A couple days after Howard and Andy had accepted the job offer, Ethan was cleaning up after supper and as he put the last dish in the dishwasher—a luxury the Taylors had never had before—Scotty came in, walked over to Ethan and put his arms around him. Ethan turned to face him and Scotty gave him a quick kiss. As the two looked into each other’s eyes, Ethan asked, “Want to know a secret?” Scotty nodded. “You know I told you I thought I was falling in love with you?” A huge smile covered Scotty’s face as he nodded. “I’m sure now. Scotty, I love you,” he said and kissed Scotty.
Scotty returned the kiss, passionately. His tongue pressed against Ethan’s lips which opened to receive it. When he finally broke the kiss, Scotty looked into Ethan’s beautiful brown eyes and said, “That’s good because I love you too, Ethan.”
Ethan was suddenly very conscious of Scotty’s hard cock pressing against him as he was sure Scotty was aware of his. He also became acutely aware of the fact his brother or sister might walk in any moment. “Scotty, I love this, but I need to be kinda careful. I know Jamie and Sally Ann know about us and are okay with it, but I’m not okay with them seeing us making out.”
“Would love it, but I can’t very well go without asking Jamie and Sally Ann to come as well.”
“Would love to have you to myself, but ask them.”
“Ethan, I love you and you come with Jamie and Sally Ann. That’s just a part of who you are. Of course, I’m sure.” Ethan was still unsure of Scotty’s real feeling about his being head of his family and the responsibilities that entailed.
Ethan took Scotty’s hand and didn’t let go when they walked into the den where Sally Ann and Jamie were watching TV. “Scotty and I are going for a swim. Want to go?”
Both Taylors looked at their older brother and grinned. “Think you and Scotty need some quality time together.” Jamie said.
“And that means just the two of you,” Sally Ann said. “Go on.”
“Thanks, guys,” Ethan grinned.
“Owe you,” Scotty said.
Ethan went to a linen closet and grabbed a couple of large towels and he and Scotty walked to the truck, arm in arm. When they arrived at the pond, Scotty grabbed the blanket from behind the crew seats and the two walked to the water, holding hands. After Scotty spread the blanket on a large, flat rock which extended out over the pond, he lay down, reached up and took Ethan’s hand to pull him down beside him. He wrapped his arms around his dark beauty, pulling him close as Ethan’s arm encircled him. He kissed Ethan softly and said, “Ethan, I love you so very much. I have known I was falling in love with you for months. I remember the first time I saw you in gym class. You took my breath away you were so perfect. Love at first sight? No, it was pure lust. I wanted you so bad. I had to work quickly to hide a boner. In fact, I popped a boner every time I saw you—not just naked in gym. Ethan walking down the hall, boner. Ethan opening his locker, boner. Ethan walking into an assembly, boner. Good thing I didn’t have classes with you aside from gym last period or I would have had to listen to that Viagra warning: call your doctor if you have an erection lasting over four hours!” Ethan laughed.
“Then something changed. Remember when I was being picked on?” Ethan nodded. “You may not believe me, Ethan, but I could have taken out a couple of guys and that would have been the end of it, but I was waiting until they actually did something physical, but you intervened. I knew then you were more than just some good-looking jock. You were that, but I saw how those guys respected you. I started looking at you as more than a sexy guy I lusted after. Ethan, I started falling for you. I tried to stop myself because you were a baseball hero. You were someone people listened to, looked up to. I knew you were way out of my league. I knew falling for you was going to hurt, but I couldn’t stop myself.”
“Then, at the graduation party, I saw you watching me. Other folks were watching me as well. I know I am a damn good dancer and, besides, Mary Beth Steinburner was giving everyone a show usually reserved for a strip club, but you were watching me and, man, you had a tent in your jeans! I decided I was fooling myself and you were really watching Mary Beth. I jerked off later thinking about you and fantasizing about dancing with you. Then I saw you at the river and you let me know you had seen me at the party. Well, you pretty much know the rest. Ethan, I have been falling in love with you for a long time and, to be honest, I’m still falling for you. I love you more than I did yesterday.”
