"And, what did you tell him?"

"I told him the truth, that it's too early to tell."

"Surely, you must have guessed by now, that I like you," Chris said.

Brad smiled warmly, "I suspected as much, but there is a Jason in your life?"

"Ah, I was wondering when you would get around to that? You're showing promise, after all."

"Jason was my first encounter into the gay life," Chris said. "Actually, he's the man that brought me out. Our love affair, if it could be categorized as that, was over before it really began. There were many reasons why it never blossomed into a meaningful relationship. The most obvious reason was my preconceived notion of what a gay marriage should be like. I was applying the same rules to my relationship with Jason as I did with my marriage to Mary Lee. Unfortunately, Jason didn't see it the same way. Here is a man whose whole life was farming. He had little time for the social graces. The farm was his mistress and that is the way he liked it. His farm has been in his family for generations. In fact, his parents still live in the original old farmhouse."

"It didn't take long to realize that we could never be lovers. I tried my best, but to no avail. Jason is a ruggedly handsome man and a very sexy guy. We were sexually attracted to each other from the beginning. He awoke a sexual feeling deep within me that I never knew existed. Yet, we never reached that next plateau in our relationship. That deep emotional commitment was not there and never would be as far as Jason was concerned."

'We were both strong-willed, competitive men that were used to giving orders, not taking them. It didn't help that Jason was unsophisticated. He was at the other end of the spectrum in the social graces department. Unfortunately, he was unwilling to change. He was adamant about living in my home. He found it downright uncomfortable. For example, his idea of casual clothes around the house was clean underwear. Granted he has a beautiful body, but I never got used to the idea of him sitting down to eat in his underwear. I made the sacrifice and moved into his place. But that experiment failed miserably. I found it difficult to adjust to his Spartan way of life."

"Jason had built a modern ranch style house to live in after graduating from college. He had the house designed for his own creature comforts. I must confess that it was well thought out and functional. The house was divided into four rooms. A huge everything room, which was his family room, living room, dining room and kitchen, two bedrooms and the last room was a combination utility room. It was very functional, but was completely lacking in charm or aesthetic taste."

"You never really know a person until you live with them. Our situation became intolerable. We each had our own concept of what a loving relationship should be like. We enjoy having sex together and that is the only reason our friendship has lasted as long as it has. Now, we only get together occasionally for sex."

Brad smiled,"Where is it written that life was going to be easy? I have quite a few friends who have been searching to find that special person. Yet, when they do meet a guy that could be Mister Right, they find something lacking in the person. Then they begin their search once again. Invariably, they become jaded, finding fault with their new boyfriend and look for a reasons to end the relationship."

"Then there are others that feel that gay men should never enter into a misogynistic relationship. To me, both groups are not willing to give themselves wholeheartedly to another man. They really don't want to sacrifice their independence to make a marriage work. I've heard all the lame excuses of why they have been disappointed too many times by their many ex-lovers. Finally, they give up and are content having platonic friendships and resort to one night stands or to male prostitutes for their sexual gratification."

"Personally, I don't subscribe to that philosophy. I feel confident that I will find the right man one day. I've set no timetable; therefore, I don't feel under pressure. That is why I refuse to become involved in a relationship with Shaun, who may be a charming guy, but not the one for me. I'd rather live alone than to become involved with a man I don't love. I'm not one of those unlucky people that feel insecure living alone. I've found inner peace and I'm perfectly content with my life as it is so far. I lead a full life and I try to occupy my time with worthwhile activities."

"You thought I was a braggart and perhaps a little off the wall when I told you of my achievements, yet everything I've told you is the truth. I have taken my inborn talents and made a serious effort to master everything I ever studied. The sports that were chosen for me were ones that I was physically able to master. My other activities such as cooking, painting, interior design and music are things that were good outlets for my artistic talents."

"I honestly believe I have a lot to bring to a marriage. But, it will never be with self-centered dreamers like Shaun, or a sex-machine like Jason. I plan to pick my spouse with the same care and thought as I did with everything else in my life. I want to give my love freely to a man that will offer the same love in return."

"You're an attractive man, Chris, and I enjoy your company, yet I would have to know a lot more about you before we can take the next step in a relationship. I'm finally over the pain of losing my last lover. I'm ready to pick up the pieces of my life and to begin again. It's been a struggle so far."

"Last year was the worst year of my life. I lost my mother and my lover in the same year. It wasn't until I began to dispose of my family's possessions that the reality finally sunk in. It was then that I realized for the first time in my life that I was alone. The three people I loved the most were gone. It's a frightening and depressing feeling. I guess I needed that time to grieve. I finally reached the point where I couldn't cry anymore. After I hit bottom, I began to take hold of myself and plan my future."

"One thing is for certain, I'm not going to get involved in another love affair like the one I had with Scott. That's why I'm going to try damned hard to do it right this time."

"It's important that you know the baggage I'm carrying before you get involved with me. Let me begin by saying that you have the three important requirements I'm looking for in a spouse. You're intelligent, sophisticated, and masculine. You're the first man I've met that I've found interesting since Scott. I hope we can make it together. It's really going to depend on you and if you're willing to play by my rules."

"Fair enough, Brad, tell me about Scott?"

"My entire life has been spent in the company of older people," Brad said. "This is not to imply that I don't enjoy the company of people my own age. It's just that I happen to relate better to mature people than I do with my peers. My analyst tells me that one day my peers will catch up. As I mentioned, I was a child prodigy and had very little in common with children my own age, which was understandable due to my advanced mental development. That is why my parents enrolled me in special schools and spent so much time with me. The more knowledge I absorbed the more I wanted to learn. I was fascinated with history, the arts and travel."

