Guarded

Chapter 7 - Guarded

Corbin's strange little phone lay on his nightstand and began chirping its alarm at 6 AM.  Paul woke and turned off the machine. He eyed Corbin, but the blonde man slept through it.  He smiled. 'Good. You need the rest.'

Paul lay back down and scooted up against the smaller man.  The air in the cabin was chilly. But here next to Corbin and under the blankets he was toasty and warm.  He knew the fire had died down, and he would need to revive it. He'd get to that in a bit. For now, he wanted to enjoy laying against Corbin.

He did.  A little too much.  His cock woke and he pulled his hips back so Corbin wouldn't wake up to getting poked in the backside.  He grinned at himself. 'Yeah, I guess this guy does it for me.'

He enjoyed his snuggle time a little longer, then he forced himself to get up.  He moved through the house, his long underwear tented obscenely with his erection.  He frowned and pushed at it till it lay down along his leg. It was a little more comfortable that way.  Paul continued. His socked feet slid a bit on the polished wooden floor as he walked to the living room to check on that fire.

Paul squatted on his heels and poked at the blackened log in the hearth.  He was happy to see the red glow of some live coals. He smiled and added a dry piece of spruce, confident it would catch.  Then he made his way to the kitchen.

He found bacon, eggs, cheese, and bread.  He toasted some bread and fried bacon and eggs.  A couple of slices of cheddar went on the toasty bread and he put a couple of breakfast sandwiches together.  As he heated water for coffee he heard movement in the hall and soon a sleepy Corbin appeared. He shuffled through the house, sleepy and tired.  He wore a similar outfit to Paul - long underwear, a t-shirt, and wool socks.

He blinked and looked into the kitchen.  His blonde hair was sticking up, and he frowned against the light from the overhead fixture.  Paul grinned at him. "Hello, sunshine."

Corbin grunted and staggered over to the hearth.  He closed his eyes and held his hands out over it, absorbing the warmth of the newly awakened fire.

Paul chuckled.  Then he looked over the bar that split the kitchen and living room.  "What are you doing up? Why don't you eat and go back to bed? You DID almost die yesterday you know.  Nobody would fault you for … you know, taking it easy."

Corbin shook his head and frowned.  "No. The smell of bacon woke me up.  But it's good. Because I need to go to town."  He held up his phone and wiggled it. "Message from Karen, at Hailey Coffee Company came in yesterday while I was dying.  I've got a job. I wanna go talk to her before I start on Monday."

"Ah, okay.  Congratulations on the job.  That's a good coffee place." Paul cut their sandwiches corner to corner and then put the plates on the table.  He returned to the kitchen and pressed the plunger on the French Press. "Coffee and breakfast are done." Paul poured a couple of mugs of the liquid, prepared to both of their preferences.  Then he walked to the table with the mugs. "Come on and eat."

Corbin nodded.  But first, he picked up the case to his phone that had dried overnight from the heat of the fire.  He snapped it back together over the impressive piece of tech. Now it looked like a caseless iPhone 6 again.

He came over to the table and sat.  He looked a bit more awake. Corbin smiled at the breakfast and the coffee.  "Thanks, Paul."

The fireman smiled.  "Sure. Was easy. Just coffee and breakfast."

"It's not only that."  Corbin picked up his mug and his eyes found Paul's.  "Thanks. For everything."

Paul swallowed.  "Well, you're welcome.  For everything."

The two men ate their food and drank their coffee.  Paul wasn't quite sure of the protocol. The morning after you save a guy's life, mess around with him, find out his deepest darkest secret, and make him breakfast was a new situation for the fireman.  So he waited for Corbin to give him a hint.

The blonde man seemed to be thinking along the same lines.  He looked up at Paul as he finished breakfast. "So, if you're okay with it, I'd like us to exchange numbers."  He fidgeted a little, looked down and bit his lip. "Ah, if you want."

Paul smiled.  "Yeah. That sounds good."  Corbin looked up at him and returned the expression.

The two men punched the information into their phones.

Corbin got up, gathered the dishes and went to the sink to clean up.  "Go ahead and hit the shower, Paul. Should be enough juice in the batteries to warm the water long enough for both of ours."