Ethan looked into Scotty’s eyes and saw his love for him in those blue, blue eyes and his heart was ready to burst. He couldn’t stop the tears of happiness running down his cheeks. He couldn’t speak. He never imagined he could love someone as much as he loved the boy he took in his arms. He covered Scotty’s mouth with his, his tongue asking permission to enter his lover’s mouth, to taste Scotty. Sure there was lust in the kiss but, more than that, much more, was a deep love for this man, a love he thought he’d never know and which was far, far more than he could ever have dreamed or imagined.
He finally got his emotions somewhat under control, broke the kiss, then gave Scotty a soft butterfly kiss and said, “Scotty, I dreamed about you, but knew you would always be that, just a dream. Then after a horrible night, I had the most wonderful thing happen. You kissed me. Me, Ethan Taylor, the boy—man—who thought he’d never know what it was to be loved by another man. You kissed me! Wonderful, beautiful, golden Scotty McCarter kissed me! Now he tells me he loves me. Regardless of what happens, Scotty, I know I have known true happiness because you love me. And, Scotty, I love you in return, I do, with my whole heart.”
They exchanged another gentle kiss and Ethan lay on his back and Scotty lay beside him, his head resting on Ethan’s chest. They lay in silence—they did not need words—looking into the starry heavens. After several minutes of silence, Ethan said, “Any number of those countless stars may have planets whirling around them and millions and millions of planets may have thousands and thousands of beings on them, but not one of those beings is any happier than I am this moment.”
“Nor I, Ethan.”
They lay, looking at the stars, each content, happy in the closeness of the man he loved, as they occasionally exchanged a soft kiss. Ethan slid his hand under Scotty’s shirt and started brushing his stomach and chest with his hand and then pulled the shirt over Scotty’s head, laying bare his smooth chest.
Scotty turned and kissed Ethan before raising up and slipping his lover’s shirt from his body revealing dark nipples surrounded by a circle of black hair, hair which matched the treasure trail which disappeared into the the waist of his cargo shorts. Scotty leaned over and kissed a nipple before sucking it into his mouth. As he did, a moan came from Ethan. Scotty stood on his knees, smiled down at Ethan, then unsnapped his shorts, opened the zipper and pulled them down his legs. Ethan raised his hips from the blanket so Scotty could slip shorts and boxer briefs off. Scotty drank in the beauty of the man laying naked in the moonlight, his manhood standing tall. “Ethan, do you know how beautiful you are? How perfect your body is? Do you know how strong you are? Do you know you are as beautiful inside as you are outside? Do you know how much I want to make love to you here in the moonlight?”
In answer, Ethan reached up and opened the waist of Scotty’s shorts, sliding them and his boxers to his knees. He then lay Scotty back on the blanket and pulled shorts and boxers from his body, kissing his stomach as he did. Scotty lay, pale in the moonlight, his golden curls both on his head and around his hard cock seemed to glow in the starlight. Ethan was entranced. He leaned over and kissed the head of Scotty’s cock.
Scotty moaned, then asked, “Ethan, can we wait? Please?”
Ethan looked puzzled, shocked. Scotty was lying on his back. He opened his arms, inviting Ethan into them. Still looking confused, Ethan lay on the golden boy and looked into his eyes. “Ethan, the night is perfect and you are perfect and I do so want to make love to you, but I am not ready. Don’t ask me what is holding me back because I don’t know. I do know that when we make love, really make love, I want to be yours completely. I can’t do that now. I am holding back. Not because of lack of love, God knows, you have all my love, all of my heart. Not because I believe you love me less. I know you love me as I love you. I don’t know why, Ethan! I don’t know why!” then the tears started.
Ethan sat up and pulled Scotty to himself and started kissing away his tears. “Scotty, I love you. You don’t have to have a reason. You are reason enough. That is the reason, the only reason you need. To be honest, I am probably not ready either. In fact, I’m not sure what I am not ready for.”
Scotty looked at Ethan, smiled and said, “I don’t know what I’m not ready for either, but I am ready to make out.” Shortly afterward they dived into the pond to wash away the results.
After swimming and playing in the pond for half an hour, the two men came out, dried each other and once again lay on the blanket. After exchanging a playful kiss, Ethan said, “You know we have Randy and Davis to help us learn how to handle our work life, right?”
“This weekend we have some experts to help us handle our love life. Don’t know about Dr. Paul and his partner, but Jeff and Art were even younger than we are when they revealed their love to each other. Now they are actually married. Bet any or all of the four would talk with us, answer our questions.”
“Well, I don’t think I need anyone to tell me I’m in love with you Ethan Taylor, but making love to you is another question altogether.”
