His True Home (Gay Romance) - Trina Solet - ebook
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A little boy named Teddy stands on the side of the road. He's all alone and needs a home. Tired of partying, Alec wants a real life. Cory wants what he never had, a real family. Have they all found what they need in each other? Alec has retreated to his childhood home after a life of too much fun. When a little boy is abandoned on the road leading to Alec's home town of Seaview Pines, Alec is the one who ends up taking care of him. Now Cory is on his way to join them. He was abandoned by his mother as well and wants to give Teddy, his little brother, the family he never had. As they spend time together, it's up to Cory to draw out the silent little boy. He also has to convince Alec that his home town isn't just a temporary refuge. It's where all three of them belong.

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His True Home (Gay Romance)

By Trina Solet

Copyright © 2014 by Trina Solet

All rights reserved.

No part of this publication may be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the author except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

This is a work of fiction. All names, characters, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, locales or actual events is entirely coincidental.

All sexual activity takes place between persons eighteen years of age or older.

This novel contains material intended for mature readers.

Cover image is only for illustrative purposes. Any person depicted is a model.

His True Home

Gay Romance

Trina Solet

Chapter 1

The little boy stood alone by the side of the road. In his hand, he clutched a model of a yellow cab with its doors glued shut. There was nowhere for several miles that he might have come from. The nearest place was the gas station five miles back.

The boy's blond hair was ruffled like someone had just woken him up and he had sleepily gotten out of bed. His sneakers were in bad shape and one was untied. Next to him was a shopping bag full of his clothes, all of them unwashed. The shopping bag was sitting on the ground as if it had nothing to do with him. When a car sped by, a gust of wind overturned it. It stayed like that, unnoticed, while the child followed the car with his eyes. That car didn't stop, but later on a truck did. At first the old, sky-blue truck went by like it wouldn't stop either. Then, as the boy watched, it slowed down and circled back. It kicked up dirt as it drove off the road to make the turn. The truck came to a stop right next to the boy and its passenger door opened.

*

The bus was moving down a two lane road surrounded by green fields that seemed to shimmer in the sun. With nothing much to see, many of the passengers slept. Looking out the smudged bus window, a young man felt restless, not sleepy. He was slim with dirty-blond hair and expressive hazel eyes. If anyone asked him his name, he would say Cory Bledsoe. But always, somewhere in the back of his mind, there was a voice. It said, "Liar, you don't even know your name." Along with that accusing voice there was also a hope that one day he might find out what his name was.

Weeks ago, his old case worker from social services had called him. That's when Cory found out something even more important than his name.

"Do you ever remember playing with a toy car, a yellow taxi?" Mrs. Fitzgerald asked him.

Cory had played with lots of toy cars. He couldn't remember that one in particular. He couldn't imagine why she would ask. That's when she told him that there might be a connection between him and another abandoned child. A DNA test proved it. Cory was stunned into silence when he heard the news. A brother. He had a little brother. There was another nameless boy out there, alone and probably scared. Except he wasn't alone. That little boy had a big brother named Cory. That's why Cory was on a bus headed to a small town two states away.

Cory's little brother had been left by the side of the road leading to Seaview Pines, a small town a few hours drive from the ocean. Cory had stared at it on the map, determined to go there. Now he was on his way so he could make sure that his brother wouldn't grow up the way he did – always waiting for someone who never came back for him.

Sixteen years ago, Cory was found hungry and crying in a filthy, empty apartment. No one ever came back to claim him, and he grew up in the system until he was eighteen. For the last year, Cory had been alone, with no family, and few friends. Currently he didn't even have a job. Finding a job had been his main concern until he got that phone call. Now all he could think about was the fact that he wasn't alone in the world. Cory was going to show his little brother that he wasn't alone either.

As he stared at the countryside through the bus window, Cory wondered if he was passing the spot where his little brother had been left. He wasn't even sure that the road the bus was taking was the same one. He still couldn't help picturing his little brother standing there, helpless, at the mercy of anyone who happened to pass by. He wanted to take him by the hand, tell him it was OK, and that he now had a big brother to keep him safe.

