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The Talon House

If By Chance


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If By Chance

Chapter One

By Nick

I've never been one to put myself out there. I think I've always wanted to be on the scene with all of my friends, but never had the confidence to walk up to that one person who happened to catch my eye whenever such an occasion arose. In fact, all of my romantic encounters have pretty much consisted of one night stands and a non-committal exchange of phone numbers after the deed was done.

I'd spent a few nights in the arms of another, but I usually regretted it the next day. Something about having sex with someone and having to confront the feelings that follow the act gives me the creeps. It's always been much easier to make my exit if I happen to be the guest, or, if by chance I wound up taking someone back to my place, I would drop subtle hints that it was time for him to leave. If he didn't get the picture right away, I'd move things along by helping him back into his clothes and walking him to the front door.

Maybe I'm a dog, but I think it's a lot better to be up front than to mislead someone into thinking I'd ever be in it for the long run. Commitments just weren't something I was interested in. A lot of my friends and family members have asked when I was finally going to settle down and find that special someone to spend my life with, and I would always give the same answer: 'Probably never.'

To be perfectly honest, I was quite comfortable living my life as it was. I was a successful single gay man with no skeletons in my closet. I came out to myself in high school and to everyone I loved in college. It wasn't the most traumatic event in my life, but I don't think I'd ever want to have to do it again, simply because of the uncertainty that went with it. When I graduated from college, my mom and dad helped me buy a house in the suburbs not too far from where I grew up and I moved forward with my life, taking a job as Controller for a major packaging company.

I'm not one who projects his sexuality. There are plenty of people like that of all orientations, and while I'm not turned off by it, there isn't anything appealing about it to me either. A lot of my coworkers have calendars in their offices with pretty women in bikinis, or hot guys without shirts and rippling muscles. I have one with pictures of various waterfalls and trees. It's nothing to stop and look at, but it adds a certain ambiance to my office that lets me relax while I pour over reports and analyze our budget for the next three years.

I've hooked up with a couple of guys from work, but it was always with the silent understanding between us that there would be no commitment and no office drama. But I've always been weary of these hook ups because I've seen things get ugly in a hurry for others too many times. In fact, our Senior Vice President In Charge of Sales and Distribution lost his job because a lady screamed sexual harassment in the wake of a nasty split between them. I happen to know for a fact that he received a handsome severance package, but professionally, he may never recover from the stigma of the being fired for sexual harassment.

In contrast, though, one of our board members met his wife at work and they've been happily married for years. They have kids and grandkids together, and somehow they manage to keep a professional relationship at work that never seems to get tangled up with their marriage. They're the exception, though, and most intelligent people avoid these types of situations altogether.

Which is exactly why I tried to keep my distance from Gerald Ballard when I watched him walk timidly out of the human resource office behind Robin Poole, our Human Resource Manager. He was obviously new, probably fresh out of college, and very nervous about starting a new job. He was handsome, maybe even a little cute, but I knew trouble when I saw it.

A lot of people talk about Gaydar and its properties. Some say it's a myth, but I know for a fact that it's real. I know because my Gaydar works like a charm, and there was no doubt that this guy was as gay as they come. As Robin walked him around the office floor, I watched carefully through the glass that separated me from the other office people. The women were ogling him shamelessly and openly, making him blush deeply and smile widely at the same time.

By the time they reached my office, he was beet red and was probably relieved to see a man. As they approached my door, sat up straight and smiled, motioning with my head for Robin to go ahead and come on in.

"Good morning Dennis," she said with a smile as she walked in with the new guy right behind her. "I'd like you to meet Gerald Ballard. He'll be working in Payroll. Gerald, this is Dennis Mead, our Controller."

"Welcome aboard, Gerald," I said warmly, standing up and walking around to the front of my desk to shake his hand. I took note of the way his nails were perfectly manicured and the soft tone to his skin. There was something so silky about it, and as I gave it a firm shake, I caught a whiff of lotion, probably Jergens. He seemed to have trouble meeting my eyes, but I took it as nervousness that was most likely caused by the fact that he was going to be one of my direct reports.