“Exactly. We’ll just have to arrange time with the couples, together or apart.”
They talked for a few more minutes before Scotty said, “We need to get back. I’m always afraid I’ll wake the Edwards when I go in. They go to bed pretty early.”
“You could always sleep with me,” Ethan grinned.
“One day, pretty boy. One day.”
Saturday, the whole plantation was up very early, especially for a Saturday, ready to get Randy and Ginger moved to Pleasant Grove. All were heading for Randy’s except Mrs. Edwards and Sally Ann who were preparing refreshments and lunch. Everyone was well aware of the fact that it was the end of June and the forecast was for June weather—hot and humid. If they were lucky, they could get the moving done before it got too hot.
Ethan and Jamie had just greeted Randy when Howard and Andy arrived. Andy and Jamie gave each other a complicated knuckle bump. Jamie threw his arm over Andy’s shoulders as they walked inside. Scotty was standing with Davis and Mr. Hickey. Ethan shook hands with Mr. Hickey and said, “Good to see you again, Mr. Hickey. Welcome to Arkadelphia and Pleasant Grove.”
“Good to be here, Ethan. Good to be here. You know, I guess since you’re the boss, you don’t need to be calling me Mr. Hickey,” he laughed. “Most folks call me Dek.”
“Well, guess I could go along with Dek, but my daddy wouldn’t have liked it.”
“Can understand that, but you’ll get used to it. Noticed everyone calls Randy, Randy.”
“Yeah, we always have.
Inside, Ginger told them she had planned to move so things could be kept together. “If it comes out of the living room here, it goes in the living room there.” In addition to Randy and Ethan’s pickups, the plantation’s deuce-and-a-half was called into action. It was loaded with the living room and dining room furniture while the two pickups were loaded with marked boxes. When all three were loaded, the crew piled in the trucks and headed to Pleasant Grove.
Although the two plantations adjoined, the houses were over five miles apart. When they arrived, Ginger got out of the truck and went inside to direct the unloading. She had given Randy a diagram indicating where the furniture was to be placed, nonetheless she was directing traffic.
When the crew got back to Arkadelphia, Sally Ann was there with ice water and lemonade. So were Dr. Paul and Richard, Jeff and Art. Introductions took a few minutes. Jeff grabbed Ethan in a hug and as he did whispered, “Thanks, Ethan. You are my hero.” Art hugged him as well.
After Scotty introduced Dr. Paul, his professor said, “I hardly thank the title fits here among what I hope are friends. I’m Doug. This is my partner Rich Long. Ethan invited me to spend the weekend seeing how a plantation works. Looks like it’s working alright.”
“Leave it to Ethan to come up with a way to get free labor!” Jamie said. “My brother’s a real Tom Sawyer.”
After the break, the crew went back to work. With four new guys, loading and unloading went quickly. As lunch time approached, it was clear that there would be only one load left after lunch. When Sally Ann came to bring water, Ethan said, “Sis, we’ll have only one load after lunch or we could go ahead and finish. Would that be a problem?”
“I don’t see why it would. We’re fixing it like a picnic—with tables—outside at Arkadelphia. Sure. Go ahead and finish, get cleaned up and we’ll have lunch. You’ll feel better and you won’t have to rush lunch.”
Ethan told the crew the change in plans and they all thought it was a good idea.
The last box was finally in the new place and the crew was ready for lunch. Randy said he and Ginger would be over as soon as he showered and got cleaned up. Ginger said she sure needed a shower as well. When the others got outside, Jamie said, “ We could make it quicker if we just stopped by the pond for a swim.”
“Hardly think we’re dressed for that,” Andy said.
“Hell, Andy, you’re all males. We’ll go skinny-dipping,” Davis said.
“But one of you guys is quee ... gay.”
Jamie exploded in gales of laughter. Soon the others joined him while Andy looked around puzzled. “More like everyone’s gay except the two of us—unless you are a closet case.”
Andy looked around and finally said, “Ah shit! Well, y’all don’t look—ah—gay.”