Only two other passengers got off the bus when it stopped in Seaview Pines. They walked away quickly. Unlike Cory, they knew where they were going. Cory was left to stare around uncertainly, not sure which way to go. He was originally supposed to go to the Town Hall. While on the bus, he got a text telling him to go straight to the mayor's house. "Anyone can tell you where it is," the text said. That wasn't as good as an address though.

Looking up and down the street, Cory could see a dozen buildings each way. The bus had stopped right in front of the tiny post office. Across the street was the sheriff's office and next to it a diner. There were a few people inside the diner but not many on the street. Cory saw a toothless old man smiling at him from the bench under the awning of the post office. Since he was the only person nearby, Cory approached him.

"I'm looking for the mayor's house," Cory said to the man.

The old man mumbled then raised a finger. Next he took something wrapped in a handkerchief out of his pocket. He unwrapped a set of dentures and popped them into his mouth.

"I talk better with my teeth in. You want the Snowfield House. That's right outside of town that way." He pointed the way. "The mailbox will say Honorable Mayor Miriam Benchley."

"Thank you," Cory said. As he headed in that direction, he saw the old man removing his dentures and putting them away.

Walking past small shops and a few empty storefronts, Cory made his way out of town. If it wasn't for the duffel bag he carried, it would have been a pleasant stroll after sitting on the bus for so many hours. The houses he passed were far apart, leaving plenty of room for trees and shrubs to grow wild. Further from the road, he could see fields that had been plowed and had crops growing in rows as well as some that were green or spotted with flowers. Just as he got worried that he was going the wrong way or had missed the mayor's house, he saw the mailbox with the mayor's name.

Set back from the road, at the end of a curving driveway, there was a one story, light blue house surrounded by an unpainted picket fence. Inside the fence was a vegetable garden. Behind the house was a field and further on some woods. Cory followed the driveway, which had two walkways splitting off from it. One went to a small door on the side of the house. The main walkway led Cory to the front door.

Cory found that he had to take several deep breaths before he could bring himself to knock. It didn't help, but he couldn't wait for his nerves to settle. He knocked. No one came to the door at first, but he could hear a man's voice inside. When the door opened, Cory found himself faced with a dark haired guy in his mid twenties. He wore jeans and a paint stained, navy t-shirt. If Cory wasn't already a nervous wreck, this guy would have taken his breath away. He was tall with a strong physique. He had beautiful blue eyes and a wide mouth on the verge of a seductive smile. His piercing eyes looked at Cory questioningly, pinning him in place and confusing him a little. But Cory couldn't let this incredibly attractive man distract him.

"I'm Cory Bledsoe. I'm here to see my brother," he said.

The guy looked surprised, but contrary to that, he said, "We were expecting you. Come in."

"We?"

"I'm Alec Benchley. My mother said you were coming. This is her house."

"The mayor."

"Right. Come in," Alec told him. "You can drop your bag right there." He gestured to a corner.

"And where is my brother?" Cory asked impatiently.

"On the back porch," Alec said as he led the way. "We're calling him Teddy."

"Why Teddy?" Cory asked as he followed him down a hallway covered with paintings and family photos, most of the photos were black and white or faded.

"Because it's better than 'hey, little boy.'"

"So he hasn't told you his name? He still isn't speaking?" Cory had been told about that, but he hoped it wouldn't last.

"Not so far, but he will," Alec said with easy confidence. "There is no medical reason for him not to speak. He's just not ready yet."

Instead of the porch, Cory found himself in the kitchen. The cabinets were painted white but looked like they should have been repainted a while ago. The countertops were some kind of gray stone. The kitchen was pretty messy, and someone had forgotten to close the bread bag. Alec handed Cory a bottle of water from the fridge without asking if he wanted it. By the way Alec leaned on the stove, Cory could tell that he wanted to have a little talk before taking him to meet his little brother.

"I'm not sure how much you know so I'll tell you some of it. He was found five and a half miles out of town on the side of the road with a bag of clothes at his feet and a ten dollar bill tucked into his pocket. He hasn't spoken one word since then. The fingerprints found on his stuff don't match any on record. He doesn't match up with any of the kids who have been reported missing. There's no sign of abuse or injury, but he was a little malnourished."

"That doesn't sound like he was kidnapped," Cory said. His social worker told him the police were looking into that possibility.

"With that bag of his stuff, probably not," Alec said. "The police think it was most likely a parent at the end of his or her rope."

