Chapter 1

Caution: This Romantic Sex Story contains strong sexual content, including Ma/Fa, Consensual, Heterosexual, .

Desc: Romantic Sex Story: Chapter 1 - Can a young man find love again after botching the first go round? Sometimes running away leads to unexpected joys and sorrows.

There is a Reason

I've seen hard times and I've been told ... There isn't any wonder that I fall

Why do we suffer ... crossing off the years ... there must be a reason for it all...

I've trusted in you Jesus to save me from my sin ... heaven is the place I call my home ... but I keep on getting caught up in this world I'm in livin' in, and your voice sometimes fades before I know.

Hurtin' brings my heart to you crying with my need ... depending on your love to carry me ... The love that shed His blood for all the world to see ... This must be the reason for it all...

Hurtin' brings my heart to you, a fortress in the storm When what I wrap my heart around is gone

I give my heart so easily to the ruler of this world When the one who loves me most gives me all

In all the things that cause me pain you give me eyes to see I do believe but help my unbelief...

I've seen hard times and I've been told ... there is a reason for it all.

Allison Krauss and Union Station

I watched the setting autumn sun silhouette the nearby eastern slope of the snow-covered Rockies as the words to my wife's favorite song played in my head.

On this mid November day, a warm wind had crept in from the south and given western Montana some welcome unseasonable warmth, holding hard winter at bay for a few days.

I brushed tears from my cheeks as I sat in the old wooden rocker on the wide porch of our ranch house as I rocked my sleeping four year-old daughter, Amelia.

I had loved my wife Abigail with all my heart and now she was gone. I was a widower and a father at twenty-three. It wasn't supposed to be this way. We were going to spend many years together, raising our children, working our ranch, being together, sharing each day ... sharing our love. I looked at Amelia, with her angel face, as she snuggled in my arms. The tears came again.

"We miss you so much Abigail ... I'll always love you." I whispered.

On a late autumn day five years ago, Abigail rescued me as I walked down a freezing snow-blown Montana road as a blizzard threatened. In turn, I rescued her from grief and loss. Together we became whole and we produced the most beautiful child in the world. We were happy.

Abigail was ten years older but that hadn't made a difference. I loved her without reservation within days of our first meeting. Her joy of living and the way she embraced life — the life she shared with me for five years, was an example to everyone she met. Early on she had dragged me to church. She said there was something more than the here and now and I needed to hear about that. Like most things I found out she was right.

Even though my parents had taken me to church every Sunday most of my life, there was no meaning to it. I had dismissed church and God as something for people who couldn't think for themselves. Abigail, our daughter Amelia, and our land, all wrapped in the beauty of this place, made it real and connected me to faith that transcended religion

Pastor Smith embraced us, and the small congregation in Choteau Montana, made me welcome. Perhaps there was small town gossip but no one really seemed to care about a twenty-eight year old woman taking on an eighteen year old boy to help her run her ranch. Most of the town turned out for our wedding eight months later when I wed the most beautiful woman in Montana, and maybe the world, although I hadn't seen much of the world at the time. She was four months pregnant with our child.

I had to learn to be a man, and in the high plains of western Montana you had to grow up quick when you had a cattle ranch to run. We worked hard from before sunrise to well after sunset Abigail most often beside me as we tended cattle, maintained miles of fence, and did all the hundreds of things you had to do each day to keep things going. Hands that had been destined to do no more work than throw a football became callused and my skin sported a constant mahogany farmer's tan. I even learned to be an accomplished rider, as comfortable on a horse as I had been driving my truck.

It wasn't all work though, Abigail made sure we took the time needed to just be together, whether it was a Saturday night dance at the grange hall, or just sitting on the porch in our favorite rockers sipping a beer and watching the sun play on the mountains as the day ended. The front range of the Rockies was amazing. Growing up in Georgia, I had never seen such a thing. Suddenly they jutted from the high plains rising thousands of feet, pointing their sharp peaks toward the "Big Sky". Their beauty was hard to describe and I often found myself stopping whatever I was doing to stare at them. I couldn't get enough of their grandeur. They never became just part of the scenery. What must Lewis and Clark have thought when they journeyed this way and came to these mountains? They had to have been in awe. I was.

Abigail introduced me to those mountains, which jutted from the plains less than ten miles away. She showed me the beauty of the high meadows in the summer. From horseback, we watched the raptors circle overhead, deer and elk and mountain goats foraging, and the black bears in the distance showing their cubs the ways of survival.

When Amelia was old enough we took her along. We would often picnic in a mountain meadow, riot with purple lupine and other flowers of every color and description, our horses grazing on their summer floral candy. It was amazing to watch our daughter toddle amidst the flowers, under the unwavering eyes of her dog Jack, as Abigail napped in my arms. I would tell myself I was the luckiest man in the world, surrounded by love with a backdrop of these fantastic mountains.