"Being a prodigy had its down side too. I never had playmates my own age. The two boys I did befriend, who also had high IQs, were frail and both died before they reached puberty. Maybe if I had been an average sized kid, instead of a runt, things would have been different. The neighborhood boys always gave me a hard time and taunted me because of my brains and my size. In the beginning, I tried very hard to deal with them at their level, but inevitably I would forget myself. My grammar and speech pattern would give me away."

"My parents did not want me to be isolated from children my age, so they pushed me to participate in sports and other activities with others my same age. These sports, however, were carefully selected and based on two criteria. The sports had to non-team oriented and one that was outside the confines of the school system. That is how I became good at diving, tennis, golf, and polo. Of course, I didn't play soccer until college."

"In any event, I wanted to compete with boys my age to prove to everyone that a runt like me could beat them fair and square. As I mentioned before, I became tops in every sport I went out for. In addition to my other abilities, I have a photographic memory and I'm proficient in five languages. Gourmet cooking, painting and the piano are my avocation."

"You know I'm older than you?" Chris said.

"Age has nothing to do with how I feel about you. It's the chemistry thing."

"Scott Erickson was my lover for almost four years. I meet him in my junior year at Harvard. He was an associate professor in the Chemical Engineering department. We met quite by accident. As it happened, my professor in Chemical Engineering marked my test paper incorrectly. We did not get along anyway; the man was a complete jerk who was forever making mistakes in his classes. Naturally, I caught him in errors many times and he resented me for that. To make a long story short, he refused to back down and gave me a B+ on the test. I promptly took it up with the head of the department, who in turn handed it over to Scott to settle. That was our first meeting."

"I found Scott fascinating, he was intelligent, amusing and was knowledgeable about so many different subjects. He was a well-rounded individual and we became good friends during that school year. Before I left for summer vacation Scott invited me to a seminar he and his colleagues attended every year in Cape Cod. This was quite an honor for me and I jumped at the opportunity to meet and communicate with these men.

"It wasn't long after I returned home that I realized how much I missed Scott. That old cliché 'absence makes the heart grow fonder', was true in my case. My desire for Scott didn't abate with time. In fact, it became much stronger with each passing day. Naturally, this is not a subject I wanted to discuss with my mother. I did discuss it with my psychoanalyst. After several weeks of therapy I accepted the fact that I was gay. Believe me, it was a trying time for me."

"In the back of my mind, I thought that I was substituting Scott for my dad. In many ways he acted like my father. He was genuinely interested in my future and discussed certain options I should consider in my future career. Scott was easy to talk to and we spent many delightful hours discussing so many interesting subjects. He was the one who encouraged me to get more involved with painting. He also helped me make the decision to become a doctor."

"The hardest thing for me to do was to tell my mother that I was a homosexual. I didn't know how she would react. In my own mind I ran this through ever possible scenario. After all, I was her only child and I'm sure she would have liked to have seen a grandchild before she died. But, that was not to be. As it turned out, Mother took the news better than I thought. She said something that made me realize how much she loved me."

She said, 'Your father and I were overjoyed when you came along. You were a loving and exceptional child and have grown into a wonderful young man. You have made me a very happy and proud mother. You are my son, and I will always love you. Your being a homosexual is not going to change the love I have for you.'

"You have no idea how relieved I felt knowing my mother accepted me for what I was."

"I had one more hurdle to cross before I was done. I had to face Scott with the truth. By the time I met him in August, I had my emotions under control. I felt better about myself and Mother and I worked out the problems with the running of the company. We both agreed that it would be a big mistake not to continue with my engineering degrees at that point, since I was so close to completion."

"The seminar was super. I found it mentally stimulating and I had the chance to talk to many interesting people. It made me realize how little I knew, I had only scratched the surface in my education process, and there was so much to learn."

"Scott and I had a chance to talk the day before we all left. Of course, he was shocked when I told him how I felt about him, yet he was glad I told him. He did not think it wise to break off our friendship immediately. It would be easier on me to let it wind down gradually over a period. He felt that I still needed a mentor and there was no reason to break up our friendship. He felt that things would improve now that he and his wife were getting back together again. He apologized for giving me the impression that his interest was anything other than platonic. He hadn't changed his opinion of me, he still thought I was a handsome, intelligent and delightful person. He enjoyed my company as a friend and would like to keep it that way."

"We continued with our father-son relationship through the next semester. Scott was right; my feelings for him did cool down, at least to the point where I could accept him as a friend. However, I was conscious of the fact that Scott was displaying more affection toward me than before. He was hard to figure out at times; I did not know if he was feeling sorry for me or if this was all part of the fatherly role he was playing to let me down easy."

"In any event, he was making me uptight. It was not working as scripted. Finally, I marshaled my courage and told him I could no longer continue to see him. He just nodded his head in agreement. I remember picking up my books and was about to leave when he took me in his arms and held me. He kissed me on the lips and asked me not to leave. It took me a few minutes to recover from the shock of what happened. I dropped my books, threw my arms around him and kissed him back."

"That was the first day of a beautiful relationship that I will never forget for the rest of my life. When you fall in love, you have all these preconceived notions. I wasn't any different than anyone else. We're all exposed to this every day of our lives. If I had been exposed to every novel ever written, or for that matter for every video that was ever produced, I would never have been prepared for the emotional experience of being in love. I'm not talking about the sexual passion; I'm referring to everything that constitutes a loving relationship between two people. To me it is the most beautiful and satisfying relationship in this world. That is the love that we shared together. It was manifested in everything we did together, we were deeply in love, yet the funny thing about our relationship was that we only slept together on rare occasions. Scott had a wife and children to take care of and he was not going to give them up for me."

