The sound of the pianist playing a piece written by Chopin echoed through the auditorium. It was a simple piece and typically reserved for those with less skill, but Henry Shale was known for taking the simple and making it sound extraordinary. The orchestra did its part in accompanying him and if it hadn't been for the soft touch of a stranger's hand, Mikal Lochard would have remained entranced by the hammer action of Shale's playing. He turned, lifting a somewhat annoyed brow to the woman who touched his hand.
She leaned over and Mikal lowered his head to listen to her whispered words. "That's my son."
He glanced toward the pianist and back at the woman, who still kept her fingers pressed against the top of his fingers. The lighting in the auditorium was dim, but it still gave off enough of a glow to show the woman's aged fingers. The pressure of them was light, but telling. She held onto Mikal, curling the wrinkled digits just enough to keep his attention focused on her words. Her actions reminded him of his mother, and so he indulged the old woman, continuing to listen to her.
Her voice was soft, frail, and full of adoration for the musician, who continued to play flawlessly.
"He's been playing since elementary school. Just took to it and never looked back," she whispered, sighing softly. Her expression showed the love she felt for her offspring. "I am so proud of him; so was his father," she continued speaking, her voice straining to be heard over the triumphant sounds now erupting from the pit, "and impressed—oh so very impressed. I could only sing; never had the patience for learning an instrument. And his father," she chuckled softly, "he only bellowed during church."
Mikal smiled softly, reached over, and patted the woman's hand. "He's very good," he whispered back. Then he frowned when his partner, Bryan, nudged him in the ribs and sent a "shush" rushing through his lips. Mikal chose to ignore his lover, choosing instead to focus on the lady next to him. "Do you get to hear him play often?"
She looked up and smiled. "I do now. He moved back here to be with me, after his father died. Before that I had to pick and choose when I could sit in on his concerts. He plays all over the world," she added, before turning back to gaze at her son.
Her hand continued to rest on top of Mikal's as the musicians flowed from one piece to the next. Occasionally, he turned his gaze back to the mother of the pianist, smiled, and caught the look of pure unadulterated love that was clearly etched on lines that spoke of lost youth. He thought of his parents and wished that he had seen that same devotion in their gazes when they had been alive, but they had been unwilling to accept his life choices and had passed away without seeing beyond his "sickness."
Mikal frowned in Bryan's direction. His partner of ten years had his cell phone out, the lighting almost nonexistent but bright enough to highlight the message that had been sent by Bryan's employer.
"What is it?" Mikal asked.
Bryan leaned in to whisper to Mikal, "Work. Seems they need me to get into Atlanta earlier than expected and have a flight booked for the two of us. But we need to leave now."
"In the middle of the concert?"
Bryan shrugged his shoulders. "Yeah, it sucks. But it keeps food on the table and a roof over our heads."
Mikal sighed but couldn't argue with his partner. They both knew the value of the dollar and both had tastes that showed it. The concert had been an unexpected bonus to their normally busy and chaotic lives, and though he would miss the concluding number, he knew that work had to come first. He reached over and patted the old woman's hand, disentangling himself from her. "I need to go," he whispered before standing up and excusing himself as quietly as possible.
Outside the auditorium, he followed after Bryan, pulling his cell phone from his pocket to see if he had missed any messages during the performance. The two men, waited somewhat impatiently for the valet to bring them their rental car. "I'm sorry we had to leave," Bryan admitted. "But I could tell you weren't that into it, anyway."
"What do you mean? I was having a great time."
"Whatever," Bryan hissed, "I heard you talking to that woman. You couldn't keep your mouth shut long enough to hear the music, let alone pay attention to me."
Mikal rolled his eyes, pocketed his phone, and touched Bryan's arm. "She was the pianist's mother, and she wanted to brag about her son. I didn't know you wanted my attention. My apologies."
Bryan looked further annoyed by his lover's admission. "Of course I did." he rubbed his crotch, seemingly to adjust himself, "I figured it was a dark concert hall. We could have a little fun—you know, like we did when we were first dating."
A soft chuckle rippled through Mikal's throat. "You wanted me to jerk you off in the middle of the concert?" A knowing grin was Bryan's answer. "Bryan, that old lady beside me would have fainted."
