Jase sat up and sent him a concerned glance. “Do you have a fever? I can get the thermometer.” He smiled and winked. “I can even get the rectal thermometer.”

Gage was in the bathroom now, but the door was wide open. He was standing in front of the mirror over the vanity smoothing out his hair. He noticed the dark hair color was lightening on its own and bleached blond highlights were starting to appear. He hoped Jase wouldn’t notice. “I don’t think I have a fever. I’ll be okay. It could even be an allergy to the falling leaves. I’ve heard people get this in the fall.” He wasn’t even certain there was such a thing as having an allergy to falling leaves. Maybe he should have said he had an allergy to something he’d eaten instead.

Jase untangled his body from the covers and loped into the bathroom in his bare feet. He was stark naked, with a semi-erection swinging between his legs. “Maybe we should cancel going fishing this morning,” Jase said. “I’m only going because Hunter likes to go. We’re not going to catch anything.”

Gage kept his eyes focused on the mirror, trying hard to avoid gaping at Jase’s dick. “I’ll be fine. You go, seriously. I’m going to Ted’s to see his engraving anyway. I promised I would and don’t want to let him down.”

Without going to the toilet first, Jase reached down and placed both hands on Gage’s waist. He leaned forward and kissed the back of Gage’s neck. “I’ll take you to Ted’s myself if you want. I don’t mind seeing his engraving. Then I’ll bring you back home and you can rest while we’re out fishing.”

It sounded to Gage as though Jase was still jealous of Ted and Jase didn’t want Gage going over to Ted’s place unescorted. Though Gage frowned when he thought about disappointing Jase, he shook his head and said, “You’ll crush Hunter if you do that. I know how excited he is about going fishing. I’ll be fine.”

Jase’s hand went lower and stopped in the middle of Gage’s ass. “I know you’ll be fine. It’s Ted I worry about.”

Gage figured he’d better reassure Jase, so he turned fast and said, “You don’t have to worry about anything, Jase. Ted is a nice guy and all he’s interested in is showing me his Piranesi. Stop worrying so much. Luis Fortune would never cheat on you. He loves you too much.” He figured it was a safe thing to say. Though he wasn’t sure about whether or not Luis was a cheater, he had to say something to reassure the poor guy.

“I know,” Jase said. “I just can’t help thinking that Ted is always concocting ways to get into your pants. And he is a nice-looking guy. He reminds me of Prince Harry in England.”

Jase was right. Ted did resemble adorable Prince Harry, with his reddish-brown hair and his wiry, lanky, athletic body. Pddly, his skin was darker, unlike most redheaded guys with freckles. But Gage didn’t want Jase to become alarmed, so he said, “If you like the Prince Harry type, which I don’t.” He lied. Gage loved the Prince Harry type. Gage would have licked adorable Prince Harry from his toes to the top of his head if given the chance. But he didn’t want Jase to know this. “I’m just going to see the engraving. You have nothing to worry about.”

However, Gage was very wrong about this. After Jase and Hunter left to go fishing in New Jersey, Gage walked to the end of the easement road and knocked on Ted’s front door. Ted answered the door wearing nothing but a pair of pale blue plaid boxer shorts. No shirt, no socks. His hair was all messed up and his face was red and wet with perspiration.

Gage wore Luis’s faded jeans—Luis’s only pair of old jeans—and a plain white dress shirt with a button down collar that morning. The weather was warmer and he wasn’t wearing a jacket. He tried to avoid gaping at Ted’s lean naked chest and said, “Am I too early? I’ll come back.”

As Gage turned to leave, Ted took his elbow and said, “You’re right on time. I just came back from a four-mile jog. Sorry I look so bad. I’ve been running late all morning.”

Ted looked far from bad, with his defined chest glistening and his half-soaked reddish-brown hair all messed up. The aroma coming from his warm body reminded Gage of red wine and damp leaves. So Gage smiled and said, “You look fine. I don’t mind at all.”

Ted returned the smile and gestured for Gage to enter the house. “The engraving is up in my bedroom. I wanted to keep it up there for a while so I can admire it before I go to bed at night.”

When Gage stepped inside the little stone cottage, he followed Ted up a narrow semi-circular wooden staircase with pie slice stairs. Ted warned him to keep to the right so he wouldn’t miss a step. But Gage concentrated more on Ted’s bulging leg muscles climbing the staircase. He had large, well-proportioned feet, with nice flat toes.

There was something about a man in boxer shorts that made Gage’s mouth water. When they reached to top of the stairs, Gage missed a step and Ted turned fast. He went back down the steps and reached under Gage’s right arm. “Here, let me help you. I warned you to keep to the right.”

Gage regained his balance and Ted helped him up to the second-floor hallway, with Ted’s crotch in his face the entire time. This house had the same wide plank barn board floors Luis’s and Jase’s house had, with all the same simplicity, from the period furniture to the white walls. Only on a much smaller scale, with much lower ceilings. Gage tried to pull back and walk on his own, but Ted held him with force and refused to let go. Evidently Jase had been right about his neighbor, Ted. The guy did want to get into Luis’s pants after all. Gage wondered how long this had been going on between Ted and Luis, then wondered whether or not Luis had actually slept with Ted behind Jase’s back. Gage’s affection toward Jase—as a human being, not a lover—seemed to grow with each conversation they shared. He hoped Luis wasn’t cheating on Jase.

But Gage didn’t have to wonder for long, because when they were in the bedroom staring down at the Piranesi engraving Ted had placed on an easel near the foot of the bed—a dismal black-and-white drawing of an Italian prison scene that reminded Gage of a bad cartoon—Ted removed his sweaty boxer shorts and placed his right palm on Gage’s back. “Would you like to hop into the shower with me?”

“Ah well,” Gage said. This guy didn’t seem shy. Now he was really starting to wonder what Luis had been doing behind Jase’s back. “I told Jase I wouldn’t be gone long.” When he glanced down between Ted’s legs, he saw an uncircumcised, eight-inch dick with a patch of reddish-brown hair that had been trimmed into a neat triangle. Gage wouldn’t have predicted the shaved triangle or the uncut dick. On the surface, Ted seemed so conservative and collegiate.

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