"Nothing is ever perfect in this life. is it? Scott had pointed that out to me the very first day. He did tell me that he had accepted a teaching assignment overseas when his contract expired with Harvard. I didn't care at the time; I wanted him, even if it was only for two years. I have never regretted the two years we spent together. It hurt like hell giving him up, but I've matured in the process."

"I've grown up fast in the last three years, emotionally and spiritually. I know what I want out of life and I'm not going to settle for a person unless he is right for me. There is no reason why I can't find the love and happiness I'm seeking in a marriage ... and I going to have it."

"How many years separated you and Scott?" Chris asked."

"Scott was twenty years older than me."

"Is that the reason Scott broke it off?"

Brad looked turned to look out the window before answering. "Yes! I couldn't convince him that his age was not a factor."

"Scott knew better," Chris said. "It would have made a difference no matter what you thought then."

"That's what Scott said."

"Don't take this the wrong way," Chris said, "you're both better off this way. Think about it for a moment, what were you supposed to doing while he was overseas for several years? That wouldn't have been fair to you. Scott has his wife and children to console him, you'd have had no one."

"Scott was a lucky man," Chris said, "he had the luxury of seeing you every day. I must be content to carry on a romance long distance. I'm willing to make that sacrifice if that is what it's going to take. You've been in my thoughts every day since I've met you. This weekend has been a repeat of the last weekend we spent together. In the short time you've been here, you have found some delightful friends. As nice as they are and as interesting and enjoyable as the parties were, I enjoyed the time I've spent alone with you more. I've grown very fond of you, Brad, but I don't want to get my hopes up, unless you feel the same way. I would like you to think about a future together and give me your answer when we meet again at Thanksgiving."

"Two days with you seems like a moment in time, I want to spend more time with you. I dread the thought of leaving you in a few hours," Chris said. "Do you feel up to taking a walk in the fresh air?"

"Sure, let's get dressed; I'll even treat you to lunch," Brad said.

They walked down toward the old downtown area. It was a quaint old Southern town. They stopped in a few antique shops along the way.

"You did a fine job decorating your apartment," Chris said. "I agree with you, the living room is elegant. It is still a stately home; it conveys a sense of elegance and takes me back to a time when people lived in elegant homes and appreciated the finer things in life."

"There is something I've wanted to tell you for the last two days," Chris said. "I think you are the most handsome man I have ever laid eyes on. I imagine you have heard that many times before, but I thought you should know that. I forgot to bring my camera along this trip, would you mind terribly sending me a couple of photographs of yourself. I want one for my office and one for my dresser."

"I'll see what I can find for you. Thank you for the compliment. It's true, I've heard it all before, but it means something to me when it's coming from you.

"You are a handsome hunk yourself," Brad said. "I find you appealing and downright sexy. I want to spend more time with you, Chris. I would like you to come over here as often as you can. It doesn't have to be just on weekends I have off either. I can't guarantee that I won't have an emergency call at the hospital, but it's never for more than a few hours. At least we can spend some quality time together. I'll drive over to your place on my weekends off. Is that okay for you?"

"That's terrific," Chris said. "God, I wish I could take you in my arms and kiss you this minute."

Brad chuckled, "I wouldn't advise that right now, this is a very conservative town. All this exercise had made me hungry," Brad said,"are you ready for a spot of lunch?"

"You bet."

Chapter 4

They walked back to the apartment and Chris packed his bags.

"This had been another great day for me," Chris said. "I'm going to head back to the farm. I don't like to travel these back roads in the dark. I'm coming back Friday afternoon. Why don't you call me after your shift tomorrow and let me know your schedule for the rest of the month so I'll know the best time to call you?"

"Will do," Brad said, "here's a set of keys to the apartment, and you're welcome anytime. If you find anyone in the apartment when you arrive, call the police because they don't belong here. I'm having an alarm system installed this week; I want to make sure it's in place before I bring back my furniture from home. I'll call you with the code before Friday."

Chris took the keys and pulled Brad into his arms and kissed him.

"You smell good enough to eat," Chris said. "You feel right in my arms, yes sir, you're a perfect fit for me. I wish to correct my statement about your good looks, I said you were handsome, well I was wrong, you're beautiful."

He kissed him on the eyes, cheeks, and finally on the mouth.

"Wow, you've turned me on," Brad said, "why didn't you do this earlier? I should be angry with you, for making me wait another week to see you again. I suggest you start your fondling a little earlier the next time. Now get going before I forget myself and attack you. I don't want to be late for my shift."

Chris chuckled, "You're a tiger when aroused, I'd really like to stick around to find out, but I'm the slow and methodical type myself. I'm planning to savor ever moment when I make love to you."

"Please drive carefully, I don't want anything to happen to you now." Brad squeezed him hard before pulling away.

Brookville Farms

The time flew by for Chris on the return drive to Brookville Farms. He stopped in the Circle K store in town to pick up a gallon of milk before heading home. After unpacking his bags, he headed to his office to check his voice mail. He made notes from the messages and began returning his calls. The first call on the list was to George Rooks, his business manager.