Now Abigail was gone and were it not for Amelia, I might have followed her. I didn't know why God had done this to me, to us. We were happy; we had a beautiful child and had become a successful cattle operation. I hadn't cared about the hard work, as long as I could wake up next to her, and spend my days working side by side with her to build our future, and our daughter's future, and spend my evenings sitting next to her, watching her, loving her, enjoying our togetherness, whether it was on the porch or in front of the fire making love on the sheepskin rug. On warm summer evenings we would take a blanket and lie out in the hammock on the porch and count the stars.

Most winters were harsh but it was all part of the life we had chosen. We were surrounded by friends who helped each other and despite the constant work required to run a ranch, the pace of life here in western Montana was much slower.

There was more time to just stop and look at things, to enjoy Sunday breakfast at the café after church, snuggle by the fire or spend a long snowy day in our big bed, our daughter snuggled between us. All that came to a stop for me.

The cancer had taken her so quickly that it felt like we had no time to say goodbye, and now I was sat watching the sunset as I prepared us to say farewell to our home, at least for a little while, as I fulfilled a promise to Abigail as she slipped away.

Pastor Smith and his wife Sarah had just left. They assured me things would be well taken care of while were gone. I had spent a lot of time with them the last couple of months. I was so lost and hurt and angry. Pastor Smith had listened, and heard me rail against God for the unfairness of it all. He gently moved me away from the hurt to focus on what we had — a short life of love that had given others joy and produced a wonderful child. He couldn't explain why these things happen to good people, but reminded me that God had reasons. Life was like that. I wondered how anything good could come from Abigail's death.

As I rocked, I watched my sleeping daughter. She still couldn't grasp the fact that mommy was never coming back. She hadn't left my side in the two months, since we said our farewell to Abigail on that knoll in that quiet cemetery outside Choteau, on that blustery September day. Amelia was a dark-haired beauty like her mother, with dark green eyes that could melt me with a glance.

Jack, the mutt, wandered up onto the porch and sat next to me, his large black head pushing over the arm of the rocker. I absently stroked his head. He was a muscular dog - some kind of Sheppard with brown and black fur. There was some Lab thrown in along with maybe some Bull Mastiff for good measure. Jack had limped up Abigail's long drive five years ago, the remnants of a rope still around his neck. He was dirty, emaciated, and covered with sores. Abigail joked that she liked to pick up strays and that Jack had showed up about two months before I did. He joined the family menagerie and became Abigail's devoted dog. Once Amelia was a toddler he gradually transferred his primary allegiance to her. She never went anywhere without Jack and he slept on the floor next to her bed. Like most dogs in this part of the country, he loved riding in the truck, head out the window, sniffing the air and sneezing as his ears flopped in the wind. Just about everything he did made Amelia giggle and he bore her toddler enthusiasm with much patience. He particularly loved the trail rides to the mountains where the smells could keep a dog in ecstasy for the entire day.

Yesterday, Jack had looked uncertain as I packed the truck for our trip to Indiana, and then to my boyhood home in Georgia, but he seemed to understand once I assured him he wouldn't be left behind.

Georgia. Yes Douglas Georgia, population eleven thousand, a farm community, biggest employer Wal-Mart, and the place where I was born and grew up, in the big Victorian on West Elm. It was a metropolis next to Choteau, Montana, but still just one of thousands of small towns in America. Douglas wasn't my home any longer. I belonged here, on this Montana soil, close by where Abigail rested in the shady plot in the small cemetery that overlooked Choteau, with her mountains as a backdrop.

I kept asking myself, why did this happen? How could God be so cruel? Me? Well I knew I was a sinner who hurt people, but I tried my best to make up for it, but why take Amelia's mother? I had no answers. Somehow I just couldn't understand that God had a reason for all this. Without Abigail, I was lost.

As I rocked, I stroked Amelia's sleeping face and wished I could put aside my feelings of loss and anger for a just a bit to be able to sleep the sleep of innocents.

What would it be like back in Douglas? How much had things changed in the last five years? Suddenly Becky's face came to mind. I had the same reaction as always - sadness. I had loved her and lost her, and like a coward I fled. No it was more than that.

I thought about my odyssey from Georgia to Montana at eighteen. How I had come here and been rescued by this remarkable woman who became my wife ... the love of my life. I frowned as I thought back five and a half years.

I fled my home for more reasons than a broken heart. It was also because I hated football. No, that wasn't exactly right. I didn't hate football, just hated playing football. I started playing to make my father happy, and when I discovered I had a talent for throwing accurate spirals, I kept at it. It was a way to be popular and eventually it was a way to meet girls. Unfortunately the dark cloud over all this was my father's obsession that I was good enough to make the pros. I never wanted anything of the kind, but I had been afraid to tell him. He was always on me to practice more and to keep focused.