Cory had nothing to say to that. Many times he had tried to imagine the circumstances that would excuse the way he was abandoned in that apartment sixteen years ago. Sometimes they were outlandish and childish, sending his parents on some dangerous adventure, threatened, kidnapped, forced to leave him behind. Other times he could only see indistinct faces turning away. He heard muffled voices making some sort of half-hearted apology before leaving. To think that his little brother had to suffer the same fate broke his heart all over again. Except this time, Cory wasn't the little, helpless boy left at the mercy of strangers. He was family coming to claim the abandoned child, here to say, "You are not alone. You have me."

"Can I see him now?" Cory asked, feeling like he couldn't wait another second.

Alec nodded and took him through a sitting room toward the back of the house. Glass doors opened to a big, shaded porch. A wooden table was on one side with two wicker chairs on the other. The wooden table was sturdy but well worn. Its surface was covered with papers and crayons. That's where a little boy was sitting in a straight-backed chair with two extra cushions to prop him up. He was around five years old. Hunched over, he was busy drawing.

Cory held his breath. Suddenly he was more afraid than he could ever remember being. For a while he just stared through the door as the boy continued to draw. He was so focused on what he was doing that Cory couldn't bear to disturb him.

Since the boy was facing away from them, Cory couldn't really see much of him. He was small and blond and his hair was a little too long. When he heard Alec step out onto the porch, the kid raised his head but didn't turn around.

"Hey, Teddy," Alec said. "Remember how I told you someone was coming to visit you. This is him. His name is Cory." Alec then addressed himself to Cory. "Cory, that's Teddy. He isn't the most talkative kid, but he is good with crayons." While Alec spoke, the little boy remained turned away from them.

"Hi, Teddy," Cory said in the friendliest voice he could manage. He was shaking with emotion, but he kept his voice steady.

"Cory crossed a few states to get here. He'll be staying with us for a while just like you," Alec told Teddy.

Cory looked at Alec with surprise. He hadn't known where he would stay. All he knew was that he wanted to be as close as possible to his brother. Staying in the same house with him was more than he hoped for.

Since Teddy didn't move or acknowledge either of them, Alec motioned Cory back inside. Before leaving Teddy, Alec told him, "We'll let you get back to your drawing. You and Cory will see each other again soon."

Cory waited until they stepped back inside to speak.

"Are you sure it's OK if I stay here?" he asked Alec.

"Where else? There's no motel nearby if that's what you were thinking. You want to get to know Teddy, don't you? This is the best way," Alec said.

Cory frowned but he couldn't really object. It was nice of them to let him stay there, but he felt weird about it especially with Alec being so hot.

"Grab your bag," Alec told him as he went back to the porch where Teddy was still drawing. Once again Teddy straightened but didn't turn to look at him.

"Hey, Teddy. Cory is going to be staying in the small bedroom, the one with the bird pictures. You can help me out and show him to his room. OK?"

Cory smiled at Alec who was obviously just trying to engage Teddy and bring him together with Cory. Teddy didn't respond, but he stood up and came over to stand in front of Cory in the hallway.

"You're in capable hands," Alec said to Cory and went off to sit in what looked like a den. He opened up a laptop and pretended to ignore the two of them.

Teddy simply waited in front of Cory. This was Cory's first close look at his little brother so he took a moment to memorize him. He looked so small. His hair was kind of shaggy. His mouth clamped shut. He had blue eyes, which were averted, looking down at the floor instead of at Cory. Though he wouldn't raise his eyes, he seemed alert and not afraid.

"You lead the way," Cory told him.

Teddy went back up the hallway and Cory trailed after him, familiarizing himself with the layout. Seeing that Cory didn't move as fast as he expected, Teddy looked a little impatient. The hallway went from the sitting room that led to the back porch on one end to the front door on the other. The den, where Alec was sitting, was the first door to the left. Cory remembered that the kitchen was further on the right. Down the hall were four bedrooms, all of them with their doors open. One of them was clearly Alec's mother's. He could see a woman's robe thrown on the unmade bed and woman's shoes and clothes lying around. Another bedroom had to be Alec's. It was even messier with jeans all over. The open closet doors showed shirts, pants and a few suits on hangers. The mess was on the bottom where shoes were all jumbled together. There was a pile of clothes on a chair, possibly clean, and an overstuffed hamper in the corner. A desk was covered with papers, some of them crumpled. Next to it, a wastebasket overflowed. His bed was also unmade. The extremely disarranged state of the sheets made Cory wonder about how they got that way. Shaking off those unseemly thoughts, he focused on the next bedroom. It was also occupied, or at least half occupied.

