Old Wounds, New Love Ch. 05byCrimsonWeb©
For all those who have commented on the earlier experimental chapter – thanks! And don't worry, this is the last chapter.
Ethan's phone buzzed on silent. He knew without looking at the screen who the caller was. Mary had had been trying him every hour for the past day attempting to get in touch with him.
"You need to talk with her, Ethan." Afton said absently without looking up from the documents he read while he sipped his drink from a crystal glass. It was six O'clock and he had just gotten home from work.
"I can't. I don't know what I'd say or what she's going to say to me," he pushed the phone away as the call flipped to voicemail.
"Greta tells me once she calmed down, she listened. You never know how she's processes this. Give her a try."
Sighing with frustration, he knew Afton was right. He couldn't hide forever. Scrolling down the contacts in his list, he hit connect on Mary's name and waited.
"Ethan," she said his name with an air of relief. She'd rushed his name out in a rush.
Afton looked up with encouragement and smiled. It gave Ethan the strength to deal with this. "Hi."
"We need to talk," she said quickly before he could hang up. "Can I come over?"
Ethan mouthed the request to his boyfriend who nodded, "Yeah. When?"
"Right now, and I'm on my way. Ethan, thanks for calling me back."
Mary disconnected before he could say anything in response. He looked up to find Afton watching him patiently waiting. "She's on her way."
Afton stood up, moving to cup Ethan's face in his hands to deliver a tender kiss. "I'll leave you two alone. Come find me if you need me. Good luck and remember, I love you just as you are."
"Thanks." He worried for the next 45 minutes until the doorbell rang and a servant answered. He was sitting on the couch when Mary's anxious face emerged through the main doors to the living room. She paused with a large manila envelope in her hands, staring at him.
"Hey," he whispered sadly. "Before we say anything else, I want you to know how sorry I am about all of this. If I had my choice, this would not be how you found out."
She shrugged. "It would have been a shock either way, Ethan. You are the farthest thing from what I know gay men to be, so it's going to be a shock regardless."
"Surprised me, too."
"Did it? Really? Sorry to sound crass, but how long did it take Afton to seduce you? Ten minutes?"
"See? You've known before now; you just didn't act on it. Instead you were going to marry me and live a lie."
"It wouldn't have been a lie, Mary. I do love you."
She moved forward and tossed the envelope on the table before him. "Bullshit. You've never made love to me like that, Ethan."
He slowly opened the packets and dumped thirty or forty 8x10 photographs from last night. There were a few of Afton and him by the pool and a few others from around the house. All of them captured the passion in Ethan's eyes or the love that he shared with his boyfriend. "Greta shouldn't have shared these."
"Yes she should have. She also sent me this," Mary unlocked her phone to bring up a video from Greta. It showed Afton and Ethan making love on the porch with the remaining sunlight fading giving them a halo effect. It was quite beautiful. "How long have we known each other, Ethan? I've never seen you this happy."
"I'm in love with him," he mumbled quickly.
"I know, I get that. I am still pissed off about it, but I get it. What I want to understand is why you lied. Why you dragged me into this. And why now?"
Ethan cringed, sinking deeper into the cushions on the couch. "I first suspected I liked men when I was a kid, but we're taught that such feelings were a sin. So I buried those feelings. Then it got worse in high school, but again, I forced myself to bury the feelings. My parents would have disowned me and I would have lost you, my best friend. I couldn't risk that, Mary. I've only ever wanted to be farmer, taking over my dad's farm one day. If I were gay, he'd kick me out and I'd lose what I loved."
"But you'd be unhappy, don't you get that? You'd only be fulfilling a piece of who you are." She was shocked at his stupidity.
"Well, that's all in the past, cause it's out there now."
She shook her head, "I haven't said anything and won't if you don't want me to. I can just tell everyone we couldn't make it work."
He stared at her, unable to breathe. Finally he inhaled. "You'd do that for me?"
"You are my best friend, too."
He moved so quickly she didn't see it coming and found herself being hugged by his strong arms. "I love you, I really do."
"Just not like you love Afton," she mumbled with regret. "Do you know why I left Illinois?"
He shook his head but hadn't released her yet. "Because I felt something was missing in our relationship, like a piece of you wasn't there. I left to see if you missed me enough to find it. I guess you did," she laughed nervously, "with Afton."