"This is one of those good news, bad news type messages," George said. "The good news is that National Industries have accepted your proposal and want to meet with you in Atlanta this coming week to finalize the contract. The bad news is you'll be tied up for the next two weeks, maybe longer. I've gone ahead and scheduled the meeting for Wednesday. This will give you two days to clear off your desk. If every goes as planned, they expect you to block out the next two weeks to walk through this contract. The tentative schedule is two days in Atlanta, two days visiting the plants in Georgia and Alabama, a visit to their corporate office in Seattle for a full dress meeting on Monday, and then on to Japan to sign the deal with their principals."

"Wouldn't you know," Chris said, "they drag this contract on for ten months, then decide to rush it through now after I've made plans for the holidays. It's obvious to me that they made a nice profit this year and want to spend the profits before their corporate year ends in December. Oh well, I shouldn't complain, this contract will keep us busy for the next five years. You made the right decision, George. I'll get started changing my schedule around tonight. I'm going to need you with me in Atlanta for the first week. You're going to have to mind the store while I'm gone. I'll take Ted Goody with me to the other locations since he will be the project director on the contract. Would you call him and fill him in on the details?"

"You bet," George said, 'I'll see you in the office tomorrow."

'Well that shoots my love life plans all to hell', Chris thought as he hung up the telephone. 'Wouldn't you know something would come up to spoil any plans I had with Brad. I'd better call him now and leave a message on his answering machine.'

Chris was bushed and turned off the lights and headed for the bedroom. He set the alarm and slid into bed. He was watching the late news when the telephone rang.

Chris turned off the TV and picked up the phone. It was Brad on the line.

"What's up?" Brad said. "Did you get into trouble already?"

"Maybe with you, baby." He went on to explain the events of the evening. "The problem that I'm faced with is that I may not be back in time to meet you in Manassas to drive the truck back. I was looking forward to spending that time with you. It's still a possibility, but I wouldn't bank on it."

"I've made arrangements with Mayflower Van Lines to crate and move your furniture to Birmingham. They will also unpack and set up everything the way you want it once it reaches Birmingham. My company will pick up the tab. Consider this my atonement for leaving you in the lurch at the last minute."

"Look, baby, I won't know the exact day I'll be home until I reach Japan. I'm hoping it will be Tuesday before Thanksgiving. I would like you to spend Thanksgiving with me at the farm. Fall will be in its full glory by then and the countryside should be ablaze with fall colors. Besides which, I can't think of anyone I would rather be with."

"That's generous of you to offer to pay for the moving expense," Brad said, "but I can't let you do that, I can afford to pay for the moving expense. The only reason I asked you to join me in the first place was to get you alone for a week. By the way do you always call all your boyfriends, baby?"

Chris laughed, "No, you're the only one. Does that bother you?"

"No, I like it," Brad said. "I'm disappointed that I won't see you this weekend; I realize you have a business to run, but it doesn't make it any easier. I'd love to spend Thanksgiving with you."

"Great, now I have something to be thankful for," Chris said. "I'm mailing you a set of keys, a gate opener and the codes. There are two sets of codes, a day code and the night code. My Business manager George and my housekeeper, Bridget, have the day code. You and I are the only ones that have the night code and I want to keep it that way. Never let anyone in for any reason. Ignore anyone that rings the gate bell. If the alarm goes off, the security people or the Sheriff will respond within ten minutes. The security people will come in and check the system out and make sure you and everything is all right before they leave. I'll be putting you on the list first thing tomorrow. They may ask you to identify yourself and ask you for your code number."

"You can always turn on the video screens it you are interested, from the monitoring equipment in my office. That will let you see everything on the grounds. The mail is delivered to my mailbox at the post office. One more thing, the housekeeper comes in every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. If you need anything from town leave her a note and she will pick it up for you. I'll send you a note with their telephone numbers. If you need anything, call Bridget and she will shop for you. Don't give her any money; she has a household budget for that sort of thing. They will know you're my roommate and are to have the run of the house."

"After the movers deliver your furniture, you can drive over here and spend the rest of your vacation if you like. Bring some extra clothes along so you don't have to pack every time you stay over. You can use the guest bedroom for your clothes; arrange it any way you want."

"It makes sense to have several changes of clothing and my riding clothes at the farm since I plan to be visiting you on a regular basis. It will take time to paint that landscape, anyway."

"I'll call you again tomorrow before you leave for the hospital," Chris said, "goodnight, baby."


"Hi, my beautiful one," Chris said. "Well, everything is a go at this end. My contracts are all signed with National, now it's off to Japan early tomorrow morning. Pray that our Japanese partners don't throw in any stumbling blocks so we can wrap this up in a week. Did you receive my registered package?"

"Yes," Brad said, "I wasn't home when the letter carrier delivered the Registered package, so I had to pick it up at the Post Office yesterday."

"Sorry it took so long, but those keys have to be ordered directly from the lock manufacturer. I didn't want to trust the Air Express companies with that package. They tend to leave a package at the door if you're not home. I couldn't take that chance."

"I'll call you from Japan before you leave for Manassas next week," Chris said, "I'll try to reach you at your apartment first, or at the farm. Do you have any questions about the alarm systems, or the code?"

"No, you've covered everything in detail, I should manage just fine," Brad said.

"Look, baby, it you have any trouble at all call George, he should be able to square everything for you," Chris said, "I wouldn't want you to be stranded like the last time. By the way, I want you to order a cellular telephone for your car."

"Why, I don't need one," Brad said.

"Look, baby, I don't want you to get stranded again," Chris said, "you'll be driving on country roads around Brookville, plus the fact that you work such crazy hours. I would feel more comfortable if you have a telephone in your car. I also want you to send me the bill."

Brad chuckled, "You worry about me too much, I can take care of myself, but it's nice to know that you care."