The valet arrived before Bryan could answer, and the subject was dismissed for the time being. Mikal took the keys, while Bryan climbed into the passenger side of the vehicle and he walked over to the driver's side. Behind the wheel he was given a brief moment to recall the touch of the old woman's hand. It had seemed more limp when he had said his good-byes, and though he had been in a hurry to leave, he didn't recall her answering him back. "I hope . . ." His words died, as he pushed away the morbid thoughts that had suddenly swelled up inside him.
"You hope what?"
Mikal shook away the notion of the woman's passing, sent a small prayer to heaven for her safety, and mentally chastised himself for his pessimistic attitude. "I was just hoping that your work remembered to book us first class, not coach."
Bryan laughed. "Don't worry. I gave Serena an ear full the last time she fucked that up. She'll never make that mistake again. I think she'd book a private jet before she willingly accepted one of my tongue-lashings."
"Too bad. Your tongue-lashings are pretty damn impressive."
"As are yours, my friend. As are yours."
While Mikal drove toward the airport, Bryan called their hotel, confirming that Serena had already called to have their belongings packed and sent ahead. Their luggage would be waiting for them at the airport. "Well, now that the luggage is taken care of, how about you take care of me?" Bryan asked, pulling Mikal from whatever thoughts he may have been having.
Mikal looked over, noticing his partner was already working to free his cock from his suit pants and boxers. "You're like a randy old goat," he said, before reaching over and wrapping his hand around Bryan's shaft. He kept one hand on the wheel while stroking his lover's dick. His fingers rolled over the mushroom shaped tip and then down along the ridged veins. A quick glance told him that Bryan was enjoying the attention, which made Mikal's sex stiffen and swell. "If I do this for you, you better damn well pay me back in the plane."
"Mmm, yeah, babe, I'll do that for you, just . . ." he paused and took a deep breath, "fuck, yeah—right there."
A smirk rose up from Mikal's lips as he pumped harder and faster, setting a rhythm that didn't require too much effort on Mikal's part, but affected Bryan greatly. He listened to his lover groan, pant, and grunt as he tightened his hold on the dick enveloped by his palm and fingers. "I'm gonna come soon," Bryan muttered. "Can you pull over?" he asked, in a panting breath.
Mikal's gaze darted at the clock on the dashboard and then at their surroundings. He pulled into the parking lot of a nearby gas station, threw the car into park, and then unbuckled his belt. In a matter of seconds his lips were wrapped around Bryan's cock head, and he was sucking down the hot fluid that shot out of his lover's dick. The moisture splashed against the back of his throat and slid easily down to settle into his belly. He sucked harder and was rewarded with another volley of semen, which he greedily drank.
One of Bryan's hands pressed Mikal's head down, while the other lay lax against his thigh. Mikal hurried to finish the refreshment that had been given to him before lifting his mouth off Bryan's shaft and licking his lips in appreciation. "Yeah, you owe me one," he whispered, before grabbing Bryan's head and kissing him deeply.
The trip to the airport seemed to take an eternity for Mikal. His cock ached and his hard-on was almost impossible to ignore. He tried to relieve the pressure on his package, knowing that his size made his arousal more evident and the tight tuxedo pants only added to his discomfort. Thoughts of Bryan relieving the pressure that had been building up only added to his uneasiness, and when they finally made their way onto the plane and were in the air, the blanket offered by the attendant couldn't have come fast enough.
Bryan delivered on his promise, giving Mikal a long, tedious fondling of cock and balls. The blanket moved along with his partner's hand, but a stiff hundred dollar bill kept the attendant "ignorant" of his and Bryan's actions. When it was time for Mikal to spill his seed, he looked across the aisle to catch the knowing eye of a well-known pop star. The young woman's face was flush, her lips parted, and her tongue slipping in and out, moistening the soft petals of flesh. He lifted a brow, and a silent question and answer game passed between them. Would he finish the job -- or wouldn't he?
"Go ahead," Mikal whispered to Bryan, who glanced up, caught the singer's gaze and grinned. Bryan pushed back the blanket, took Mikal's cock into his mouth, and accepted the hot, milky silk that squirted out.
The pop star diva shivered and hissed through her clenched jaw. Mikal wondered if she too had come. He made a mental promise to buy her upcoming album as well as invite her to one of Bryan's private parties.