"He's a good guy, you know."
"He seduced you and stole you from me, so no he's not."
A voice cleared from across the room, causing them both to jump. "To that I will apologize."
Mary pulled out of Ethan's arms, crossing her own and glared at the GQ model man standing in a pristine suit that he'd worn all day, but you'd never know it. "I don't know if I can ever forgive you for that, but I do thank you for making Ethan happy."
Afton dipped his head. "He makes me happy, too."
"Yeah, I know," she indicated the pictures. "A little too much, I should say."
Afton chuckled, "Oh sweetheart, those are just a sample of what he and I have done."
Ethan growled a warning at his lover and wrapped his arm around Mary's shoulders. "That's enough Afton. She doesn't need to be educated."
"Fair enough, but I won't deny that I am insanely jealous when she's around you, so you'll just have to accept my temper." His gaze swept over Ethan's arms around Mary, his frown deepening and then he slipped back into his study and shut the door.
"What?" He looked down at her.
"You have no flippen idea. You wanna know why I calved in ten minutes?" He pointed at the door, "Because of that intensity. You can't ignore it. He commands attention and I am like a helpless participant."
She laughed, slightly uncomfortable with where their conversation was going but she swallowed down her feelings. "He's in love."
"So am I and would do anything for him. From the moment I met him in the coffee shop, I knew I was screwed."
"That is why you didn't want to come to the fundraiser!" She finally connected the dots, "Oh God, it's sorta my fault this happened. If I'd not forced you, you might have avoided him."
He snorted, "Unlikely. Afton had made up his mind and he would have found me one way or another."
"Oh," she breathed. She didn't say it, but she thought that it was extremely romantic.
Afton emerged again wearing a dark scowl on his face and walked through the room without making eye contact. Ethan felt for him, for he wasn't sure how he would react if they encountered one of the men Afton had once cared for in the past. He knew he'd probably react poorly. "Excuse me, will you? Just for a second."
He followed Afton up the stairs and found him in the closet angrily changing. He was muttering cuss words under his breath while first his shoes and then suit landed on the floor in a violent flourish. Before he turned around, Ethan pinned his bare chest to the wall with his body, grinding his hard on into his back. Afton only wore his silk boxers and it was turning Ethan on. "I love you."
"I know, but it still makes me angry. I understand you have to face her and want you to, I dislike it when you have to touch her. I am tormented with jealous thoughts, images that you've made love to her. I'm just angry, let me be, will you?"
"Afton," he allowed his boyfriend to turn, using his lips to tease Afton's mouth with feather light touches. Afton tried to deepen the kiss but Ethan wouldn't allow it, adding his tongue to the gentle torment. The contact aroused them both instantly. "You don't need to be jealous. I am yours to command."
A wave of heat pooled at Afton's groin. In a accented voice, he moaned, "I like the sound of that."
Caught up in the moment, Ethan slid down Afton's body and yanked his boxers down. He caught the erection that sprang free and brought Afton to a quick orgasm with his tongue. He admired the shaft for a moment, finally looking up at his lover. "I love you Afton, everything about you. Stop worrying and come down to join us. I'd like you get to know her."
He took a few breaths to calm his racing heart. He loved it when Ethan took over and this was one of those moments. "Let me shower first to calm down and then I will."
After kissing his hard body in a trail back to his mouth, Ethan gave him a long, lazy but very passionate kiss, before finally stepping away. "Don't take too long. I hate being away from you. You were gone most of the day with those meetings and I miss you."
Afton's eyes softened with emotion. "I missed you, too."
They parted, leaving one to shower and the other to entertain. Afton appeared a short while later much more relaxed, this time wearing a smile. He invited Mary to dinner, stealing most of her attention to talk with her until it was served. He grudgingly admitted to himself when the door closed behind her departure, that he liked her.
Months passed without any incident. Afton and Ethan's relationship, now out in the open, blossomed into a passionate love story that everyone talked about. Wherever they went heads turned to watch the couple as they passed, always hand in hand.