"Look, humor me and promise me now that you will take care of that the first thing tomorrow. I don't want anything to happen to you, baby."

"All right, I'll take care of it tomorrow. It never entered my mind that I could be stuck again with my new car."

"All I can tell you at this moment is that it's a 15-hour flight to Atlanta. I'm booking a charter flight from Atlanta to the Anniston County Airport, fifteen minutes from the farm. Take care of yourself, and good luck on your trip to Manassas."

Chapter 5

Brad answered the telephone after the second ring. It was Chris.

"I didn't expect to hear from you today," Brad said. "You timed that call just right, I just returned from the market with a few last minute things, what's up?"

"I'm glad I caught you, I only have a few minutes" Chris said, "I will be arriving in Atlanta at 4:30 tomorrow afternoon. The charter flight should get me into Anniston County Airport by six o'clock. Would you mind picking me up?"

"Of course not, is that the Airport off I-20 east of town?" Brad asked.

"That's the one," Chris said. "You're sure you don't mind? I can always have one the guys from the office pick me up."

"Don't be silly, I'll be there at six."

"Thanks, baby, I've got to sign off, see you tomorrow."

Anniston County Airport

Brad watched the Atlanta Air commuter aircraft touch down and taxi to the terminal building. He saw the copilot disembark first, and then Chris. The gate attendant picked up his bags and followed Chris into the terminal.

Chris had a smile on his face as he walked over to greet Brad. "God, it's wonderful to see you again," Chris said.

"Welcome back," Brad said, "how was your flight?"

"Great, I lucked out on my return flight back, I was able to book a berth on one of those reconfigured jets and sleep like a baby all night. It's like the old Pullman trains."

The attendant loaded the suitcases in the trunk. Chris tipped him and closed the trunk lid. He slipped into the passenger side and fastened his seat belt. He stared at Brad as they drove off.

"Why are you staring at me like that?"

"You must know why, baby," Chris answered. "I've been dreaming about you for weeks. I can't believe you're here next to me again. You're beautiful, that's all I can say. If there weren't cars around, I'd kiss you right now." He reached over and took Brad's hand. "Did you miss me, baby?"

Brad grinned, "Yes I have. I felt much closer to you staying at Brookville. However, I have missed you. I took the liberty of sleeping in your bed every night and playing with your fancy electronic gadgets, I didn't think you'd mind."

Chris chuckled, "You know I'd never object to anything you do, Brad. I hope you will continue to sleep in my bed, or am I asking too much?"

Brad smiled and shook his head, "No, you're not asking too much. Why in the world would I want to sleep alone, when I can snuggle up to a handsome hunk like you?"

Chris squeezed Brad's hand, "Thank you, Jesus, for answering my prayers. I thought you might have a different timetable before we got to this stage in the relationship."

"You're really a sweetheart," Brad said. "I've been very content staying in your home these last few days. I felt your presence in every room and I liked the feeling. I saddled up one of your fine horses and rode around the estate for the past two days. Actually, your estate is lovely and I've been enjoying myself. I even drove up to the mountain and found the sight I wanted to paint and took several rolls of film. That should give me enough to get started."

"I must confess I haven't felt this good for a long time," Brad said. "All this is because of you, you've lifted my spirits and made me feel alive again and it feels good. I have no timetable, Chris; we should let nature take it's course. I wanted to be here with you and I'm excited about what the future holds for us."

"Now that I've gotten that off my chest, we can get down to the more mundane matters," Brad said. "Did you have dinner on the plane?"

"No," Chris said, "I figured we could eat out, unless you had something planned for dinner."

Brad laughed, "I can see you figured correctly, I'm preparing a tasty little dinner for tonight."

Chris laughed, "You seem to have forgotten that I was married for eight long years. An expert has housebroken me. The first thing I must do when I get home is to shower and change. It would be great if they had showers on that plane, but that would be asking too much. Can you imagine how much water they'd have to carry?"

Brad pulled through the gate and into the garage and then helped Chris in with his bags. They carried them up to Chris's bedroom.

Chris saw the large bouquet of red roses with a card attached.

"What's this," Chris asked, as he opened the envelope and read the card from Brad. "Come here, my beautiful baby."

He took Brad in his arms and kissed him. He held him in his arms without saying a word.

"This is where you belong, my love." He kissed him on the lips again. "You better go now, I don't want to touch you again until I've showered."

Brad smiled, "You really are a turn on. You take your time and wash really good, because I plan to give you a thorough examination later this evening. I'll be in the kitchen." He kissed Chris on the cheek and left.

Chris walked into the kitchen thirty minutes later. Brad was finishing up with the scalloped potatoes.

"Can I talk you into a glass of my best Rhine wine?" Chris asked.

"That sounds like an excellent idea, I'm ready to pop everything into the oven in five minutes," Brad said, "dinner will be ready in a half-hour."

Chris opened the wine and poured two glasses. He handed one to Brad.

"To us, my love. May God grant us a long and happy life together," Chris said.

They touched glasses and took a sip of their wine.

"That was nice," Brad said. "You look and smell divine." He walked over and kissed Chris on the cheek, "I've set the timer, let's sit in the drawing room and enjoy our wine.

"This is very pleasant," Chris said, "I like the way you've decorated everything. I didn't think the florists around here were so creative."

"They leave a lot to be desired," Brad said. "I bought the flowers and greens I needed from the super market and found the rest of what I needed on my ride through your fields yesterday. There are so many wonderful things to work with this time of year. So much in fact, I could get carried away."