But, in high school I was focused on Becky, my girlfriend. My mother loved her almost as much as I did, my father barely tolerated her. He felt she was a distraction, and my mind should be on getting that full-ride scholarship to some football powerhouse like Miami, Southern Cal or Ohio. What I really wanted to do was go to the University of Georgia in Athens with Becky and study business administration and computer science.

Becky wanted to be a veterinarian and we talked about our future together, someplace like Atlanta. She was beautiful - tall and blonde with amazing blue eyes. We had grown up neighbors and seemed destined to be together. We had dated since our junior year. I was the quarterback of our high school team but I was never tempted by the other girls who made it plain that they would be happy to take Becky's place, even for a couple of hours. She and I had discovered sex together as our love blossomed. I never wanted to be with anyone else and we planned to get married after college.

Unfortunately I screwed it all up at the graduation party when I drank too much, although looking back I hadn't remembered drinking that much. Anyway, I winced as I thought about that time. It was the only time I had been unfaithful to Becky, and she caught me. Somehow I was in big bathroom off the master bedroom at Lisa Banning's parent's home fucking Lisa as she bent over the vanity, her short denim skirt pulled up as I thrust into her. I really had no recollection how that came to be. I had gone there to piss and the next thing I know I'm fucking Lisa. She was a dark-haired cheerleader who made it clear that she wanted me. I never encouraged her but there we were. Just as I shot my load into her I watched Becky come into the bathroom closely followed by Todd Andrews. Becky's look of horror was only surpassed by Todd's look of smug triumph.

Becky turned and ran down the hall as I called after her. I tried to follow but Lisa held me and did everything she could to convince me we should go another round. I struggled to get my jeans back up. I felt woozy but somehow managed even with Lisa clinging to me.

"Lisa ... let go ... damn ... don't feel too good ... I've got to find Becky ... explain." I slurred.

"Come on Bret ... let her go ... she'll get over it in a few days ... why don't you bring that big cock back here and shove it back in Lisa's tight little pussy?" She pulled her skirt to her waist and displayed her shaven pussy. My cum dripped down her thighs.

I was aghast. How could I do this to Becky?

"No ... no ... no ... I've got to find Becky!"

I pushed her away as she tried to unzip me.

She gave me an evil look then laughed.

"I think Todd is consoling her now."

"What?"

Todd was the backup quarterback. I thought we were friends. He wasn't a natural but I worked hard with him to hone his skills in case I was ever injured, but I was lucky and coach knew I was his key to the team's success. I never thought Todd might be jealous. Maybe he was just being a good guy and talking to Becky. Something was very wrong about this whole situation. I could feel it in my clenched gut and even in my fuzzy head. Something was definitely wrong.

I moved down the stairs as if in a fog, pushing my way through the throng asking after Becky, having to shout over the booming music and the boisterous crowd. Eventually I was directed to the kitchen where someone said he had seen a crying Becky going out the side door with Todd. Someone tried to push a beer into my hand, but I pushed outside into the relative calm of the side yard.

In the dark I scanned the line of cars and trucks. Finally I spotted Todd's silver 4-Runner and headed that way.

Even in the darkness I could see two people in the back seat. One looked to be on the other's lap. I had a terrible feeling as I walked up and yanked open the back door.

A wave of nausea hit me as the light came on and I saw Becky, skirt around her waist, riding Todd's cock, eyes closed and moaning...

"Oh ... oh, oh ... ohhhhhhhhhh ... fuck me!"

Startled he looked at me, fear on his face.

"Becky ... what the hell are you doing?" I yelled as I reached into the SUV and roughly pulled her off Todd. At that point he came, spraying cum onto her skirt and legs as I pulled her from the car.

She looked at me for a few moments, seemingly confused as she leaned against the 4-Runner. Suddenly she snarled,"

"Get away from me you bastard. I'll do what I want ... fuck anyone I want ... just like you ... you don't own me ... you bastard."

Then she said those final words, the last words, I ever heard from Becky.

"I never want to see you again!"

Todd got out the door on the other side and had come around the back of his SUV. He looked a little apprehensive; knowing my six-two, one hundred ninety pounds could kick his ass in a moment. When I didn't immediately attack him he did something that sealed the fate of my relationship with Becky.

He put his letterman's jacket around her shoulders as she shivered and cried. I had done that hundreds of times before. Sometimes I figured she left home without a jacket or sweater just so we could walk along with her snug and warm in my wool and leather high school jacket.

I now watched her accept that bit of intimacy from another man and maybe that act, more than the fucking, sealed our fate. I unclenched my fists and looked at Becky for the last time and slowly walked away, my life in tatters, tears running down my cheeks.