They were out one night with Greta, Mary and few of Afton's other friends, celebrating an important real estate deal that would increase his net worth by a significant value. It would also heal old wounds and remove the emotional scars left by a man ten years in the past. The restaurant was Shay La La a trendy new 5 star establishment. Ethan wasn't sure how he felt about French food yet, but he endured the 7 course meal with grace. He was getting used to these fancy dinners, but had not yet become accustomed.
They were on the last course and none of them noticed the man that walked up behind Afton. "Please tell me you didn't sell the building where we grew up. How could you do this to me?" The man sneered.
Ethan looked up into the face of a cleanly shaven man, slicked black hair that he kept short at the side but longer on top. He was dressed in a suit, that was not as nice as Afton's but clearly he had money. His blue eyes bore into Afton's back while he ignored everyone else. Ethan turned a pleading look to Greta who had gone pale while she stared at this man. Who the hell was he?
"Are you not even going to talk to me?"
Afton wiped his mouth gracefully with his napkin laying it on the table. He shared a panicked look with Greta before he pushed his chair back and stood. "We can talk in the bar," he motioned waiting for this man to move. He then followed.
When they were out of earshot, Ethan rounded on Greta. "Who the hell is that?"
"Xavier. Afton's ex."
Ethan's head whipped around to study this man in greater detail. He was tall, dark and handsome. He could see why Afton had fallen for him. Everyone else at the table had gone quiet. He'd almost forgotten they were there. "Wasn't he Afton's best friend or something?"
"Yes. They grew up together. Xavier seduced Afton shortly after his parents kicked him out once he announced he was gay. He allowed him into his house and made love to him every night. It was Afton's first love, and it lasted years. But Xavier didn't love him, he loved money and he knew Afton's ambition would give it to him. So he helped Afton get through school and begin to build his empire, then he reaped the benefits of Afton's brilliance."
"I don't understand," Ethan whispered.
"Xavier isn't gay, he's bi and had always had a girlfriend on the side which Afton never knew about. Over the years he used Afton, taking money from him and filling his own bank account until he set up Afton in one final act of betrayal. Xavier convinced him to purchase that building but it was a bad deal. It almost put Afton into financial ruin, yet Xavier didn't care. He then crafted a contract, emotionally manipulated Afton into signing it that would make Xavier the building manager, siphoning off the majority of the profits. The day Afton signed the deal; Xavier introduced his girlfriend telling him it had all been a lie. He'd faked all of it and now that he had what he wanted, which was money, he didn't need Afton any more. He kicked him out, shattered and heartbroken, creating the distrusting man you know today. Afton has never gotten over the betrayal or the break in trust. It's taken ten years, a shit load of counseling and finally meeting you to get him past it. The selling of this building is the final step. Xavier's been living off the income from the apartments for years. Afton is about to bring on his financial downfall."
"This is all over a bad business deal?" Ethan's growing anger was not necessarily at Afton, but at the dark haired man who'd hurt him.
"Yes and emotional abuse. Xavier used Afton's love as a means of manipulation. Afton's always hated that; hates himself for being weak enough to be controlled like that."
"He manipulated me, too," Ethan whispered.
Greta shook her head. "There's a difference. He desperately wanted someone to be his life partner and needed to know if you could handle it. It's critical to him that he trusts you, mostly because of the intense love you two share. He needed to know for certain you wouldn't be another Xavier. It wasn't meant to control you, Ethan. You have to believe that. That's the difference. Xavier hates Afton. Afton loves you."
Ethan continued to watch the couple in the bar. When Afton turned a pale and scared face in his direction, Ethan was on his feet before anyone could stop him. He felt intensely protective and that base instinct overrode any other rational thought.
He walked right up to Xavier and got in his face. It was intimidating because Ethan's muscular frame was larger than Xavier and he dominated the space enough that Xavier had to step back. "I don't think we've been introduced, I'm Ethan."
"Yes, his new boy toy, I've heard." Xavier said rudely, snorting in disgust.
Ethan's hand clenched into a fist. "Careful, I take offense to that tone."
Afton watched and held his breath. Ethan was reacting to his distress, and he knew he should stop this or Ethan and Xavier were going to get in a fight in this upscale bar.
Ethan stepped forward. "You need to leave."
"Not until Afton and I finish our discussion. It's between me and him, not some toy he picked up off the street."