~ ~ Six Weeks Later ~ ~
Rain fell in sheets on the dark-suited figures and the raised umbrellas. The sound of condolences from good friends, family members, and business associates all seemed to blend in together as they walked up to Mikal and paid their respects to him and Bryan's family. The somber mood was a great accompaniment to the weather and echoed the dismal feeling that had become a constant companion since Bryan's death.
A firm squeeze on his shoulder brought Mikal back to the present, forcing him to push away the voice that had beckoned him to come to the hospital. Bryan had been traveling on business when the taxi he had been riding in had been struck by a drunk driver. The cab driver, Bryan, and Bryan's coworker had been killed. The drunk driver had walked away without injury.
"Mister Lochard, when you're ready."
Mikal frowned, noting the annoyance that spilled from his driver's lips. Obviously the young man had more important things to do and wanted his chauffeuring duties to be over. Mikal couldn't blame him—driving around a cemetery and listening to people sob was not the dream job of the future. He turned away, leaving his other half behind.
The walk through the cemetery back to the car seemed to take an eternity. Everything in him told him to run, to seek revenge for the death of his partner, to cry out to God and demand an explanation. Yet, he did nothing. The calm demeanor, which had complimented Bryan's more ostentatious one, prevailed as he made his way back to the car.
The route back to his and Bryan's apartment was quick, and the driver was dismissed. Mikal made his way up to the apartment, took a deep breath, and opened the door. Immediately he was assaulted by Bryan's family. More hugs, tears, and hand clasps were given as were more words of encouragement. None of it felt real, though he knew it was genuine. He felt hollow and wished that the nightmare would end and he would wake up with Bryan tucked up against him, warm hands caressing flaccid rods, until they no longer were flaccid and each one was begging for the other.
It would be another three hours before he was left alone to grieve. It was the first time since he had called Bryan's parents that he had been alone. At first he had been thankful for the constant companionship, because he wasn't sure he would have been able to live through the initial shock of losing his best friend. Now, though, he embraced the quietness that surrounded him. A stack of photos sat on top of the coffee table. He reached for the photos and sifted through the memories of his and his lover's past.
Tears fell freely now as each photo reminded him of an intimate moment or a confrontation that would later lead to make-up sex—something both men relished. Once Bryan even admitted to pushing all the right buttons to make Mikal angry. The sex was just "ten times more rewarding," his partner had said.
He fell asleep that first night alone, with dreams of his friend dancing behind his bloodshot eyes and wet lashes. When Mikal woke up, the coffee pot was brewing and the aroma was a welcoming fragrance to his tired body. He drank the first of several cups before showering and readying himself to meet with Bryan's attorney. The family and the lawyer had all agreed on a time, and the reading of the will would mark the end to his friend's presence.
When Mikal arrived at the office, he again was greeted with adoration, and he returned the fond hellos and good wishes. As the lawyer read the will, outlining Bryan's assets and divulging who got what, Mikal turned toward the window that overlooked the bay. A man, along with two women, stood on the shore, their bodies closely pressed together, their heads bent down as if they were sharing a secret that they didn't want exposed. The wind picked up and tossed each one's hair; the women patted theirs down, while the gentleman did nothing to right his appearance.
Mikal barely heard the droning of the lawyer or the whispering of Bryan's family. He felt drawn to the three strangers. He watched the man step forward and bend down. The wind picked up again, this time besides tousling the ladies' hair, it sent a small puff of gray debris dancing along the shoreline. Only when the man turned around, holding a bronze urn, did Mikal understand what had happened. The ashes of a loved one had been sent skating across the sea. His eyes moistened as the three people linked arms and walked back up the beach.
Their faces began to take on distinct features as they came closer to the sidewalk that passed the law office. The man stood in the middle, a strong, imposing figure that seemed to shelter the two women. He was tall with dark wavy hair. His look of concern was easy to read. Mikal knew that concern had most likely caused a few worry wrinkles to etch themselves into his visage. The woman on his left was a brunette, with rounded hips and breasts. She leaned against the man, holding tightly to his sports coat. The redheaded girl was smaller than the brunette, but her need to be supported by the man in the middle was just as obvious. Whomever they had lost had been a very important figure in their lives.
"Mikal. . . Mikal."