Instead, Paul walked up behind him.  Corbin could feel the heat of his body as he stood close.  "Well … we could save some battery life by taking one together."  His voice was low, and he reached to put his hands on Corbin's shoulders.  Paul's member began to wake and pushed against the material of his long johns.  The same started to happen to Corbin.

The smaller man licked his lips.  He shook his head once then he turned around.  Paul moved his hands down to his waist, and the two men stood, their chests almost touching.  "Paul, I want to but I need to take things slow. Okay?" That was tough to say. Corbin's covered cock stuck almost straight out and nestled under Paul's crotch.  This was while the firefighter's member pushed against his belly. "I liked what we did. But I want to do other stuff with you too."

Corbin knew something about himself.  If he had regular sex with someone he would develop feelings for them at some point.  He knew some people could parse out sex from love, and he knew they were different things.  But for him, one leads to a strengthening of the other. And he had a suspicion that once he started he would never be able to turn that particular train around with Paul.  He already felt more for the fireman than he thought he should this early. 'I need to slow things down.' He thought as he looked into Paul's green eyes.

Paul sighed, but he smiled.  His expression was understanding.  "Okay. I get it. I'm actually glad you want to do other stuff with me."  His countenance shifted to ornery. "But, ah, if you hear some moaning from the bathroom, don't check on me.  I'm fine."

Corbin threw his head back and laughed.  Then he smiled at Paul. "Okay. Fair enough."  Paul gave him a lopsided grin and headed to the shower.

Corbin checked the weather on his phone while Paul showered.  The forecast was for nothing but sun and warming temperatures until next week.  But currently, there were about six inches of crunchy, icy snow on the ground.

It wasn't long before Paul headed out to hike back home.  He refused the ride Corbin offered. They were not actually sure his truck would make the trip in the current conditions.

"Text me when you get home."  Corbin frowned as a bundled up Paul stepped off his porch into the snow with a crunch of ice.

Paul looked over his shoulder at Corbin and he fought a strange, unexpected and emotional moment.  'Not had someone worry about me in a while.' He cleared his throat and swallowed the lump that had gathered there.  "Yeah. I will." He smiled, then turned and started on his way.

It was Friday.  Paul had duty with the fire department the next two days - over the weekend.  When he did he was at the fire station the entire time unless they were on a call.  So Corbin wouldn't get to see him. That was both a good and bad thing. It meant Corbin had time to think about things, and it meant … he didn't see Paul for two days.  He already resolved to be as busy as possible.

Corbin got dressed for the weather, then he headed out to Hailey, his destination the coffee shop.

__________________________________

Paul crunched through the snow, slow and steady.  There was no rush, and he had a lot to think about anyway.  He walked for about an hour and approached the footpath that was the most direct route up the ridge to his house.  Then he heard an engine.

He frowned and looked at his road.  A white pickup crawled up the rutted path and he cursed.  "Chad! Shit!" He pulled out his phone and the truck rounded the bend out of sight.  He hit the contact on his phone and then picked up his pace.

A couple of rings and his friend picked up.  "Hey, cocksucker. I'm almost there. Keep your pants on.  Please." Chad laughed at his own terrible, and overused jokes.

"Ah hahaha.  Yes .... you're …. hilarious."  Paul's breath came in puffs as he clambered up the final part of the ridge as fast as he could and not fall.

"Dude, what are you doing?"  Paul heard the truck jerk to a stop over the phone.  "Sounds like you're finally getting lucky or something."  The sound of the truck door opening and shutting came through clearly.  He could hear it both over the phone and also through his other ear. He was close to the top.

"I'm … coming up … the ridge."  At that moment he crested the top and then bent to rest, his hands on his knees.

Chad turned and saw him next to the edge of the plateau where the house sat.  He frowned at Paul and hung up. He threw his hands up. "What? You were out hiking the property after a snowstorm?"  He walked through the melting snow over to Paul where he still caught his breath. Chad was his oldest friend, and the first person he ever came out to.  The short, skinny man still frowned at Paul.

Paul finally grabbed a full inhalation and he stood.  He grinned down at Chad. "Sorry, I forgot you were coming up today."

Chad's brown eyes grew suspicious.  "You forgot. Really. This project that we've been trying to finish for a month, and you forgot?"  He crossed his arms over his chest. "What were you doing down the ridge?"