Ethan swing and punched Xavier in the jaw so hard he was flung against the bar. He just clung to the edge while he caught his breath. There was a small trickle of blood at the corner of his mouth that he wiped away using the back of his hand. Luckily, there were only two people in the bar watching disgust as a fight broke out and they were frantically waving over the bar staff.
Xavier then laughed. "Afton, seriously? He's low class trash. I can see you really haven't climbed out of the gutter, have you?"
Ethan spotted the manager heading their way. Before the man arrived, Ethan grabbed Xavier by the chest, dragging him towards the back door leading to the alley. He was furious. He suddenly needed to kick the shit out of this guy similar to what he'd do a ranch hand that was acting out of line. In the alley he shoved him with a dangerous glare. "You are a piece of shit."
"Funny, I feel the same way about you," Xavier sneered arrogantly. "I can see why he keeps you around though. You enjoying the sex with him? He's good, is he not? You must be a good lay, too, for him to stoop to such low levels, though."
"That is enough. Go."
"Not until Afton gives me a percentage of the profit from that sale."
"Why do you deserve it?"
"We had a business deal and it's mine." Xavier was flexing his hands now getting ready for a fight.
Ethan laughed, "Really? How could he sell it then if it's yours?"
Xavier snarled, "It's mine."
Afton pushed out of the doors, catching the last of this statement. "I never gave you the deed. You were only the manager while it was owned by me. There is no clause in the contract that states you were entitled to anything if I sold it."
The dark haired man spun around and challenged. "You promised me, Afton and your promises are as good as any written contract. Why deviate now? You could have sold that building ten times over, but you chose now?" Xavier was furious.
Ethan was piecing together that this must be his main source of income. He must have blown through the rest of his money and Afton's sale would bring him to financial ruin. Afton must have known that.
"I could use the money to spoil my new 'boy toy' as you called him. I prefer lover, or boyfriend, but to each is their own," Afton shrugged.
"You are such a fucking liar," Xavier laughed. "I know you better than yourself. This is one of your coldest moments, I have to say."
Afton shrugged again. "Honestly? I've been urged to off load that building for years. I waited until you had nothing left before I ripped that income away from your greedy hands." He took a deep breath to help calm his nerves; Xavier had a way of unraveling his sense of self to bring him to his knees like a child. He always hated that. His reaction was not out of love but conditioned submission, and Afton resented feeling this way. Xavier had him trained like a dog.
Xavier sorted, "You knew I would come to you. Did you miss me?" He grabbed his cock and shook it. "Did you miss this? Your little boy not man enough?"
Ethan slammed his fist into his jaw again so hard he went sprawling. Xavier grabbed a metal pole from the ground and came up swinging. The bar just missed Ethan's head by inches, but he moved gracefully out of the way.
He fought men who liked to fight dirty before. That's the definition of a farm hand, so he was prepared. He grabbed Xavier by the collar pulling down, but at the same time slammed his kneed into his face. It broke his nose instantly and forced him to drop the metal pole to clatter onto the cement.
Afton held his breath and watched Ethan defend him. He'd exploded into action with a protective aggression and the meaning behind his actions was staggering. It proved the depth of Ethan's love for him, validating that it was real and not some passing phase. Xavier's callous words meant nothing; lost impact and suddenly Afton shed the emotional chains of control that his ex had over him. Xavier was nothing; Ethan was everything.
"You bastard!" Xavier spat out a wad of blood onto the dirty cement.
"You have a fondness for names, but I preferred 'boy toy'," Ethan taunted, picking up the weapon. "You really need to leave."
"Not until I get compensated!"
"You will get nothing. You've earned enough off his hard work and were careless enough to squander it away," Ethan said with a dangerous calm, twirling the stick in his hand. "I will only warn you once more before I beat the shit out of you with this pipe."
"Oh, he's got you so well trained. You're just a pet to him, don't you get that?" Xavier was stepping away slowly but not in any hurry to leave. He just gave himself some breathing room.
Ethan laughed, "You can go ahead and think that if it helps you sleep at night. You have ten seconds to get the fuck out of here."
"Has he taped you yet?"
The question rocked Ethan, but he didn't answer.
"He taped me too. Sucking his dick. We were just eighteen and he used to watch it over and over."