"That's your stuff, right?" he said to Teddy.

The boy didn't answer, but the answer was obvious. There were two twin beds in the room. One was only roughly made up like it had been slept in the night before. It had a pair of kid's pajamas draped over the headboard. The other one was neatly made but covered in drawings. Other drawings had been put up on the wall with tape. They were drawings of trees mostly, but when he looked closer, Cory saw there were either tree-houses or birdhouses in some of the trees. The scale was iffy so he wasn't sure.

"They are good drawings," he said to Teddy. "They make me smile."

For a second, Teddy looked at him then looked down again. He hurried off to show Cory his room. It was the smallest room so far. Only a bed and a dresser fit in it. Cory didn't mind at all. All he cared about was that Teddy was right down the hall.

As soon as he walked in, Cory noticed that the walls were covered with sketches and paintings of birds. A bird call outside drew Cory's eye to the small, high window. All it showed him were treetops and sky. It made him wonder if the room was once a storage room or something. As Cory stared out the window, Teddy looked closely at the paintings of birds. It was as if he was studying them.

"Can you draw a bird?" Cory asked him.

Teddy didn't answer or even shake his head or nod.

"You don't have to answer. Just draw me a picture of one," Cory said.

Teddy looked up at him in surprise, and Cory smiled at him.

"No pressure," Cory said.

Alec showed up in the doorway just then.

"Sorry the room is so small," he said to Cory.

"It's fine. But it could use a few more pictures of birds. Teddy will take care of that," Cory said.

Teddy got a funny look on his face, and Alec grinned at both him and Cory.

"This was my aunt's room when she was a little girl," Alec told them. "She loved birds so my dad drew and painted them for her. On these walls you can see every kind of bird that's found around here."

"Impressive," Cory said and looked at Teddy, who agreed wordlessly. He seemed less withdrawn than he was at first.

"Let's take Cory to lunch and show him the town," Alec said to Teddy.

There was a less hesitant look on Teddy's face when Alec spoke to him. It was natural that he felt more at ease with Alec since he had only just met Cory. Cory still felt a little jealous. He hoped that as they spent time together, Teddy would come to trust him.

They all headed to the front door together, but Alec went back in. As he stood with Cory in front of the house, waiting for him, Teddy looked kind of fidgety.

"It's nice out here," Cory said to him. He meant the disorganized garden where he saw some tomatoes turning from green to yellow as well as a few red ones. The picket fence that surrounded it leaned to one side like it might fall over any minute. The road was yards away and free of cars. Instead of traffic, Cory could hear birds chirping. The terrain was pretty flat along the road, which meandered among trees and bushes. Cory had to look pretty far to spot another house.

For Cory it was weird to be in such an isolated spot, kind of disorienting. The closest thing in his experience was living in a suburb, and that was nothing like this place. He wondered what a guy like Alec was doing living out here. He didn't seem the type, plus Cory was pretty sure he was gay. He had seen that familiar flicker in his eyes when they met. Not that he was going to bring it up. For all he knew, Alec wasn't out.

*

Deciding at the last minute that they should take the car, Alec went in search of his car keys. He took the opportunity to change his paint smudged t-shirt too. After he held some of his jeans upside down and shook them, finally his keys fell out. As he grabbed them off the floor, he looked around his room. The mess in there couldn't have made a good impression on Cory. But why the hell did he care? The only people he needed to impress were social workers. That's when Alec went on a cleaning binge and straightened up the house. The fact was, neither Alec nor his mother were very neat and tidy. As his mother was fond of saying, "A clean house is no place to live." That woman was definitely not meant to be a housewife. After being raised by her, Alec also wasn't meant to be a housewife. Except that all of a sudden he was worried about making a good impression on a guy who was still technically a teenager. That's what came of living in the middle of nowhere. A cute guy showed up, and Alec was ready to start cleaning. Damn if Cory's ass wasn't a work of art and so was everything else that went with it.