"Bridget and I really got into the holiday spirit," Brad said. "In fact, I gave her three arrangements that we could not find the space for."

"You've not told me about your trip," Brad said. "Are you going to make big bucks on this deal? I'm anxious to hear about Seattle and Tokyo. It has been a long time since I visited those cities."

Chris smiled and shook his head, "Of course I'm going to make a nice profit on this deal," Chris said. "After all, I have your future to think about now and I plan to take care of you properly."

"There goes the buzzer," Brad said, "I must see to dinner; come on back to the kitchen and help me."

"Everything smells delicious. What did you make for dinner?" Chris asked.

"Baked salmon, scalloped potatoes with Swiss cheese and carrots Julienne with dill sauce," Brad said.

They carried the warmed serving dishes into the dining room. Brad lit the candles while Chris poured them each more wine. Brad said grace.

"Thank you Lord for this food and thank you for giving us this day and for returning Chris home to me unharmed, Amen."

"I never thought I would be so lucky to find someone as delightful as you to grace my table," Chris said. "You are everything I ever hoped for, you're witty, sophisticated, handsome, talented and much, much more. This meal is delicious, thank you for everything."

"You're embarrassing me," Brad said, "I did this because I wanted to and because I like you. You're a warm, wonderful person and I enjoy doing this for you. You appreciate my efforts and you are genuine in your praise. This should prove to be a delightful courtship and I plan to enjoy every minute."

After dinner, Brad said, "Come help me in the kitchen. We can have our coffee and brandy in the drawing room after we clean up the kitchen."

"Whatever you say, baby"

They were sitting on the sofa in the drawing room. "Do you find this espresso coffee a little on the bitter side," Brad asked.

"Just a little," Chris answered.

"I'm going to order some beans from Cantilena's in New York and grind them myself. That fresh grind, together with a little Greek coffee, should make it taste delicious."

Chris smiled, "You've been a good boy tonight, you're still wearing shoes and socks."

Brad laughed, "You've noticed. I wanted to be on my best behavior tonight. Plus the fact that I make it a policy to wear shoes when I'm working in the kitchen. Accidents can happen to unprotected bare feet while in the kitchen."

"Before I forget, I've taken over the top shelf of the linen closet in your bathroom. I've made it into an emergency medicine cabinet. I've also put my special medication in the door of your refrigerator as well. Please don't let anyone go into that closet. I've already warned Bridget."

"You don't mind if I remove my shoes and socks now, do you?" Brad asked."

Chris chuckled, "No baby, I don't mind at all, it will make it that much easier when I undress you later. Are you planning to practice medicine on me?"

"That will depend on what I find after I examine you later. I have everything I'll need for emergency surgery in that linen closet," Brad said, removing his shoes and socks.

"Scoot over here next to me, baby, I want to hold you in my arms," Chris said, "there, isn't that much better. I love the feel of your body and your scent is intoxicating." Chris kissed him on the cheek.

"I thought it would be a good idea to lay in a supply of emergency medication in case anything happened. We're a fair distance from the nearest emergency clinic in Anniston and I wouldn't like to depend on the local emergency ambulance service. They could be out on another call when you need them. I'll stock up on a few more drugs and equipment on my next trip. But, before I do, I'm going to need a cabinet with a lock."

"Don't worry baby, I'll buy you a safe and have it in place for your next visit," Chris said. "Do you have anything special planned for tomorrow?"

"I have to pick up the turkey and few thing from the market for the pies, but other than that I'm free," Brad said. "Did you want to do anything special?"

"How would you like to run up to Atlanta early Friday to meet the family and do a little Christmas shopping, see a show and head back here on Saturday?"

"Sounds like fun," Brad said, "as long as I don't have to stay with your in-laws."

"I've no intention of staying with my ex-wife's family. I always book reservations at the Ritz-Carlton in Buckhead. We'll take my daughters out to lunch and let them do their Christmas shopping; the rest of the time is ours."

"That's fine with me," Brad said.

Chris kissed Brad passionately and forced his tongue into his mouth. "God, you're sexy," Chris said. He kissed his neck and lips again.

"I want to make love to you," Brad said. "Lock everything up and come to bed."

He picked up his shoes and headed for Chris's bedroom. They undressed each other and climbed into bed.

"Turn over on your stomach," Brad said.

He straddled Chris and took the bottle of body lotion and began rubbing in into Chris's back. He kissed his neck and cheek.

"You have a nice body, sweetheart."

He continued moving down his body and worked on his muscular legs. Chris moaned as Brad massaged his anus and buttocks.

"Turn over on your back, now."

They were both fully aroused. Brad continued to rub the lotion into Chris's broad chest. He kissed him tenderly on the lips, eyes, forehead and neck. He kissed his chest and on down to his penis. He worked the lotion down his thighs. Then he concentrated on his testicles and the erogenous area between his legs.

"Oh God, baby, you are driving me wild, I'm going to come if you don't stop," Chris said.

Brad lay on top of Chris and kissed him, forcing his tongue deep into his mouth.

Chris wrapped his arms around Brad and held him tight. "I'm crazy about you, Brad, I 'm about to come."

Brad rolled off him, "Cool down and relax, sweetheart, I want you inside me when you come and I'm not ready yet."

"Did I hear you call me, sweetheart," Chris asked.

"Yes, you make it all so easy, you must know I can't help myself, you turn me on and you make me feel special."

Brad smiled, as he leaned forward and kissed Chris passionately on the lips, "You are a sweetheart." He handed Chris a condom, "Do you think you can slip that on that beautiful penis of yours without erupting?"