As I walked I tried to figure out what had happened. We had been so happy that night and had gone to the party together in love and now there was nothing but a big hole where my heart used to be. I had screwed up royally. I had destroyed our relationship. I had fucked Lisa and with that moment of weakness I had lost Becky. I kept seeing the hatred in her eyes as she said she never wanted to see me again. I walked through the silent small town darkness and finally found myself at my front door, with no recollection of how I got there.

I didn't sleep much that night and eventually I heard my mother calling me for breakfast. I took a quick shower and headed downstairs, my head throbbed. I swore I'd never drink again. Everything looked so normal. It was a typical June sunny Saturday morning with the family gathered around the big oak kitchen table. My father hardly looked up from his paper; my sixteen year-old sister, Taylor was dressed for shopping with her girlfriends, and my mother at the stove. The kitchen smelled of my favorite smells, frying bacon, homemade grits, scrambled eggs, warm maple syrup, and stacks of griddle cakes. This morning those smells only made me queasy.

I sat, hoping no one would talk to me, but my mother noticed right away something was wrong as she put the plate of steaming food in front of me. I just sat and stared at the food my stomach clenched in pain.

"What's the matter honey?"

Just then my father spoke with a laugh.

"Bret, you look like you were rode hard and put up wet. Little too much medicine at the graduation party last night?"

My mother sensed something more and stood next to me her arm on my shoulder, looking at me with concern.

"Becky and I..." Even my sister stopped her chatter on her cell phone.

"Becky and I broke up last night."

My mother hugged me and said,

"Oh no ... I'm so sorry Bret ... so sorry..."

She started to say something more, but my father interrupted her and started the conversation that ended our relationship.

"Son ... maybe it's for the best..."

I jerked my head up, but he was oblivious to my pain. My mother's hand tightened on my shoulder. My father ploughed on.

"Bret ... she, like most women, is a distraction at this time in your life. You've got football camp starting next week and in the next few weeks there are some scouts who want to look at you. Football is your future son ... right now you need to focus on one thing and that's to secure a spot on the list of "A" football schools. Your whole future depends on it. For you to get a shot at the pros you really have to buckle down and not be distracted by some little..."

"I'm done with football."

I just blurted it out. Somehow I had gotten the courage to tell my father what I thought.

"What the hell are you talking about?"

"Carl..." my mother tried to interject.

His eyes blazed. I could tell it was his future I was talking about ... his son the football star. He was the president of a small bank in a small town in Georgia but he wanted more. Did he think I was going to rescue him from obscurity?

"I decided I'm gong to take a year off ... get a job ... maybe travel."

He looked so furious he couldn't speak.

"I'm tired to death of football ... I don't love it like you do ... I don't want to end up some washed up football player trying to live his life through his son."

I knew I had wounded him. Dad had played ball in college and played semi-pro for a couple of years before a knee injury forced him out. I was immediately sorry, but I was so confused and hurt from the events of last night that I lashed without thought of the consequences. I had never been disrespectful to my father, but I couldn't bring myself to apologize.

My mother stood next to the table between us, tears streaming. My sister just closed her phone and gaped.

My father, visibly shaken, struggled for control. He had never hit me but I knew it was a close thing that day.

"Well then ... if that's what you want ... then here are the ground rules ... until you get your head out of your ass..."

I head my mother gasp. My father never spoke to her or anyone in the tone he was using.

"You will not live in this house."

My mother covered her face with her hands,

"You will make your own way, no free ride here, and don't even think about taking your truck ... my name's on the title. You're eighteen and I'm telling you you're officially emancipated from this house."

I didn't say anything. I had no idea that he would respond this way, but I had pushed him right over a cliff. I was not about to apologize.

"I think you should go upstairs and think about all of this and we can discuss it this evening."

He got up from the table. I knew he was off to his Saturday eighteen holes with his buddies at the Douglas Golf and Country Club.

Quietly I said,

"I've already decided."

My mother looked on in fear, the tears tracking her cheeks.

I pulled the keys to my beautiful black F-150 out of the pocket of my jeans and quietly laid them on the table. The key ring held my house key also. There was also a silly little Shamrock good luck charm that Becky gave me. During football season I wore it around my neck.

"The truck's at Lisa Banning's house."

I turned and walked out of the kitchen. I think everyone was so stunned they couldn't move.

Grabbing my high school letter jacket off the peg on the hall tree by the front door I walked out, closing the door quietly behind me.

As it closed, I head my mother call out to me and my father say,

"Don't worry ... he'll be back once he gets hungry." He tried to make a joke of it but I noticed he didn't sound all that confident, just angry.