Pulling his gaze away from the window, he faced the attorney who had called his name. "I'm sure you're not surprised that Bryan left you everything as far as possessions in the apartment that are not otherwise assigned in the will. Also there is a property bordering his sister's property that was willed to him after the death of his grandparents. She's offered to buy it from you."
He shook his head, clearing the fog from his mind, and focused all his attention on the woman who had made the offer. "I think that makes perfect sense. I don't have a need for it. Bryan and I had often talked about building a cottage up there and using it as a getaway, but," he sighed and shrugged his shoulders, "I really don't need it." He turned his attention back to the lawyer. "You can work out the details, can't you? I'll sign whatever needs to be signed, and of course all of you," he looked to Bryan's family, "are welcome to come back to the apartment and pick up the things he left for you."
It was over and done without too much fanfare, which made Mikal feel somewhat guilty. Wouldn't Bryan had wanted more with his passing—something flashy and flamboyant—and yet Mikal had chosen to do everything just the opposite. He left the office feeling as if he had betrayed his friend by not throwing a party of celebration or making a big show of Bryan's passing. Bryan had been the carefree lover, the no-holds-barred kind of person and, in fact, had brought Mikal out of his shell. How did Mikal repay him? He had quietly closed the chapter of his friend's life without making a big production out of it. Why?
Another week passed before Mikal found himself returning to some sense of normalcy. He liquidated a number of Bryan's assets that had been bequeathed to him and returned to work. The finance business that he and Bryan worked for was more than willing to allow him more time to grieve, but he chose to return to work, needing to feel a part of something, even if it meant traveling all over the globe again—this time alone.
A year went by and then another before Mikal finally agreed to a "blind date" that a former college friend had arranged during one of Mikal's business trips. He wore jeans, a black T-shirt, and a plastered-on smile, not only for himself, but for his date. He was reluctant to find love again, even doubting that it would ever happen, but Jessica had promised that this guy was special, perhaps not as special as Bryan, but he at least deserved a chance. Mikal caved when Jessica finally forced him to admit that he was lonely. In the back of his mind while he sat at the bar waiting for Thad, he wondered if just a one-night fling would be enough to erase his solitude.
The voice was deep, rich, and warm. Mikal rose from the bar, turned, and greeted the stranger. "Thad?"
Thad's lips formed a grin before he ordered himself a drink and asking Mikal if he wanted to move to a booth. With drinks in hand, the two men moved through the densely populated club. Mikal tried to avoid the bodies that seemed to press into him, excusing himself when he bumped into others, until he bumped into one man who made his chest tighten when their eyes met.
He stood there for a moment and looked into the bright blue eyes, and grinning features of a familiar face, but a face that Mikal couldn't place. "You okay?" the stranger asked, his arm reaching out to grasp Mikal's shoulder. The heat from the other man's touch seemed to spear into Mikal, sending flames licking through his veins, down his spine, and across his abdomen. He swallowed the lump in his throat and nodded his head before the man released him, a soft chuckle falling from the man's lips. Mikal felt his skin grow warm as a blush covered his cheeks. The touch of a man's hand on the small of his back made him shake away the overwhelming arousal that had accompanied the blue-eyed stranger's presence.
"You all right?" Thad asked, whispering the question in Mikal's ear.
A quick nod was his answer, as was the forced steps he took to distance himself from the crowd, as he followed Thad. Mikal knew that the night was already over for the blind date and him. Whomever Mikal had bumped into had affected him far more than Thad's warm voice and inviting smile had. The two men sat down and made idle conversation, but soon Mikal's aloofness toward intimacy and his apparent need to be polite were all the hints Thad needed. It wasn't very long before Mikal was sitting alone, drinking another beer, and watching the crowded dance floor slowly become less packed.
His gaze scanned the bar. Thad had found another man to converse with and get to know, so Mikal's guilt over ruining the man's evening was lessened. The other man who had affected him that night had disappeared, leaving Mikal feeling disjointed and unnerved. He had waited too long to get up and seek the stranger out, and now the opportunity was gone. As he nursed what he decided would be his last beer, he conjured up the man's image and tried to recall why the face had seemed so familiar. The eyes had been a shocking blue, yet it was not the man's eyes that had pulled at Mikal's memories; height, weight, and overall presence drove him back to faces of his past and each mental image came up.