Chris smiled, "I'll try Doctor."

Brad slipped the other condom on himself and inserted two finger cots on Chris's two fingers.

"I want you to stretch my anus with your fingers using this KY liquid before you enter me."

Brad lay on his side. Chris lubricated his fingers generously with the KY liquid and inserted his finger into Brad's rectum. He kissed Brad as he proceeded. After added more KY to his penis, he entered Brad.

"Don't move any further," Brad said, "I'll push myself back when the pain subsides, it's been a long time, sweetheart. Wrap your arms around me and pump my penis." Brad pushed himself back, until Chris was deep inside him.

Brad rotated his hips forcing Chris deeper inside him and exciting him even more. Chris synchronized his thrusts with the same rhythm. Brad's soft moaning excited Chris, bringing them both to the edge. He could feel Brad's whole body stiffen. His sphincter muscle tightened on Chris's already throbbing penis sending him into a sustained organism. They climaxed together.

When their breathing returned to normal, Brad disengaged himself from Chris. "Come on, sweetheart, let's hit the showers.

After they showered they slipped back into bed. Chris fixed the pillows and pulled Brad into his arms and kissed him.

"Baby, you're wonderful," Chris said, "I've never experienced sex as wonderful as that before, bar none. I know I promised you not to push things, but, I'll burst if I don't tell you. I'm in love with you and I want to marry you. I can't get you out of my mind, I'm absolutely mad about you. When we were making love before, I felt that we were one; I've never felt that way with anyone before. It's not just the sex part either, I love everything about you. I want to be with you all the time, you are a delightful, beautiful person. You are the joy of my life and I adore you. I'm still going to live by your timetable, but I want you to know how I feel."

"I already knew how you felt about me," Brad said. "I can see that in your eyes, and feel it in everything you do. You are a sweetheart. I felt the same way about our lovemaking as you do. It would be easy to jump into marriage with you, because I care for you deeply. Right now my mind is in turmoil and I've got to think this through before I give you my answer. We'll talk about it over the weekend. You must be exhausted; I know I am after that delightful sex." Brad kissed him and snuggled even closer to Chris and drifted off to sleep.

Chris woke up to an empty bed, the sun was streaming in the windows and he could smell the aroma of fresh coffee. He shaved, did the teeth thing and gargled and dressed.

He walked into the kitchen, but no Brad. He saw the note taped to the coffee maker.

Gone jogging, should be back around seven, don't run off, it's your turn to make breakfast, Brad.

He found the fresh orange slices at his place at the table and the morning paper next to the plate. He smiled as he sat down at the table. He heard Brad come in through the porch door. Brad walked in barefooted carrying his shoes and socks in his hands. He walked up behind Chris and kissed him on the cheek.

"Good morning, sleepy head, are you feeling better this morning after a good night's sleep?"

"Yes, my love, I feel like a new man this morning," Chris said. "What time did you get up?"

"My usual time, five o'clock. It's going to be a beautiful day for horseback riding. I'm going to shower and dress, be back in a half hour."

"Would you like anything special for breakfast?" Chris asked."

"I brought some egg bread over from Birmingham to make French toast, how about that and sausage?"

"That's easy," Chris said, "I'll have everything ready by the time you get back."

Chris was grilling the French toast when Brad returned. He walked up behind Chris and put his arms around his waist and kissed him on the neck.

"That was for last night, you sexy hunk," Brad said.

He didn't let go. He slipped his hand under the apron and rubbed Chris's genitals.

"Wow, Chris Jr. is awake and standing tall."

Chris laughed, "I can feel Brad Jr. trying to get in the back door."

"You're right, you do that to me," Brad said. "I'd better let you alone, or we'll never have breakfast."

Chris turned around to face him, "God, you're beautiful, I don't think my horses are ready for a professional rider like you," Chris said. "You look great in that riding outfit, you are one sexy guy... What, no kiss for that compliment?"

Brad put his arms around Chris's neck, pulled his head to him and kissed him properly.

"Don't expect this every time you pay me a compliment."

"Hey, you can't kill a guy for trying?" Chris dished out the sausage and French toast on the plates and carried them to the table.

"I must compliment the chef, you did an excellent job," Brad said. "I'll clean up the kitchen, while you find your riding boots. I'd like to get going before the sun start's beating down on us."

"Right," Chris said, "afterwards we can head into town and have lunch at one of my favorite Italian restaurants, unless you prefer something else, other than Italian food?"

"I love any kind of food, but especially Italian food. Why do you think I have to work out every morning?"

They headed for the tack room for the saddles and bridles. "What's this," Chris said, "you brought your own saddle and bridle?"

"Of course," Brad said, "that saddle was handmade for my bottom, why wouldn't I use it?"

Chris smiled, "That's fine, baby, I'm not complaining, it just makes my saddles look scruffy by comparison."

"I noticed a lot of things around this estate that look scruffy. By the time I finish with this place, it will be in first class shape."

"That's fine with me, baby. You do whatever makes you happy."

They saddled the horses and took off.

"This is a lovely estate," Brad said. "It's so peaceful. While you were gone, I had a chance to do a little sightseeing and explore the grounds. I can see why you love this place so much. I think with a little effort, it could be developed into a wonderful place to entertain your friends and clients. It has great possibilities."

They rode on in silence enjoying the sounds of the wildlife.