I stood on the porch and felt liberated and scared, but I was determined to never set foot in my parent's house again. Looking at the jacket in my hand I thought about all the times Becky had worn it and I knew if I held it to my nose I could smell her perfume. Thinking about her wearing Todd's jacket, I realized how much I had screwed up and how it was time for me to leave Douglas Georgia. I looked at the jacket for a few more seconds and then walked to the front porch swing where Becky and I had spent so much time planning our future. I set the jacket on the green cushions and pushed the swing just a bit. I turned and walked away.

I had twenty three dollars in my wallet as I headed up to the main highway, determined to leave the town of my birth and I vowed I'd never come back.

A couple of hours later I was picked up by a trucker on his way to Atlanta.

He was an affable guy but he picked up on my problem right away.

"So woman trouble ... or considering a big guy like you ... women trouble?"

I told him about Becky and Lisa and how I walked out. We drove in silence for awhile.

"Look, I'm hardly one to talk ... been married three times ... but I think everyone needs to cool down a bit. Give it a couple of days and call them. I expect you all over reacted. Don't make the mistake I did and cut them off. They surely love you."

I heard his words but the feelings of disgust with myself and anger at what happened with Becky, and with my father overwhelmed any semblance of common sense. He dropped me at a truck stop just north of Atlanta, near Decatur and he handed me a twenty.

"I don't know how far that will get you kid, but take my advice at least call them in a couple of days and let them know you're all right."

He shook my hand and drove off into the night.

I sat at the counter at the truck stop and finished my burger and fries. I never had headaches but the fuzziness was still with me and the ache was there in the back of my skull. No more drinking.

It was after ten p.m. as I sat there mulling over my life and my failure with Becky. Eventually I noticed a young Marine officer a couple of stools down from me. My cousin Pete had joined the Marines the year before and was in Iraq. I remembered admiring his uniform when he came home on leave before his deployment. I also admired his new found confidence. Maybe I could join up. My father said I was emancipated.

"Have you been to Iraq?"

He surveyed me in the mirror behind the counter with calm dark eyes. I noticed a deep scar on the side of his face.

"Yes, and on my way back in a couple of weeks. Why? Thinking about joining up?" He smiled.

"Maybe..."

He was easy to talk to as he recounted his experiences in the Marines. He was a ROTC graduate of Indiana University, and had been in the Corps three years. I was amazed he was only twenty-five. It wasn't that he looked older, it was just the way he carried himself. I knew lots of twenty-five year olds back home and they were still struggling to grow up. Most acted like they were still in high school.

His name was Dan Logan and he had just finished Jump School at Fort Benning in Columbus Georgia. He was heading home to his parent's farm outside Indianapolis for two week's leave before heading back to duty as an infantry company executive officer in Iraq.

I told him I had left home and was heading out to see the world.

"Ever been to Indianapolis?"

"No."

"Look, it's about 550 miles to my folks farm near Danville ... that's about twenty miles west of Indianapolis and it's just too far for me to try to drive tonight. I'm just too tired and thought I'd get a room, but with two drivers we ought to make it in about eight or nine hours ... Interested?"

I looked at him thinking this was a golden opportunity to put maximum distance from Becky and my trouble at home. I frowned ... I needed to readjust my thinking ... I no longer had a home. I was on my own. It was a pretty sobering thought for someone eighteen who was used to a stable family life in a small town.

Dan took my pause for reluctance.

"I'll pay for the meals ... it would mean a lot to me to be able to get home a day early ... plus my mom's a fabulous cook."

I agreed and true to his word he paid for my dinner and we set off for his home. He had a new Chevy truck; he bought at a dealer just outside of Fort Benning. His dad would keep it for him while he was gone. I told him I was a Ford guy and told him about the beautiful F-150 I left behind. He laughed and said that his family had always had Chevys and he wasn't about to change that!

Over the next eight and a half hours we talked about life and loves and the future. After Dan left for his first tour of Iraq, his college girlfriend met and married a lawyer from Chicago. He said he didn't blame her because he was gone so much and pretty much decided the Corps was his home for at least the foreseeable future. I could tell though that she had deeply hurt him. There had been no steady girlfriend since.

I drove most of the night, fueled by memories and caffeine. The truck was surprisingly comfortable but I decided I wouldn't trade it for my F-150. Well that was my former F-150. I hoped my sister would get it. I knew she loved that truck and would take good care of it and I vowed to buy my own truck someday soon.

Early on Sunday we arrived at Dan's family home. It was a Victorian style farm house that didn't look a lot different from where I grew up, except the drive was a lot longer up to the house which was almost hidden in a grove of poplars amidst several hundred acres of corn.

It was a bright June morning with the promise of lots of heat later in the day — just perfect for growing corn.