Paul licked his lips.  He decided to go with something that flirted with the truth.  "Ah, I was only checking on the neighbor. The new guy who bought the Sexton place."  He jerked his head down the ridge at Corbin's cabin.

"Yeah?"  Chad stepped past Paul and looked at his path.  His eyes flicked over the tracks. Then he turned his head slowly and eyed Paul.  "Tracks coming up. None going down. You didn't leave this morning. You did sometime yesterday, before the storm."  His eyebrows arched, and he awaited an explanation.

Chad knew this land almost as well as Paul.  The two of them had spent many hours up here together, and he knew Paul only took one path up and down the ridge on foot.

Paul froze with a guilty look on his face and struggled to come up with something.

While he did Chad smiled.  Paul realized from the expression that Chad caught him.  "Plays for your team huh?" He pointed. "AND you spent the night!"

"Fuck."  Paul goggled at Chad.  He had forgotten, Chad was actually GOOD at this whole detail and investigation stuff.  He worked as an officer in the Hailey Police Department, and he had dreams of becoming a detective in Boise.

Paul shook his head. He was responsible for outing Corbin after a two-minute long interaction with another human being.  "Chad, you ... man, you can't tell anybody."

Chad frowned.  "Why? It's not like you to hide.  I mean, you don't advertise, but you don't sneak around about it."  He smiled. "Besides, it'd be cool to see you paired up man. Mia would love to hear it."

Paul grimaced.  "No, no, no." He ran his hand under his knit cap and scratched his head.  "Okay … shit." He tried to think of the best way he could do damage control.  "So, Corbin doesn't want anybody to know." That was true at least. "And, we only started hanging out.  We're not a pair."

Chad looked at him for a moment and his jaw worked as he eyed Paul.  Then finally he shrugged. "All right Paul. If it's important to you, fine.  I won't tell anybody."

Paul was visibly relieved.  "Thank you." Then his eyes widened.  "Ah, I forgot! I'm supposed to text him when I made it home."  He pulled out his phone and quickly sent a text to Corbin's number, then he slid the phone back into his pocket.

Paul looked up and Chad shook his head.  "Not paired up. But this guy wants you to send a text after you get home.  Ostensibly, because he's worried about you."

Paul only groaned.  "Come on man. Drop it."

He still looked at Paul, his expression suspicious.  Then he blew out a breath. "Sure." They had other things to do so he pushed it aside.  "Okay. So are we doing the project or what?"

Paul grinned, relieved the inquisition was over.  "Yes! I've already got the barrel stove. I got the guys in the machine shop to build it for next to nothing if I got them the materials.  They did a great job. You got all the tubing? That's our last piece."

"Please man.  Don't insult me."  Chad opened the toolbox on the back of his truck.  Paul helped him pull out a long coil of copper tubing that looked as if it were assembled from smaller pieces.  The two men cradled the tubing so it didn't crimp or bend and they grinned at each other. It was an expression only best friends could share.

"This is gonna be so cool."  Chad laughed.

Paul nodded.  "Wood-fired hot tub.  Hell yes!"

With a shared grin, they carried the copper tubing behind the house.  The two men got to work assembling their latest and greatest idea.

______________________________________

Corbin drove slowly into town.  The gravel road wasn't bad really, as the sharp stones provided a lot of traction even with the snow and slush.  The main road was worse. The snow plow had been by once, and then the county left the rest to the sun to melt. He put his truck into 4 wheel drive and drove through the deep slush left on the road with gritted teeth.

The trip to town took about twice as long as normal, but he made it in one piece.  He noted that streets in Hailey were better than the highway. This was thanks to the traffic which melted the slush and snow to water.

He made his way to the coffee shop and parked.  The place was busy, which was not a surprise on a chilly, wet day like today.  He kicked his boots against the step to shake as much ice and slush from them as possible.  Then he entered. Karen was again behind the counter. She smoothly took orders, worked the register and prepared various drinks.

He waited in line and made it to the front in only a few minutes.  Karen grinned at him. "Hello, employee!"

He laughed.  "Hello, boss."  He grinned at the chipper woman.  "Can I get a 16-ounce latte?"

She cocked her head and smiled.  "Tell you what, you come back here and make it, it's yours free.  That'll be payment for your very first spin behind the counter."

