He couldn’t get back to little Schatz’s room fast enough. Cash breathed easier when he pulled up a chair next to the sleeping man’s bed and sat.
Cash studied this small being who in a short amount of time had become his obsession. Colorful bruises marred what he thought, that once healed, would be smooth skin the shade of dark caramel. The doctor had removed the bandages covering his cheeks and only a thin line of stitches remained where huge gaping wounds had once been. Thick, long lashes, fanned out and rested against still swollen skin. Healing scabs covered the man’s torn up lips.
Little Schatz sighed in his sleep. The sound seemed so lonely. Cash reached over and picked up his hand. He began to hum a song that fit his feelings for this special man.
The man stirred. Cash’s breath hitched at the gorgeous light blue eyes set against the man’s dark skin. He wondered if he would ever get used to that striking contrast.
“Hi.” Cash kept his voice soft, not wanting to startle.
“My name is Cash Brady.” Cash thought he better start with the basics. “We sort of met at the park.”
“You chased off Hal and Doug.”
“I did.” Cash couldn’t wait for a face to face confrontation with those two later. “I’m not sure what the doctors told you, but you’re in Illinois now, not Kentucky.”
The man nodded, but Cash could tell by the careful way the man had moved, he didn’t understand what Cash was talking about.
“This building you’re in is a hospital.” Cash waved his hand around. “Have you ever been in a hospital before?”
“A long time ago I went to the one in town but after spending all day in the waiting room I went home.”
“Why did you go to the hospital?” Cash wondered if the man would be truthful. Abuse victims seem to have the same set of answers when they were ashamed of what was happening to them. Cash hoped he could keep his expression blank if the man said he tripped and fell into a door.
“I went to have a doctor look at my arm.” The man rubbed the brace covering his wrist and arm. “Grandmother called Uncle Merrill when she cut her finger with a knife. She told him she needed a doctor and to go to the hospital.
“And no one would help you,” Cash stated. The arm had to have been bad for the man to seek treatment.
The man’s gaze never wavered from Cash’s. “No.”
“From now on you have me to help you.” Cash meant every word.
The man squinted. If little Schatz’s face wasn’t still so swollen, Cash was sure lines would be creasing his forehead into a frown. He found the man so cute and held back a smile.
“Because I’m your friend,” Cash answered in an understatement of the year. “At least I hope you will let me be your friend.”
“No one has ever wanted my friendship before.”
“Well.” Cash picked up the small man’s hand lying on the bed. “I do.”
“Do friends always hold hands?”
Cash blinked, not expecting that question. “Um, I’m hoping to be a special friend. They hold hands.”
Man, he hoped he didn’t sound creepy. He meant that statement in a good, non-slimy sort of way. Shit, the little Schatz had him babbling.
Cash had a horrible thought. The guy was on the small size. “How old are you?”
Cash smiled. Thank goodness.
* * * *
He ignored the tiny stings of his sore lips and smiled back at Mr. Brady, um Cash, no Mr. Brady. What do people call special friends? Smiling, who would have thought he’d have a reason to smile. And a friend. He had a friend.
“Is someone missing you? Is there anyone I should call and let know where you are? You’ve been at the hospital here for a week. I would be worried if I hadn’t heard from you for that length of time.”
He had made mistakes and paid for them twofold. He had not made mistakes and paid for them with pain anyway. He sensed something huge happening and wasn’t going to screw this up.
“Can I ask you something, Mr. Brady?” It was best to be cautious and try to see all the angles before deciding what to do.
“Call me Cash.” Cash rubbed his thumb over the top of his hand. “You can always ask me anything.”
He swallowed, trying to keep his mind on the conversation and not that thumb. Tingles were radiating up his arm.
“If someone hates you, do you still owe them your loyalty and respect?
The man leaned back in his chair and appeared to be thinking. He snuck peeks at the muscles moving under Cash’s shirt. He never told anyone that he had no urges to look at girls, but could watch good looking boys all day. He knew if his grandmother ever found out that his penis hardened in the morning when he had dreams about a man’s muscled chest, she would have taken a knife to his testicles. Grandmother told him many times that if she found out he’d spilled his tainted seed, she’d make him into a eunuch.