"Brad, something is bothering you, why that frown on your face? What's going on inside that talented brain of yours? Don't shut me out, baby. We'll never have a solid relationship if you keep things bottled up inside. I know it's not been easy for you in the past with no one to talk to, but you have me now. I'm trying desperately to reach you. I'm in love you, Brad, and I want you to share your problems with me. It was obvious to me, from the day we met that you were searching for something more than the scenic route to Birmingham. You acted like a man who was not eager to face the next phase of his career. Instead of charging on to Birmingham, you chose to take a detour and explore the countryside searching for God knows what."

"You're wrong! That's how you perceived my actions? You are a man of decisive action and that would be how you would see it? That is one of the qualities I admire in you. That day, I really was tired of the expressway, I wanted to get see something other than endless miles of concrete and being surrounded by the constant flow of vehicles rushing by in both directions. I really am committed to medicine, and was looking forward to my postgraduate studies. What was going through my mind at the time was the fact that the closer I got to Birmingham, the further away I was moving from my roots. I wanted a change of scenery and something more interesting that the expressway."

"You're right about my not rushing back to Birmingham after I met you. You were a refreshing change and I wanted to learn more about you," Brad said. "It is also true that I was extremely busy those three months, but that was not the reason I didn't call you. The simple truth was I was afraid to see you again because I was attracted to you and I did not want to become embroiled in another bisexual relationship. You are a very forceful man and very sexy to boot. I knew where a date with you would lead. Emotionally, I was not ready to get involved. That is the reason I dated Shaun, which was a big mistake. He was a child compared to you. You're a mature man; he is a nice guy, period, nothing more. I couldn't resist the temptation any longer, I had to know what you were like."

"I've been happy here at Brookville Farms. I found it peaceful and relaxing. It was the first time in a year that I was enjoying myself. I liked decorating the house for you and riding through the estate. Most of all, I wanted to have sex with you. I was happy doing the simple things, cooking, shopping, knocking around in antique shops. Making love with you was exactly what I expected. Waking up in your arms this morning was delightful. This is what I want out of life, Chris. I guess this is what I've always wanted. But, how can we have a normal married life living apart as we do."

"That's why I'm troubled, I don't know how to work this problem out. You're right, though, I would like you to resolve this problem. I guess what I'm saying is I'm looking for a marriage not another love affair. I know it's not going to be easy, but to commit myself to you is going to take a lot more that saying the words and having good sex. A loving marriage means sacrifice, commitment, compatibility, and mutual respect."

"You say you love me and have proposed marriage to me," Brad said. "I want that too. I would love to marry you, but it's not that simple, at least it's not for me. There are too many unanswered questions that are racing through my mind that I must resolve before I can give you my answer. Tough questions like, am I willing to give up my career for you? Will you be happy with a spouse that is nothing more than a housekeeper if I moved in here. Will my love for you be enough to hold you in a childless marriage in the future? I don't have the answers for you, sweetheart. And I don't know if I'll have them next week either."

"You're making this more complicated than it happens to be, my love," Chris said. "Answer one simple question, do you love me?"

"Of course, I love you," Brad said. "Surely, you must know that by now."

"I wasn't sure, that's why I asked. You keep giving me mixed signals. Your body and your actions, say yes, yet you've never came out and said you loved me."

"I was attracted to you from the beginning and fell in love with you Halloween weekend. My love for you grows stronger every day."

"Thank you, my love, you have made me a very happy man," Chris said. "I happen to take marriage very seriously. When I asked you to marry me it was my commitment for life. I've told you from the beginning that I'm willing to do anything it takes and make any sacrifice necessary, if you would marry me. I love you more than anything in this cockeyed world and I'm not going to let you go."

"I never expected you to make all the sacrifices when you agree to marry me. Why should you give up your career? I never expected that of you. You've worked too hard to get where you are today. Marriage is a two-way street, my love. I fully expect us to live as a married couple. My intention is to live with you in Birmingham until you finish your residency. I would go crazy if I had live here without you. All I would be doing would be thinking of you alone in Birmingham. You're absolutely wrong in thinking I would ever tire of you. You are the most stimulating and exciting person I've ever met. It would take me a lifetime to extract the knowledge that's locked up in that marvelous brain of yours. I could be with you twenty-four hours a day and never get bored. I just hope it will never be the other way around, my love."

"Look, Brad, there is nothing in our marriage that we can't work out and for God's sake, stop thinking you are the only one that has to make the concessions, besides which I wouldn't let you anyway."

Brad smiled and let out a sigh of relief, "Thank you, sweetheart, you've have just made life so much easier for me. I feel as if a great weight has been lifted off my back."

Brad looked around, they were riding through an isolated wooded area. "Let's stop here a minute and dismount," Brad said.

He dismounted and held the reins and walked over to Chris and took him in his arms and kissed him tenderly. "I love you, Chris, you have made me very happy today and I will marry you whenever you set the date. I know of a pastor in Atlanta that will perform gay weddings."

"God, this is wonderful. This will be truly a happy Thanksgiving for us. I could stay like this all day," Brad said. "I feel so happy to be in your arms like this." He kissed Chris again. "Let's walk a bit, I'll never be able to mount the horse with this erection."

Chris let out a hearty laugh, "Right, we'll have to do something about that when we get back from town this afternoon. I'd like to make love to you this minute, but unfortunately, Bridget is working a half day today. I wouldn't want her barging in on us."

"When we return to Birmingham next week, I'm going to need to use that spare bedroom of yours as my office until I can find some space in town," Chris said. "I'll be commuting to Anniston every day until I get everything squared away at your apartment. I'll call the telephone company when we I get back and have them run three more lines into your apartment next week."

"Let's head back to the house," Brad said, "we have a lot to do today, my love."

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The End

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