No wonder the old Reverend had mentioned using ear plugs for his nap. He must have known Jase would arrive by helicopter instead of limousine. Gage had never been this close to a helicopter before and the sound was earsplitting.
The dog had followed him out to the patio. He started barking and running toward the meadow beyond the barn, as if nothing out of the ordinary was happening. Gage clenched his fists and took a deep breath, then followed the dog, hoping Jase wouldn’t notice anything unusual or different about him.
When he reached the helicopter, he saw Jase climbing down with the little boy in his arms. Jase tossed a large suitcase to the ground, and it bounced and landed on its side. The helicopter had the words, “Virgin Enterprises,” painted across the side in red, white, and blue, and the background was a gleaming shade of silver. Jase climbed down and hunched forward to avoid the propellers, holding the little fair-haired boy close to his chest. Then he shouted something to the pilot and shut the door hard. As the helicopter took off, Jase put the boy down and reached for the suitcase. They both started running toward Gage, one shouting Luis’s name and the other shouting, “Daddy!” The little boy, Hunter, reached Gage first and threw his arms around Gage’s legs. He lunged at him and hugged him so tightly Gage almost fell over backwards. He couldn’t help smiling.
“Daddy,” Hunter said, “We got you a present from Gram. I missed you so much. Dad says you’re not going to like it and I shouldn’t say anything. But I think you might like it. And Gram couldn’t wait to give it to you.” He spoke well for a kid who seemed to be about four or five, without a hint of annoying baby talk that most people find so adorable. Gage had never been great with kids; he’d spent a good deal of his life avoiding them. But he had to admit there was something special about this kid.
Gage patted the boy on the back and said, “I missed you, too, Hunter.” He knew when the boy referred to “Gram” he was talking about Jase’s grandmother, Isabelle Nicholas. Gage had read all about Jase’s quirky ninety–year-old grandmother from Alaska in the blog posts Luis had written for the gay romance blogger in France.
Hunter released his grip and bent down to pick up the little dog. By that time, the dog was running around in circles and walking on its hind legs, begging for attention from the kid. The kid scooped the dog up in his arms and hugged him. “Camp, I missed you so much. I’m not going away again for a long time. I promise.”
Jase jogged up to Gage and dropped the suitcase. He threw his arms around him and hugged him tightly. Evidently, he and Luis didn’t hold back their affection for each other in front of Hunter. He hugged Gage harder and kissed him on the mouth right in front of the boy, making Gage feel somewhat awkward. Hell, Gage couldn’t even get Donny Vitelli the cop to hold his hand in public. “Damn, you look so good,” Jase said. “I missed you more than you know. This is the last time I’m going away without you for a long time. Next time, we all go together as a family or we don’t go at all.”
Gage smiled, trying to force emotions he didn’t have, feeling creepier by the moment. He hesitated, waiting to see if Jase would know he wasn’t really Luis, and said. “I missed you guys, too.” He stepped away from Jase. Jase was a great-looking guy, with sandy blond hair and a strong, rugged athletic body. He was better looking in person than the photos Gage had seen of him in newspapers and magazines. But he wasn’t Gage’s type at all, and it wasn’t because he was over forty. Gage had never been attracted to men with light hair, and it had nothing to do with age. There was something about men with light hair that made them taste so different from men with dark hair and darker skin, men like Cory and the taxi driver. It was almost a bitter, metallic taste Gage couldn’t describe in words. Whenever he kissed a light, fair-haired man, the taste it left in his mouth reminded him of the sanitized tools used in dental offices and he wanted to rinse out his mouth.
Hunter put the dog down and they both started running up to the house. When they were far enough out of sight, Jase reached around and grabbed Gage’s ass. He squeezed it hard and said, “I’m so fucking horny I could fuck a rock right now.”
Gage blinked and lurched forward. So much for small talk with his brother-in-law. Gage smiled and looked down at his shoes. “Let’s go inside and see what Hunter’s doing.”
Jase reached for Gage’s waist and pulled him closer. “What’s wrong? You don’t seem happy to see me. And your lips are swollen.”
“Ah well,” Gage said, “I had an allergic reaction to a strawberry I ate earlier this afternoon at The Plaza. I went there for strawberries and cream at lunchtime. And I’ve had a headache all day. I just can’t seem to shake it, no matter how hard I try.”
Jase lowered his hand and slipped it down the back of Gage’s sweatpants. He squeezed his bare ass this time, sliding his middle finger into the crack, and said, “I know how to make you feel better. One good fuck and you’ll be as good as new.”
Ah well. This was getting weird. Gage wasn’t sure how to respond to his over-sexed brother-in-law. So he backed away fast and said, “I think I might be coming down with a cold. We’d better take it easy for a while, Jase. I’m sorry.”
Jase picked up the suitcase with one hand and placed the other on the small of Gage’s back. (Luis certainly did like being pushed around by the men at Cider Mill Farm.) He pushed him forward and said, “Come to think of it, you do sound a little different. You’re voice sounds off, a little deeper. Let’s go into the house and I’ll show you the present from my grandmother. I know you’re not going to love it. But she meant well and all you have to do is thank her next time you talk to her, then forget all about it.”
When they were in the kitchen, Hunter ran up to Gage and asked if he could have an ice pop. He said he hadn’t had any ice pops all week in Alaska and he was dying for one.
“Sure,” Hunter said, “Help yourself. You know where they are.” Gage didn’t have a clue if they even had ice pops in the house.
But when he said this, both Jase and Hunter exchanged glances, with their mouths wide open and their eyebrows arched.
“What’s wrong?” Gage asked. He knew his zipper wasn’t open because he was wearing sweatpants.
“You really must be feeling bad,” Jase said. “I’ve never seen you let Hunter eat sugary ice pops, or any sugary snacks, before without giving him a lecture about fresh, organic, healthy foods. What on Earth would the first lady think if she heard you now? You’re behaving positively decadent.” Jase spoke with a sarcastic tone, smiling the entire time, as if he thought Luis’s food obsessions were odd, too.