"It's a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Mead," he said quietly with a smile that seemed to grow in its intensity as he slowly raised his head to meet my eyes. As soon as we made eye contact, I lost track of my breathing and felt my heart rate pick up. His facial features caught me off guard, and it was as if I hadn't just watched him walk into my office a few moments earlier.

His caramel complexion perfectly accented a pair of bright brown eyes that sat in their flawlessly shaped sockets. His nose was cute. Not so much a button nose, not a big nose either. His nostrils seemed to flare just slightly on their own when he smiled.

Oh, and his smile.

I wouldn't even know where to start. His ruby red lips were thin, yet full at the same time. When they turned up, a deep dimple formed on each of his creamy, caramel colored cheeks and his eyes seemed to squint just a little bit. The way his brown bangs fell over the edge of his forehead, stopping just above his brow, gave me the impression that he was overdue for a haircut. In my eyes, though, he was perfect in every way.

I snapped myself out of the spell he seemed to have me under just in time to return his innocent smile and say, "I look forward to working with you, Gerald. I trust Robin has introduced you to everyone in the office."

"Yes sir," he said, letting my hand go and turning to smile at Robin, who answered my question with a nod.

"I was just going to leave him with you," she told me. "I'll let you two go over everything, and you can show him to his desk."

"Thanks Robin," I said warmly. She smiled between us before she turned and walked out, leaving Gerald and I alone for the first time.

I think my fear of committed relationships goes all the way back to my earliest memories of my mom and dad. Yeah, they managed to keep our family whole and to this day, they're still committed to each other. To the best of my knowledge, neither of them has strayed in their marriage, and that counts for something in my eyes. Unfortunately, that's not the only thing that counted in my childhood.

I think the first time I heard them fighting was when I was about four. It must have been in the middle of the night because I had been sleeping for a while, but the sound of my dad's furious shouting woke me up. The light in the hallway was off, but there was a glow that came from across the hall, where their bedroom door was opened. I wasn't sure what was happening, but I was definitely terrified. I got out of bed and crept across the hall, where I saw my mom and dad sitting on the bed with angry looks on their faces.

My dad said something to my mom, and she instantly reached out with her hands and slapped him as hard as she could. His response was to grab a handful of her hair and flash her a stern look before they both spotted me standing in the doorway and separated.

From that day forward, I knew something was wrong. The fights seemed to happen in waves, where they would have a straight week of blowouts, then things would calm down for months before it would happen again. In my mind, I was always predisposed to be on my mom's side. I think it was just because I loved her more than I loved my dad. I hate to sound that way, but it was true at the time. As I grew older, I figured out that she almost always instigated the fighting between them and wondered why, but never had the courage to ask.

By the time I turned 13, the fighting had ceased. I don't know if it was because I was older and they knew I knew what was going on, or if it was something else. Whatever it was, though, I was glad. The problem was, my mom and dad stopped touching each other.

I noticed it right off the bat. They didn't hug or kiss, and I never saw them hold hands. Instead, they co-existed in the same house. I just shrugged it off because I was dealing with my own issues at the time, trying to figure out what it was that had me so smitten with all of my male teachers.

I really wanted a girlfriend, but I didn't want one. I just wanted to have one, I guess, because all of my friends had them. There was one girl in particular, Janis Lambert, who had a huge crush on me. I remember thinking that she'd do, so I started holding her hand after school and walking her home. I even took her to meet my parents, and they both seemed to be excited for me.

My moment of truth came when we shared our first kiss. I don't think anything has ever been as uneventful for me as the kiss Janis and I partook in. We were walking home from school, and decided to stop at a 7-11 for something cold to drink. We got what we wanted, then I followed her around to the back of the store where the shadow cast off the building offered us a cool place to rest and drink our sodas.

I cracked my can of Coke open and took a long, satisfying drink. When I pulled the can away from my lips, it happened. She pressed her lips to mine and turned her head as her tongue bullied its way into my mouth. I was disgusted, but there was nothing appealing about it either. Still, I entertained her advance because I knew she would be telling everyone about it the next day at school. We went far enough that day for me to have a hickey on my neck that I had to explain to my parents when I got home, but it was also a hickey I was able to sport proudly to the rest of the school.

