Jase blinked. “But you wanted to do this reading with Thomas.”
“I’m sorry,” Gage said, trying to react like Luis. “It’s just the headache talking.”
* * * *
The psychic reading with the gay reverend, Thomas, with the accent on the last syllable, turned out to be as uneventful as Gage had predicted it would be. The old guy made them lower all the lights so that the only light in the family room came from the burning logs in the walk-in fireplace, and then he grabbed both of Gage’s hands and closed his eyes so he could concentrate. He made a few dramatic gestures and his body jerked a few times. He even changed his voice, as if one of his so-called “spirit guides” was talking through his body. A lot of what he said was gibberish, and the rest was all so vague and pointless Gage could have done it himself with a turban and a crystal ball. He told Gage there were exciting things in his future. He said he’d lead a very active life so far and would continue to do so. The one thing the psychic reverend couldn’t seem to figure out was that this wasn’t Luis Fortune at all he was reading. It was really Gage Weston pretending to be Luis Fortune. This was enough for Gage to know the old man was simply entertaining them, not giving them a true psychic reading. If he had been psychic and he had been able to predict the future, the least he could have done was figure out he wasn’t really talking to Luis. A true psychic, if there was such a thing, would have known Luis was locked up in a dusty sex cage in a third-floor apartment in Brooklyn, eating cake and pasta and listening to the country western countdown that night.
Ted Barker, on the other hand, turned out to be one of the most charming, engaging men Gage had met in a long time. He wore a tweed jacket and beige slacks. He had a reddish-brown beard like the color of the beaver coat and thick reddish-brown hair. When he spoke, he sounded like a professor teaching a classroom full of students. He kept Gage and Thomas laughing for most of the night and even invited Gage, assuming he was inviting Luis, to take a look at a Piranesi engraving he’d recently purchased at an auction house in Philadelphia. Of course Gage knew nothing about engravings or Piranesi, the famous Italian artist, but he smiled and accepted the Sunday morning invitation without even consulting Jase first—a bad move, he realized too late, thanks to never having been in a monogamous relationship himself.
Jase seemed to notice Ted didn’t invite him or Thomas, just Gage pretending to be Luis. So Jase squared his shoulders and cleared his throat. “I thought you were going fishing with us tomorrow morning, Luis. I promised Hunter I’d take him fishing and thought you’d like to come along, too.”
Gage smiled. Evidently this Ted Barker knew how to push Jase’s buttons. Gage was actually curious to find out what a Piranesi actually was. So he smiled at Jase and said, “If you don’t mind, I think I’ll skip the fishing thing tomorrow and take Ted up on his offer.” He was also extremely attracted to Ted Barker. There was something about men with reddish-brown hair, unlike fair-haired men, that made his pants tighter. Ted reminded him of someone, but he couldn’t put it together.
Jase forced a smiled and said, “If that’s what you want to do, fine with me. Hunter and I can go fishing alone.”
After that, the party broke up. It was only eleven o’clock, but Thomas started to yawn and his head began to droop forward. Ted had driven Thomas down the easement road and they didn’t want Thomas walking home alone in the dark. Although the old reverend was a complete fake as a psychic, there was something sweet and nice about him that allowed Gage to overlook his eccentricities.
When Ted and Thomas were gone and Gage and Jase were upstairs getting ready for bed, Jase asked, “Are you sure you don’t want to go fishing with us tomorrow? Hunter will be awfully disappointed.” Jase was undressing at the foot of the bed, tossing his clothes in different directions, scratching the back of his head with one hand and his balls with the other.
Gage went into the closet and found the sweatpants and T-shirt he’d been wearing earlier. There was no way he was getting into bed with Jase Nicholas, his brother’s husband, naked. “I’ll make it up to Hunter later,” Gage said, speaking louder because he was inside the closet and felt awkward changing in front of Jase. “What did you think of the reading Thomas gave me tonight?” He wanted to change the subject so Jase wouldn’t continue harping about fishing.
“I thought it was bullshit,” Jase said in a flat, dry tone.
Gage stepped out of the closet and walked to the bed. “He’s a nice man, though. I’m sure he means well.” He forced himself not to watch Jase climb into bed. Jase had removed all his clothes this time, even his boxer shorts, and Gage didn’t feel right about seeing him naked.
Jase pulled the covers over his naked body and gaped at Luis. “You’re wearing clothes to bed? What the fuck?”
Gage smiled and walked to his side of the bed. “I had a slight chill. I think it’s because it’s getting cooler outside and I’m coming down with this cold.” It sounded plausible.
“You’ve never worn clothes to bed before, not even when you’re sick.”
“I’m just not feeling like myself,” Gage said.
“Well, if you’re not feeling any better when we get back to New York this week, you’re going to see Dr. Strand. I don’t want you getting sick on us.”
That was a sweet gesture. Gage was beginning to see that Luis really had fallen in love with a wonderful man. Jase was nothing like Luis. He was strong and simple, kind and wise. Gage couldn’t seem to find a single flaw in the man no matter how hard he tried. And, Gage was starting to feel guiltier by the minute for intruding this way.
He climbed into bed and pulled up the covers. Before he turned on his side with his back facing Jase, he said, “Don’t be mad at me. I really don’t feel well.” It was the truth. Being in the same bed with naked Jase, his brother’s lover and husband, caused a burn in Gage’s stomach he’d hadn’t experienced since he’d lost his first lover, Snake. It was a shame Luis hadn’t felt the same way about fucking Gage’s lover, Snake. If Luis had felt an ounce of loyalty to Gage back then, Luis wouldn’t be locked up in a sex cage in Brooklyn. And Gage wouldn’t be in bed with Luis’s naked husband at Cider Mill Farm, pretending to have a severe headache.
In the morning, Gage faked a few coughs and cleared his throat. He sniffed back and rubbed his forehead. He did this because Jase had rolled over in bed, reached down beneath the covers, and slipped his big hand down the back of Gage’s sweatpants without asking for permission. When Gage felt Jase’s hand groping him, his eyes opened wide and he practically jumped out of bed. That’s when he covered his mouth and faked the coughs. Without looking down at Jase in the bed, Gage walked to the bathroom in Luis’s sweatpants and said, “I’m still not feeling like myself. It’s probably a low-grade head cold or a virus.” Gage wished Jase wasn’t so aggressive. He would have loved to have slept longer that morning. For a guy in his forties, Jase seemed to have a constant erection.