There was nobody behind him, and he had to learn sometime.  "All right! Let's do it!"

He stepped around the short counter.  Karen gave him a crash course on the espresso machine and steamer.  He had actually used a very nice home version of the espresso machine back in his old life in New York.  Though, the steamer was new to him.

Soon he had a latte in hand, and Karen motioned for him to hand it over.  "Now we switch." He did and she handed him one that she had made. She smiled and raised Corbin's attempt at a latte in a toast.  "To beginnings!"

He laughed.  "To beginnings!"  They both sipped their drinks.

Corbin watched her as she tasted the drink and Karen slowly nodded.  "Not bad!" She grinned. "Really, not bad at all. You're gonna do fine here."

He blew out a relieved breath.  He didn't actually need the money from the job, not yet at least.  But he did need the routine, the public exposure, and normalcy a job would bring.  The position was only a part-time, gig. It ran through the first and busiest 4 hours after opening, but he still felt it would do good things for him.

He filled out some forms that Karen needed for his employment and then he handed them over.  As he was about to leave the counter a familiar face entered.

"Hey, Bruce!"  Karen said in her typical near-manic tone.

The young, dark-haired man, the server from Power House approached the counter and smiled at her.  "Hey, Karen. My usual please." She turned and began making his drink, and he glanced at Corbin.

Corbin smiled and nodded.  "Hi, Bruce."

Recognition flickered across his face and he grinned.  "Hey!" Then he frowned in concentration. "Damn it, I don't remember your name.  Bad server!"

He laughed.  "Name is Corbin."  He stuck out his hand and Bruce shook it.  Bruce held on a split second longer than necessary.  Corbin noticed, but he let it pass without a reaction.

"Yes, that's right!"  Karen finished his drink and he traded her a $5 bill for his mocha.  "Hey, didn't you buy Karen's grandparent's place?"

"Yeah, that's me."  Corbin smiled. The line was starting to form again and he stepped out of the way of the counter.  "Well, I've gotta head out. Nice to see you again Bruce."

He smiled, and Corbin could tell he was trying to turn on the charm.  "Yeah. Same. Don't be a stranger."

Karen laughed.  "You're gonna begin to see a lot of Corbin.  He's starting work in the mornings during the week on Monday."  She began the next person's order while she spoke to Bruce. Somehow she kept track of conversations, drink orders, money, and ran the machines.

His smile got even wider.  "Really? Well, that's awesome."  He walked by and patted Corbin's shoulder.  "See you next week then!"

Bruce left and Karen smiled at Corbin as she poured a drink.  He got the distinct impression those two talked to each other.  He shook his head and waved at her. "See you Monday!" She returned his wave and went right back to her work.

Corbin exited the building and he felt his phone buzz.  He pulled it out of his pocket, looked and smiled. 'Paul's home.  Good.' He texted back a thumbs up symbol and got into his truck.

He didn't want to waste the trip to town, so he made his way over to the supermarket for a restocking run.  He parked and got out. As he did he noticed a dump truck in the parking lot with a Bellevue address. "Walker Sand and Gravel."  Bellevue is a town only a few miles south of Hailey. He frowned in thought. "Huh." He filed the name away and he entered the store.

By the time he finished, he had already decided on his plan of action.  He got back to the truck, loaded up his groceries, and smiled as he started the machine.

"This is gonna be fun."  He grinned, pulled out of the parking lot and headed home.

__________________________________

"Oh my god.  This is amazing!" Chad slowly lowered himself into the lazily steaming water in the 300 gallon Rubbermaid stock tank.  Their contraption had worked, and sure enough, he and Paul were now the proud owners of a wood-fired hot tub.

It was now after 4 PM, and the air temperature had cooled quite a bit.  The two of them had spent the last few hours loading wood into the stove attached to the tub and tending the fire.  The copper tubing was inside the flues attached to the stove and drew in colder water from the bottom of the tub. This then returned through the other end of the tube that rested a bit higher on the side of the Rubbermaid tank.  The fire heated the water-filled coils and circulated warm water through the tub. This had the ultimate effect of heating the system to a nice toasty 100-102F.

Though it took a few tries to get the temp right.  At one point it was a simmering 105F, and they had to add more cold water before they could get in for any length of time.  But now it was perfect.