It didn't take too long for things to cool off between Janis and I. We remained good friends, but that was the peak of my boy-girl escapades. When I started high school the next year, I knew that I never wanted a girlfriend again and I knew why, but I couldn't admit it to myself.

When I finally was able to accept that I was gay, I realized that there was no one in school I was interested in except for a few of the hot male teachers. I didn't have the courage to come out yet, so I stayed romantically introverted until the day I left for college. I didn't have a hard time staying away from my dorm roommates, but my professors were a different story.

Once I figured out who was who, I put myself in situations where I knew I would be hit on. I was nervous, but I felt like it was a first step that I was ready to take. I lost virginity when I was 19 to my Sociology professor, Henry Lambert, and I didn't regret it one bit. He was gentle and caring, and it was everything I dreamed it would be and more. I knew I wasn't the only one he was sleeping with, but somehow, that didn't matter.

As time went by, I gained experience as both a top and a bottom. I found that while I was willing to bottom, I was a much more contented top. It was hard to find older guys willing to let me top them, though, and I had no interest in younger men at the time, so most of the guys I slept with were my age or just a little older.

By the time I entered the professional world, I knew all the signals. If I had the green light to sleep with someone, I went for it. I don't think that makes me a slut, it just makes me a single, available guy. For some people, I think, dating is hard. They don't want to do the wrong thing, or make fools out of themselves. My motto is simple; if they say no, I'll never see them again anyway. Why not go for it? It's just sex.

Getting laid doesn't have to be rocket science. It's as easy as reciting the alphabet, or counting to ten. I just keep myself in shape and looking good. Everything else just follows suit. If it doesn't, then I'd have to be doing something to sabotage myself. Luckily, I've never had that problem.

"Do you ever wonder what the straight folks at work say about you?" Gerald asked me in a listless tone as he lightly traced around the diameter of my left nipple with his forefinger. I sighed gently and used my left arm, which was wrapped tightly around his firm body, to give him a reassuring squeeze before I answered.

"I'm sure they have plenty to say," I told him in a quiet voice as I stared at the ceiling, still basking in the afterglow of the sex we had just shared. "I'd rather not know about it, though. I have to be able to work with them, and if I find out they've been badmouthing me, I don't think I can do that."

"Okay," he said with a yawn, prompting me to gaze down at him. He smiled sleepily at me, and I knew I was in trouble. I'd already broken so many of the rules I'd set for myself, and I wondered what was next for Gerald and I. Shaking him wasn't going to be as easy as I initially thought when we first met for drinks after work. One thing led to another, and before I knew it, we were at the movies.

Our impromptu date ended in my bedroom, and I had plans to show him the door as soon as we were finished. Somewhere along the way, though, I felt something I'd never felt before. I don't think it was love, but it was something powerful none the less. It was more of a longing for him to spend the night in my arms.

I didn't need to be held, but for some reason, I sensed that he did, and I wanted to be the one to fill that need. As I lay there in my bed that first night, awash in the new sensation that had gripped me, I almost regretted having sex with Gerald. I felt like it was a recipe for trouble, but I was confident that I could play it smart and still find a way to give him the shake.

After all, it was only one night.

But one night turned into two, and two into three. Then it was a week, then it was three weeks. Now I was laying with him snuggled up to my side, hoping that he wouldn't be hurt when he realized that I was a player, and that a player doesn't just settle down. True, I hadn't been with anyone else while we were sleeping together, but it was just a matter of time.

Part of me reasoned that he was a grown man, and he'd most likely had his heart broken before. Another part of me reasoned that there was always the possibility that he didn't want a commitment either. I mean, what level headed twenty two year old was interested in settling down? I would have laughed in the face of anyone who expected me to be committed to them when I was that age, and it was obvious to me that he was no amateur when it came to sex.

At the same time, he had an air of naïve innocence about him that made me feel guilty for sleeping with him. Yes, he was a grown man, and yes, he wanted as bad as I did. The question was, what was he expecting? We never actually had that conversation, and I chalked that up to luck. I might be good at ditching the tricks that come over for one night of sex, but I had no experience at breaking hearts.

Nonetheless, I knew what I had to do. The funny part about that is that it's easy to know what to do. Doing it is a different story altogether. I knew that this was going to be hard.

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