Dan's parents, Dan Senior and Ellen, welcomed me without reservation. Dan was a big man, maybe six four, two-hundred twenty five pounds, walking with a cane. Ellen was a pretty brunette who looked younger than her forty odd years. Dan Junior was right about Ellen's cooking. We ate a giant breakfast at their big kitchen table and we laughed over stories of Dan and his younger brother Dave growing up on the farm. Dave was off at school at Purdue, just an hour or so north in West Lafayette. We lazed the day away and then after dinner adjourned to the porch chairs as the evening light faded into the soft glow that typified a mid-America summer. That night I went to sleep with the sound of peepers from the nearby pond in my ears, and slept very well. Maybe the farther away I could get from Douglas, the easier it would be.

For the next several weeks I was a welcome guest. Dan Senior was recovering from knee surgery so we pitched in. Dan and I worked the farm from dawn to dusk. We mucked out clogged culverts, sometimes thigh deep in water, repaired machinery, filled potholes on the farm roads, and spent time repainting the barn and the house, and shoring up the two huge unused silos after spending days repairing the roofs. If there was a job that had been delayed because of Dan Senior's surgery we got it and I found that we were a great team. Ellen treated me like a son. I think she caught the sadness in my eyes during some unguarded moments, but she didn't say anything. She just tried to accept my explanation that I had left home to be on my own for awhile. She must have known there was a problem since I never made an attempt to contact my family.

Near the end of the first week, while Dan and I were replacing shingles on the porch of the house, we watched a dusty green Jeep Wrangler drive up. Two gorgeous redheads climbed out.

I heard Dan mutter, "oh oh."

I looked at him. "What's up?"

"O'Brien sisters."

"Oh" was all I said, as if I understood.

"Hi Dan ... I heard a rumor you were home ... why didn't you call?" One of them called up to him.

That was said by the slightly taller of the two. It was obvious they were sisters, and they were striking - tall, nice tits under similar tight pink tank tops, tight jeans showing off fabulous legs, and oh that red hair, pulled back in a pony tail and hanging straight down the middle of their backs.

I felt a stirring I had thought would never return.

Dan just smiled and started down the ladder that we had leaned against the porch.

He looked at me.

"Come on down ... might as well meet the O'Brien's."

As soon as Dan got to the ground, the one who had spoken ran to him and wrapped her arms and legs around him and planted a kiss on him that would have rocked me to my toes. Dan seemed to struggle a bit but finally admitted defeat under the powerful onslaught of this most determined woman.

I stood and watched and smiled.

As I tuned to the other O'Brien sister I caught her look of appraisal. Dan and I had been working on the roof wearing only shorts and work boots. We were both in good shape and were pretty well tanned.

Appraisal was hardly the word. I felt like a prize bull at auction. She looked me over with intense violet eyes that held more than a promise of sensuality.

Dan and sister number one came up for air after a minute or so, both breathing heavily. I tried hard not to stare at her hard nipples that threatened to poke right through her top.

She reluctantly broke the embrace but still stood very close and held his arm as if afraid he'd disappear if she let go.

"Bret ... I'd like you to meet the O'Brien sisters. The one here who has obviously lost any sense of propriety is Erin, and one looking at you like you're an ice cream cone on a hot day is Kendra.

Kendra blushed as I shook her hand. Erin just nodded and returned her attention to Dan. It was obvious that she was smitten. I didn't know if that feeling was reciprocated by Dan. I thought he had been hurt a lot worse than he let on by his ex-girlfriend and was keeping all women at bay.

"What do we owe the pleasure of a visit from the O'Brien sisters?"

That comment elicited a frown from Erin.

"We heard you were home and wanted to just drop by — and being neighborly we packed a picnic lunch ... if of course you can get free of those slave-drivers you call parents.

I looked up and saw Ellen on the porch. She smiled and somehow I thought she might have had a hand in the arrival of the O'Brien's.

"This is Indiana ... we never did embrace that slavery nonsense, so you boys go ahead. Probably ought to put some shirts on though ... sun's kind of strong today. I heard her laugh as she turned around and walked back into the house. For being in her forties Ellen Logan sure could fill out a pair of Jeans. Kendra caught me looking but I just stared her down.

"Well how about we go down to Boone's creek?" I heard Erin say.

Dan nodded and I went to the porch and picked up our T-shirts. Dan ended up next to Erin, riding shotgun and I was wedged into the back of the open-topped Wrangler with Kendra. She smelled wonderful.

Erin kept up the nervous chatter all the way to the picnic spot, which was a picturesque grass covered stream bank shaded by giant Poplars and consisting of a large pond from the damned waters of the creek.

The picnic was a feast. Dan and Erin ended up on a blanket about twenty feet away. Erin was laying half on Dan and they were having a whispered conversation, punctuated by some very intense kissing.