When he first saw him, Alec had been surprised. It wasn't that he had any particular expectations about Teddy's brother. He only knew his age and background, that he and Teddy shared a similar history. He definitely didn't expect him to be so cute yet unassuming. He had the same focused, self-contained nature as Teddy. Right now he was focused entirely on his little brother. That gave Alec the opportunity to observe him. He noticed the tiny scar on his sharp jaw and imagined licking it. He memorized the exact combination of colors that made up his hazel eyes. He took a mental impression of the shape of his mouth to make sure it would be a perfect fit wrapped around his cock. He planned the angle at which he would paint him, the same angle as the view of him from above as he fucked him with his head hanging off the bed.

Too bad he was off limits. No. Wait. Good thing he was off limits. Alec wasn't here to fool around, especially not with Teddy's brother. Alec couldn't mess with Cory no matter how much he wanted to see how beautiful he would look when Alec made him come.

Chapter 2

Coming down the front steps, Alec spun a set of car keys around on his finger. Cory took in the sight of his long legs, broad chest, and strong arms. Realizing how hungrily he watched him, Cory averted his eyes. As he did, he caught Teddy giving Alec a questioning look. Answering the look, Alec told him, "Today we drive." Turning to Cory, he explained, "We usually walk into town, but you already walked here and had a long bus ride so we'll take the car."

The car was an older Camaro. Its black paint was a little faded as well as dusty. The bottom of it was splattered with mud. Alec pulled the front seat forward so Teddy could climb into the back and into a child's booster seat.

"Child services said I had to get this contraption," Alec said as he buckled Teddy's seat belt.

Sitting in front, next to Alec, Cory became intensely aware of how tall, hard muscled and attractive he was and only inches away. For a second, Cory almost forgot why he was there. He was overwhelmed with the urgent need to run his hands all over Alec, maybe rip his t-shirt off. He came to his senses quickly and remembered the silent, little guy in the back. Teddy was his priority, not trying to seduce some guy who was out of his league.

To Cory, the road to town didn't seem as long now that he wasn't walking it loaded down with his bag. The area appeared less wild and the houses closer together. There were still plenty of open spaces between them, and Cory noticed the wooded areas in the distance.

As he drove, Alec chatted with Teddy but didn't get any sort of reply. Cory turned to look at Teddy. He was staring out the window but got self-conscious when he saw Cory watching him.

"You guys have to show me all the good places around here," Cory told him.

"The first place isn't so great. It's Thompson's Diner. But we like it OK, right?" Alec said.

Teddy's expression was noncommittal.

"As long as they have fries, I'll like it," Cory said to him.

Teddy seemed to agree on the subject of fries. Cory felt almost like they were playing a game. What's Teddy Thinking? His eyes were the biggest clue. Though he was shy, the expression in his eyes was open and untroubled. Looking at him didn't make Cory worry, and he considered that a good sign. Alec's demeanor also reassured him. He was very casual with Teddy. His manner said loud and clear that Teddy was OK. That was a huge relief to Cory. On the ride to Seaview Pines, he had been afraid that the little brother waiting for him might be a tiny bird with broken wings. But his wings weren't broken. Though he might not be ready yet, Teddy seemed whole and just waiting for the right moment to fly.

Cory was getting his second look at the town now as they parked in front of the diner. Most of the buildings were clustered around Main Street. None of them were more than two stories. The Town Hall was the most impressive of them. It had a facade that rose to a clock tower.

"So Main Street, that's a real thing," Cory concluded.

"There are almost as many Main Streets as there are small towns. That used to be Benchley Square," Alec said and pointed at the very center of town where the Town Hall was located. "It was named after one of my ancestors who died in WWI. Then around WWII, they renamed it Hero's Square after all the local heroes who served in different wars. There are plaques that list their names. We read all of them, didn't we?" Alec said, turning to Teddy.

Teddy looked proud of this accomplishment. As Cory looked from one end of town to the other, he wondered what it was like to live here. You couldn't exactly get lost in a place like this. You could walk it from end to end in minutes and get to know it in an hour. The place was all familiarity and no excitement, except for Alec. Cory couldn't imagine how a small town like this could contain a guy like him. On the other hand maybe it wasn't a bad place for a kid like Teddy whose life had too many uncertainties already.