Cash didn’t answer or stop walking until he had left the woods, entered the cabin, and carried Jesse into the bathroom. Jesse found himself perched on the toilette cover with Cash sitting on the tub edge of the shower-bathtub combination.
“I want you to promise me something.” Cash took a deep breath. “From now on, when you are upset or scared, you run to me, not away.”
“I’m sorry. When I saw that guy hurting the other, it reminded me of the times when I screamed and begged, but they wouldn’t stop hitting—”
“Promise,” Cash interrupted. His mouth pressed into a straight line.
Cash’s intense gaze bore into Jesse and he blurted, “I promise.”
Jesse sat helpless and at a loss with what he should do or how to act. The image on Bret’s phone of those men played through his mind in a nonstop loop.
Cash stood and turned on the shower. “We’re both a mess. Let’s get cleaned up. After, I think a nap is next on the list.”
Jesse’s twisted the material of his shirt around his hands. Cash reached up and pulled of his shirt, revealing a flat belly and muscled cheat. Sometimes, in the middle of the night Jesse woke up and he dared to sift his fingers through the coarse hair between Cash’s pecs.
“Hurry up,” Cash ordered. “The faster we finish showering, the faster we can relax for a while.”
Cash unbuckled his belt and opened his pants. Jesse watched the jeans slide down over powerful thighs and calves, until they were pooled at Cash’s feet. The big man again sat on the edge of the tub and removed his socks and boots.
At times over the last weeks, Jesse had seen Cash wearing nothing but boxer-briefs. Never before had he seen him naked. Jesse stared. Cash may have the same equipment as he did, but their appearances were at the opposite ends of the spectrum. His skinny brown body came nowhere near resembling Cash’s gorgeous white flesh of perfection.
“Come on, love.” Cash untangled Jessie’s finger from the hem off his shirt and pulled it off. “I don’t want to run out of hot water.”
Jesse squeaked when Cash shoved his jeans down to his feet. “Cash we’ve never been naked together before.”
“Well, this is as good of a time as any.”
Cash stepped back into the tub and pulled Jesse in with him. The water’s soothing warmth flowed over Jesse.
“Here.” Cash handed Jesse a bar of soap. “Soap me up.”
“Use the soap to get a good lather going and spread the bubbles over me,” Cash instructed.
Half of Jesse wanted to ask, why. The other half longed to touch Cash’s body. His grandmother’s voice started preaching in his head about the sins of the flesh.
Cash started humming that Joan Baez song. Jesse remembered the words and realized this was a pivotal moment in his life. He could let the hate of his past rule, or go home to the real happiness of Cash.
Jesse rolled the soap between his fingers. “Why are you humming?”
“When you become lost in your nightmares that song seems to help.”
Jesse reached up and ran his soapy hands over the tops of Cash’s shoulders. The slippery slide over muscled flesh started a slow burn in his lower belly.
“Do you think the words of songs can apply to real life?” he asked and tried to concentrate on stopping his private parts from reacting.
“Yes,” Cash answered. “Many of the words of our song apply to us.”
Jesse paused and looked up at Cash. “Our song?”
When the man didn’t elaborate Jesse went to cover Cash’s chest with soap. He stepped back in alarm and would have tipped out of the tub if Cash hadn’t grabbed him.
“Cash!” He couldn’t stop looking at Cash’s penis. Huge and tall, it bumped against Cash’s abdomen.
“Take it in, Jesse.” Cash wrapped his hand around the rigid organ and pumped it. A bead of shiny liquid appeared in the little hole at the tip. “This is what you do to me. My body, my cock, and my souls wants you.”
Jesse wanted to touch that cock. He’d give anything to be in Cash’s arms and receive more kisses. But could he handle the pain that guy on Bret’s phone was going through? Jesse didn’t want to hurt anymore.
“What are you thinking, love?” Cash reached out but stopped when Jesse flinched. “Tell me what’s spooking you.”
Jess opened his mouth to answer and wanted to kick himself when nothing came out.
“We can stop.” Cash released his cock. “I wanted to move forward in this relationship, but if you need to go stay at Cade’s and just be friends, I’ll abide by your wishes.”
“Are we in a relationship?” At least he was starting to get some answers in this new world.
“Yes.” Cash’s cock bobbed.