I found out that Kendra was nineteen and was starting her second year at Indiana University in the fall. Her sister was twenty-two had just graduated from Indiana. Erin had come home after graduation to spend a few weeks before taking a job in Indianapolis.

Kendra didn't seem very impressed that I had decided to take some time off before going back to school. She was even less impressed that I had been the quarterback of my high school football team. Actually I liked that about her.

She was pretty focused and planned to be a litigation attorney. She said she really enjoyed my accent though. I told her I enjoyed hers' too.

"What accent? I don't have an accent." She said in what I believe is called "American Midwest Standard", or some such. It's the sound you hear from TV news readers across America.

"Well ... in my neighborhood you'd be tagged as a "Yankee" as soon as you opened your mouth!"

We both laughed

Eventually she relaxed, finding out, like me that we had no expectations from this impromptu "date" and we spent an enjoyable couple of hours just relaxing and getting to know each other. She told me later that when she first heard me speak she thought I was one of those "misogynistic beer-swilling, NASCAR watching crackers" from the Deep South. I had to look up "misogynistic" but I got her drift.

She was relieved to discover that I appeared to be perfectly normal "except for that dreadful accent." I never admitted I was a NASCAR fan though.

As we counted down the remaining days to Dan's departure for Iraq, we saw a lot of the O'Brien sisters, although it seemed Dan and Erin would often disappear for long periods of time. Actually that was fine with me. I really liked being with Kendra. She was smart and funny and a knockout — all the things a man could want in a woman. In fact all the things I admired in Becky. I tried to keep those thoughts under wraps.

The night before Dan was to leave for Iraq; Ellen prepared a goodbye feast of all of Dan's favorites. There was steak from the grill, baked potatoes; fresh salad from the garden and loaves of Ellen's freshly made whole wheat bread. Dessert was peach pie and home made ice cream. Dan's brother even drove down for the sendoff.

The problem was that Dan and Erin were not to be found. Kendra had joined us as we sat on the porch waiting. She had an enigmatic smile but refused to let me in on her secret. About that time we heard Dan's truck pull up. He and Erin walked across the gravel drive looking flushed and laughing. They stopped as they saw us all sitting there. Erin just looked at Dan junior and put her left hand over her mouth and giggled.

Ellen spotted the ring before the rest of us. She jumped up and hugged Erin tears in her eyes.

"Congratulations you two!"

Still hugging Erin, she said to Dan.

"It's about time!"

We all jumped up and congratulated them in turn. Dan Senior looked a little baffled. What had Ellen known that he didn't?

There were many toasts at dinner and lots of smiles and laughter, and good natured comments from the women about "men being so clueless".

During a break before dessert I stood with Dan on the porch.

He looked into the star-filled sky and said.

"Certainly surprised me ... I guess I'd been in love with Erin for a long time. She told me that she had waited for me long enough — she said she had been in love with me ever since she was a freshman in high school and I was a senior. She had been heartbroken when I got engaged to Jennifer, but she said she knew it wouldn't last. I guess she's always been my woman ... and you know what Bret ... I'm glad she waited."

I stared into the night sky, wondering if I'd find such a woman one day. I thought I had one, but I'd screwed up and lost her. I hoped I'd do better next time.

He slapped me on my shoulder and said, "One thing's for sure ... mom knew all the time!"

We laughed and headed back inside.

Dan left the next day, secure in the knowledge that Erin would be waiting when he got home and she would follow him wherever his career would take him. He was one lucky man. Erin joked; this way she and Ellen would have a year to plan the wedding without his interference!

Dan Senior and Ellen invited me to stay on for whatever time I wanted. I gratefully accepted. Dan left his prized new truck in my care. Maybe I could become a Chevy guy after all. I promised to treat it as my own and wash it weekly.

He shook my hand as he and Erin got ready to leave for the airport.

"Take care Bret. I hope you find what you're looking for."

As the summer progressed Kendra and I became an item. Actually we became friends before the physical consummation of our relationship. We enjoyed each others bodies and there was a great deal of affection between us, and Erin and Ellen seemed to approve, as did Kendra's family.

I continued to work on the farm, this time side by side with Dan Senior. He was just an older version of Dan Junior, with a quick wit and a well developed sense of humor. He and Ellen were perfectly matched and they represented to me the common sense values that have defined our country for a long time — love of family, and love of country.

Dan insisted on paying me. I resisted but eventually we settled on one-hundred dollars a week.

"Bret, you're worth more than that though ... you work like a demon. I just wish I had half you energy."

"Dan, you and Ellen took me in ... and treat me like a son ... I'm happy to work with you, plus I'm afraid I'll eat you out of house and home ... so I've got to earn my keep!"

We laughed.