Thompson's Diner fit right into the "nothing to see here" theme of the town. It had a plain white front with big windows, and it was as bland inside as it was outside. Beige vinyl seats and beige, mottled tables were lined up next to the windows. The counter had a chrome edge, dulled by scratches. Faded pictures were on the walls. Leading the way to a booth in the middle, Alec waved to a few people who waved at him. As he walked between Alec and Cory, Teddy kept his head down.

Alec and Cory slid into the booth across from each other and let Teddy decide where he wanted to sit. He sat next to Alec. Cory tried not to be disappointed. At least he had a good view of Teddy. As he and Alec looked over the menus, Teddy's stood open in front of him but untouched. Cory wondered about his eating habits.

"How do you know what Teddy likes to eat?" Cory wondered.

"A hamburger is a safe bet," Alec said. "If I'm feeling adventurous, I go with trial and error. If I order the wrong thing, and he leaves most of it on the plate, I know not to order it next time. That's what happened when I ordered him chili. And I agree with him about the chili."

"I'll stay away from it," Cory said. Seeing Teddy peering at him, Cory smiled. Teddy quickly looked down at the menu.

"I'm having the roasted chicken," Alec announced then looked over at Teddy. "Do you want the hamburger again? We'll ask Rosa to tell them to leave off the onions so you don't have to pick them off."

Teddy looked somewhat interested but not thrilled so Cory had a go.

"Maybe he wants to mix it up today," Cory said and he leaned the menu toward Teddy. "Let's see. I'm looking at these chicken fingers like they have my name on them." Cory watched Teddy's face. He had the impression that Teddy was up for some chicken fingers when his eyes widened slightly. "That's it. Teddy is having the chicken fingers," Cory decided. "And I'm having them too."

"So it's chicken all around," Alec said, closing his menu with a plasticky snap.

After a second's hesitation, Teddy closed his menu the same way.

"Do mine too," Cory said handing him his menu.

"I guess you're ready to order," a pretty, young waitress said as she came up to their table. "Hi, cutie," she said to Teddy, who blushed.

"Right back at you," Alec said, winking at the petite brunette, who was about Cory's age.

"You know I was talking to Teddy. And maybe your new friend a little bit too," she said smiling down at Cory.

He hoped he wasn't blushing.

"Sorry, he's one of mine," Alec said.

Cory looked at him in surprise. That meant that Alec was gay, that he was out, and that he knew Cory was gay too.

"Did you just out me?" Cory asked after Rosa left with their order.

"Sitting across from me pretty much outs you," Alec said.

"Am I that obvious?" Cory wondered more to himself than to get an answer out of Alec.

"Only for about a second," Alec said significantly. He leaned toward Cory. "When you first laid eyes on me, it was written all over your face. But you recovered nicely. If I had blinked, I would have missed it," Alec said as he leaned back with a grin.

"Yes, I find arrogance very attractive," Cory told him. There was no hope in hell that he wasn't blushing now.

As he stewed under Alec's confident grin, Cory saw Teddy looking between them in confusion.

"Do you think Alec is handsome?" Cory asked him.

Teddy looked over at Alec with even more confusion. As he contemplated Alec, his expression turned almost grim.

"Damn," Alec said. He sighed then explained to Cory. "That's the same look he had on his face when he was tasting the chili and picking off the onions." Glancing from Cory to Teddy, Alec asked, "Is Cory good-looking?"

While he considered Cory, Teddy looked thoughtful but not as bad as the chili look.

"What was that one?" Cory wanted to know.

"Pork chop. It was a little dry, but at least he ate it. Lots of ketchup was involved," Alec said, smiling at Teddy.

When Cory smiled at him too, Teddy lowered his head shyly. Cory kept looking at him until Teddy peeked at him. He quickly lowered his head again, but Cory could swear that he was trying not to smile.

Rosa brought their orders and Teddy's arrived with a small salad but Cory's didn't. Alec explained about that.

"That's Teddy's special salad. No onions, no cucumbers. Rosa knows to bring it with every order. Dr. Wheeler said to feed him fruits and veggies and give him gummy vitamins. Right?" Alec asked Teddy.