Paul was already up to his shoulders in the warm water and smiled. Both of the men were eager to test their latest attempt at internet instruction contraptions.  Mia, Chad's wife only shook her head at this latest obsession. "Hey, if it works, great. Hot tub! If not, also great. Keeps you guys out of mischief, and will for weeks while you try to figure out what's wrong with it."

Paul looked at Chad with a smirk.  "You should tell Mia it doesn't work."

Chad barked a laugh.  "I would, but man she can tell when I'm lying."  He sighed as the hot water loosened the muscles in his back.  His face was a mask of contentment. "Now we've gotta make a date to do this as a group."

"As a group?"  Paul frowned. "It'll just be you me and Mia."

Chad looked flatly at him.  "Seriously? Are you never gonna let us meet this guy?  I mean we could meet him on our own, but I'm talking about him with you."

This again.  "Chad, man I told you … he's a private guy.  And he just doesn't want anybody to know."

He wasn't going to give up.  "Okay, how about this? You invite him up as your neighbor, and so he can meet other locals?  Who the hell wouldn't want to sit in a hot tub? I won't tell Mia about you and him. And as long as you guys don't neck on each other she won't have a reason to ask about it."

Paul frowned at Chad.  "Why are you pushing this?"

Chad looked at him as if he were slow.  "Because I care about you?" He set his jaw and Paul could see the challenge in his face.  "Paul, this guy comes along, no connections, no family, no reason to be here, and buys up the Sexton place?  With a CHECK? Might as well have been cash." He shook his head. "And now I hear you're involved with him."  He sighed. "I admit, I want to take his measure. I want you to be okay man."

Paul swallowed.  He knew the word was out about the farm sale, because he had heard it himself from the guys at the firehouse.  'Small town living.' He thought. He surrendered with a grimace. "Okay. I'll ask him. But if he agrees, you can't, you CAN'T question him.  Don't make him feel like you're interrogating him. I'll likely never see him again if you do that."

Chad nodded, satisfied.  "Okay. Deal." He was quiet for a moment then his expression shifted to one of curiosity.  "So … tell me what you like about him."

Paul smiled, surprised and a little taken off guard.  "You really wanna know?"

"Well yeah.  You're my best friend.  I wanna know what you see in him at least."  Chad grimaced and held up a hand. "Though if it concerns his man parts you can skip that."

Paul laughed.  After a look at Chad's face, he could see his friend actually wanted to know.  Then he closed his eyes and took a breath. His mind conjured an image of Corbin and he smiled.  "I … I like how hard he's willing to work. How brave. How beautiful and how handsome he is, all at once.  I like how he … makes me feel needed. And I like that he cares about me." He swallowed and then he opened his eyes.

Chad stared at him.  His expression unfathomable at first.  Then he slowly smiled at Paul.

"What?"  Paul frowned.  When Chad didn't answer he splashed a bit of water at his face.  "What?!"

Chad wiped the water out of his eyes and grinned.  "I've never heard you talk about a guy like that before."  He cocked his head. "There's potential here, isn't there?"

Paul squirmed.  "Potential for what?"

Chad shook his head.  "Don't even try that. You know what.  We've waited a long time for you to hit upon something that might last longer than a few weeks."

Paul shrugged.  "I don't know. I mean, it's early.  And we're only getting to know each other."  He narrowed his eyes. "Besides, I have a really suspicious best friend who's probably gonna to run him off anyway."

Chad held up both hands, they steamed in the cool air.  "Okay, okay. I promise I'll be good." He let his hands fall back into the water.  "I'm not gonna fuck this up for you. I wouldn't do that. Okay?"

He and Paul stared at one another for a moment then finally Paul nodded.  "All right." He leaned back, enjoyed the heat from the water and breathed deep in satisfaction.

For the first time in a long while, Paul looked forward to the next few days and weeks.

But that wasn't exactly it.  He realized … he looked forward to any time he could be with Corbin.

Paul closed his eyes, and he smiled.

 


Author's Note: Please let me know your thoughts about the chapter at the following email address link.   Wayne Gray

And thank you for reading! 

If you'd like to be on a list specifically for notification of updates to my stories onThe Story Lover's Home, email and let me know. I'll add you on. Click on the following link Update List.