That was the way it was through the harvest in the early fall. I drove Erin to Indianapolis to start school. We didn't make any promises but vowed to remain friends and keep in touch.

A couple of weeks later I overheard an interesting conversation that changed my life again.

It was a Tuesday night and I had gone up to my room in the back of the big house. I was thirsty and came back down to the kitchen to get a glass of water and as I walked out of the kitchen I heard voices from the living room. Dan said,

"I ran into Terry Frank today in town.

"Oh ... how's he doing?

"Just fine ... he's loving his job and little Agatha is going to be two next week. Caroline got a part time job at the new clinic."

"I need to call tem ... invite them out for supper."

"Anyway", Dan said. "He was asking about Bret."

"Oh?"

He said that one of the other deputies was going through some back missing person's files they were going to throw out when he spotted Bret's picture."

"Bret missing? I don't understand ... I thought..."

"Well the upshot of the conversation ... was that Terry called the sheriff of Douglas County Georgia and they had quite a talk about Bret."

"He's not in trouble is he?"

"No but what Bret didn't tell us was that he walked out of his parent's house one Saturday morning in June with just the clothes on his back and disappeared."

There was silence as Ellen digested the news. Finally she said,

"I wondered about his lack of clothes or luggage. I just figured he had a horrible home life and decided to leave since he was eighteen and had graduated."

"On the contrary ... he has a close-knit family who have been frantic with worry about him for the last four months. His father is the president of the local bank and Bret was quite the student and the captain of the football team. Actually the whole town has been worried. Groups of townsfolk scoured the fields and ponds all around Douglas worried he'd been hurt or kidnapped. They even considered dragging the lake down there."

"Did Terry find out why Bret left?"

"He wasn't quite sure but apparently it involved a breakup with his longtime girl, followed by an argument with his father. That's all the Douglas County guy said..."

"It must have seemed pretty serious for him just to leave like that."

"Well ... I remember when I was eighteen ... lot of stuff seemed pretty serious ... but ... well ... we all seem to get through them. It's too bad he caused so much concern."

"I think we need to contact Bret's parents ... they must be worried sick."

"Ellen, I know that the sheriff down there will certainly contact his folks right away to let them know he's safe ... but I thought that perhaps over breakfast we could talk to Bret and ask him to at least call his parents and let them know he's all right. I wouldn't be surprised if his parents show up on our doorstep sometime tomorrow — that's what I'd do."

There was silence before Ellen spoke.

"You're right Dan. We do need to talk to him. I can't imagine what his parent's must be going through — I worry about Dan being in Iraq but at least I know where he is. It must be a nightmare for them. Should we call them?"

"I think we have to if Bret doesn't."

"I hope they don't think we're horrible for not asking him more about his past."

"No Ellen, I think they'll be grateful that we took him in and gave him a place."

"Do you think he'll go back to Georgia?"

"Good question ... he's over eighteen so nobody can make him. I wonder what was so bad about the breakup with the girlfriend that he decided to leave like that. He seems like such a level-headed kid."

"If he goes ... we'll certainly miss him ... he's been such a help around here ... and it's kept this place from being an empty nest."

She said that last sentence with a catch in her voice.

I headed back upstairs, confused and uncertain about my future.

My parents coming here? Why couldn't they just leave me alone? I was happy here.

The town sending out search parties? Dragging the lake? I was embarrassed. I hadn't thought about any of that when I took off. Now I knew I couldn't go home. Before, it was the shame of running into Todd and Becky, the anger at my father, but now I knew I couldn't face the shame and embarrassment back in Douglas. I'd never hear the end of it.

I could imagine the talk at Sid's barber shop.

"Did you here that stupid Dawson boy finally showed up ... yeah he's somewhere up in Indiana on a farm. Ever hear of such a thing ... and with his Mama grieving all the time. Boy must have taken a few too many hits on the field ... couldn't even drop a line he was okay. And gave up those football scholarships and just took off. He must be dumber than he looked"

Followed by laughter all around.

I grabbed my large backpack and started packing, my face red with shame and embarrassment.

I had saved most of the money over the summer and I wondered how far I could go. It pained me to leave Dan and Ellen. I vowed to be back.

I sat at Dan Junior's computer and I wrote them a long letter, thanking them for taking me in and for all the love they had showed me. I said I would be in touch as soon as I got settled but that I couldn't face my parents right now, and I was going to make it on my own and that I would always remember their kindness and I hoped someday to be able to repay them.

I dashed off a quick email to Kendra and to Dan Junior.

Finally I took one last look around at the wonderful warm bedroom they had provided and quietly slipped out of the now silent house, leaving the letter on the kitchen table.

Once again I was on my own, walking down the road on a soft warm Indiana autumn night.

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Story tagged with:
Ma/Fa / Consensual / Heterosexual /