Teddy didn't look happy to see the salad, but he ate it anyway. Cory remembered that Alec said how Teddy was a little malnourished. He was happy to see that Alec was making sure to feed him some healthy food too. Cory made a note to himself to do the same and resist fried food so he could set a good example. For Teddy, he would give up fried food completely if he had to.

Cory did his best not to watch Alec as he ate. It was really inconvenient that he was so sexy. Plus he had that attitude that said, "I'm a great fuck and ready to prove it." Why couldn't he be some pudgy, balding guy instead of looking like he was built from Cory's fantasies.

While Cory worried about keeping his lust under control, Alec had paid the bill. Though he didn't have much money, Cory was going to offer to pay. From his look, Alec knew what he was thinking.

"Next time," he told him. He totally didn't mean it.

Cory thanked him.

"We should stop by Mom's office before she decides to hunt us down," Alec said as they left the diner.

They walked up the street to Town Hall. Stopping in front, all three of them looked up at the clock tower.

"It's always ten minutes fast," Alec said of the clock. "Mom claims that makes us a town of the future. She can spin anything."

Inside, the Town Hall was pretty modest but with some interesting paintings on the walls. Cory barely glanced at them. He was a little apprehensive about meeting Alec's mother, the mayor, and Teddy's benefactor. He hoped she would be OK with him staying at the house.

The mayor's assistant, a tall redhead, stepped out from behind her desk to greet them. She was almost as tall as Alec. As she gave Alec a kiss on the cheek, he introduced her as Nancy, a high school friend, his mother's hired assassin and all around henchwoman.

"When I start assassinating people, you'll be first on the list," she told him. She turned a friendlier expression to Cory and welcomed him to Seaview Pines.

She poked her head into the mayor's office. After she whispered a few words, Nancy came over to them. "She'll be with you soon. She's on the phone. A few things came up that's why she couldn't meet you," she said to Cory.

As he focused on staying calm so he would make a good impression, Cory noticed Teddy gazing up at a painting.

"That's her," Alec said of the painting of the woman in a red suit. "She looks positively regal."

"Yes, I do," a woman said from behind them. "I was born to wear a power suit."

"Definitely not an apron. Can't cook worth a damn," Alec said as he kissed his mother on the cheek.

The mayor had carefully styled, reddish brown hair and a full figure that looked good in a gray suit. Her eyes were a soft brown, warning Alec to behave. He resembled her only a little. Turning away from her son's teasing, Alec's mother faced Cory. Her look softened instantly.

"I heard the population of Seaview Pines just went up by one." She smiled at Cory with tears in her eyes. "I'm so happy you're here," she said and hugged him.

Alec signaled to her from behind Teddy to warn her that Teddy didn't know who Cory was yet.

"We went to lunch and we're going to walk around a little," Alec told her.

"Wish I could go with you," the mayor said and leaned down toward Teddy. "Make sure Alec doesn't get into any trouble." As Teddy nodded, she cupped his cheek, and he looked up at her.

Cory could tell that he liked her. If she was the way she seemed to Cory, he wasn't surprised.

When they left, the mayor gazed after them with a smile. A little confused, Cory looked at Alec, but his mother probably wasn't a surprise to him. Cory hadn't expected her to be so casual and motherly or so welcoming. Instead of the questioning he expected, Cory had gotten a warm hug. He was glad that someone like that had taken Teddy into her home.

Having a mother like that probably explained why Alec was so easygoing. Cory observed him, but he wasn't noticing his character at the moment. Cory's eyes were traveling down Alec's strong arms to his long fingers. Those fingers must know their way around a man's body, in and out. Cory let his eyes wander down Alec's legs in jeans as he took long strides leading them to the edge of town and beyond. Snapping out of his admiring trance, Cory realized that he didn't know where they were headed.

"I thought you were going to show me the town," Cory said seeing that they were leaving town but going in the opposite direction from the mayor's house. They walked next to fenced in fields and then turned into the woods.

"The town can wait. I'm going to show you a special spot," Alec said.

Teddy seemed to be happy that they were going on an adventure. He was more lively here than he had been in town. There, his head had been lowered whenever people were around. Cory didn't really blame him. People did stare. They showed friendly interest in Teddy as well as Cory, the newcomer. Even if it was friendly, Cory was a little uncomfortable with the attention so it was no wonder Teddy was too. Now Teddy held his head up and looked all around. In particular he tried to catch sight of birds they could hear twittering in the trees.

As the wood became its thickest, Teddy stopped looking all around and only stared ahead. He seemed excited. Now Cory could hear faint sounds of water rushing. In that direction, Cory glimpsed some big rocks through the trees. With Alec leading the way down a vague path, they came out from among the trees to a stone ledge that came up to their shoulders. Looking up and down, Cory saw that they were at its lowest point. Further on in both directions, it towered above their heads. Alec pulled himself up onto the ledge easily. Teddy looked up at him worriedly.

"Cory will hand you up to me," Alec told him. "When we came here before, I improvised a harness to get Teddy up here."

Teddy turned to Cory shyly. Cory picked him up, surprised at how light he was. Holding him, he felt like his heart would burst. For now, he focused on handing him up to Alec safely. Once Alec had him up on the ledge, Teddy looked down at Cory worriedly, like he was wondering who would help him up. Determined not to embarrass himself in front of his little brother, Cory took a deep breath. Hoisting himself up the same way Alec did, he only managed to clear the edge when Alec gave him a hand at the last minute.

"Not a perfect score," Cory said as he stood up, but Teddy looked pleased that they all made it up there. From his perspective, it probably looked impossibly high.

Cory looked around and just took a moment to absorb what he was looking at. The stone ledge they were standing on was part of a group of large boulders that encircled a pool of water. Two outcroppings of rock came together enclosing the place. The ledge was part of one of them. The other huge rock had an opening at its base. The low cave was where the water was coming from. It flowed out and filled the stone pool. On the other side, the rocks parted and a patch of ground and trees could be seen. Beyond it, Cory could see a thick forest.

"You are looking at geology in action," Alec announced.

From the edge, Cory looked down into the water. It flowed smoothly then swirled when it hit the other end of the stone basin. Alec continued with his explanation.

"An underground river surfaces here then it goes back underground. It resurfaces again miles away, but this spot is its masterpiece. The softer stone got eroded leaving this space. The water is pretty cold though. Even when it's scorching hot, this spot will freeze your nuts off."

"Shouldn't you censor yourself?" Cory said, nodding toward Teddy.

"I am censoring myself," Alec told him. He was completely serious.

For some reason Teddy was looking up at Alec impatiently.

"I'm getting to that," Alec told him then he turned into a tour guide again. "This place is called Palmer's Grotto, though it's not technically a grotto. During the colonial days, a crazy guy named Palmer used to have a cabin over there." Alec pointed across the water to the small clearing backed by trees.

Cory looked up the rock face that towered above. Teddy followed his gaze.

"Palmer claimed that this place belonged to him because he saw it in a vision before he ever laid eyes on it. He always had his gun ready and threatened anyone who came here. There's a painting of this place in the Town Hall. It shows Palmer in front of his cabin with a musket in his hands, ready to defend his grotto. My dad painted it," Alec said with a smile.

"Did he paint the mayor's portrait too?" Cory asked.

"No. She wasn't the mayor until after he died."

Teddy now looked up at Alec sadly, and Alec ruffled his hair and gave him a smile.

"Did you ever swim here?" Cory asked.

"Sure, but only when my brother dared me. The cold water and the current don't make for a fun swim. Mostly kids come here just to hang out. You can see some graffiti over there. Sometimes you find empties. The sheriff usually stops by to chase them away." Suddenly Alec leaned in and whispered in Cory's ear, "It's terrible for having sex. This rock is hard as a rock."

Cory felt a tingle run all through him and he glared at Alec. Why the hell was he doing this to him?

"Censoring myself," Alec explained.

Cory decided to ignore him and watch Teddy. He didn't like seeing Teddy standing even two feet away from the edge of the water. He had his arm out ready to catch him. Alec smiled at him for that. Cory shrugged. It was his prerogative as the big brother.

All three of them sat down on the edge of the rock and let their legs dangle over the water. Cory noticed how little Teddy was as he sat between them. He wanted to put his arm around him, but it seemed too soon. For now, he was happy just to be sitting next to him.

As they walked back toward town, Alec said he wanted to get the car and get gas.

"You two walk up Main Street, and I'll pick you up," he told Cory and Teddy. "Don't get lost now."