“Sorry, Andy, we shouldn’t have embarrassed you,” Dr. Paul—Doug—said, “but this probably is the largest gathering of gay men this county has ever known, but nothing to fear. I mean, honest, we’ll go skinny-dipping, we’ll check each other out just as guys do. Beyond that? I think you are perfectly safe unless Jamie turns gay all of a sudden—which doesn’t happen. Jeff and Art are married, legally married even if Georgia doesn’t recognize it. Rich and I are engaged and will be married in Vermont in August. And if you have paid attention, Ethan and Scotty slip into a world where only they exist pretty often. If you are uncomfortable with that, we can all go in our underwear.”
Andy’s skin was a warm milk chocolate, but it couldn’t hide the fact that he was red in the face, very red. Jamie laughed and said, “You’re going commando!” Andy nodded and grinned. “So you’re ready to go skinny-dipping!” Andy laughed and nodded.
They all frolicked in the pond for half an hour and were more than ready for lunch. Mrs. Edwards and Sally Ann had covered a long table with food—enough for twice their number Scotty had thought, wrongly. She asked the guys to set up folding tables in an open square with chairs on the outside. “Meals are about conversation as well as food,” she said, “this way we can all see and hear each other.”
Conversation was very light for several minutes as everyone was more interested in the food, but soon it was very lively. The old Arkadelphia people wanted to know about Doug and Richard; Jeff and Art wanted to know about the Hickeys, etc. Finally everyone had finished. Davis said it was nap time and said he’d show Dek to his room. Andy would be staying at the Taylors’. Randy and Ginger headed back to Pleasant Grove to start unpacking.
After helping Sally Ann and Mrs. Edwards clear, Ethan asked Doug and Richard if they were ready for a tour of the plantations. “Sure,” Doug answered, “one of the things we came for.”
“Mind if we tag along?” Jeff asked.
“’Course not,” Ethan said. “I guess I just thought you had seen it all.”
“Got to remember I’ve been gone two years,” Jeff responded, “and I have never been on Pleasant Grove land so far as I know. Jeremiah Sawyer was known for using his shotgun to discourage visitors.”
“I’m real excited about Pleasant Grove,” Scotty said. “It’s like being a part of creating it all over again.”
“Same here,” Ethan said. “You’ll see results before I do. Well, your work will show up on the books before mine does.”
The six men squeezed into Mr. Edwards’ truck since it had a full second seat. Scotty perched on the center console. “Careful there or you’ll be offering Ethan damaged goods,” Jeff said and they all laughed at Scotty’s red face.
“So, Ethan, how did you straighten out Dad?” Jeff asked. “He’s like a new person. Actually, like an old person, the dad I knew before I told him I was gay and in love with Art.”
“I didn’t really do anything,” Ethan replied. Scotty gave him a look. “Nothing except let him know I wasn’t going to put up with his carrying on in my office.”
“Ethan, no-one, even Mom, has ever told Dad to behave himself, since his mother died I’ve heard tell, and that was long before I was born. You’re too modest. Actually, Randy was happy to give us a blow-by-blow account. Second-hand of course since he wasn’t there and only had Dad’s word for what happened. Dad’s version must have been what happened because had it been less, you’d have been fired, and had it been worse, Dad would have had a black eye. Of course, the biggie is I can come back home.” Jeff then filled Doug and Rich in on the background for the conversation. When he finished he said, “Don’t get me wrong, I have no plans or desire to come back to stay. On that count, you are very much the son I never was and never can be.”
“Well, you may only be half right,” Art said. “We have three more years at Emory and both have decided we’re headed for med school. Never know if or where you might get in. We still haven’t faced the possibility one or the other may not get in. Maybe worse, we may get into two different ones. We have given some thought to Mercer and if we get in and go there, we’ll be obligated to practice in rural Georgia, at least for several years.”
“I’ll admit, I’d miss the city, but the possibility of us practicing in Atlanta is petty remote. Everyone wants to be in the city. I guess having been away a couple years and knowing I’d be practicing medicine rather than running a plantation improves south Georgia in my eyes. So ... Ethan, no major change in Arkadelphia?” Jeff asked as we drove out of a grove and saw a herd resting in the shade, a sure sign there was good grazing.
“Nothing you can really see I guess. My family living in the overseer’s house, the Hickeys moving into Randy’s old place is the visible part of a shift in approach. We’ll have a permanent crew again and only hire occasional temporaries instead of depending on them.”
“I can’t help but notice the age of the crew so far, two high school lads and two college freshmen and you’re a manager?” Doug asked.
“Of the pecan operation, yes,” Ethan answered.
“Doug, in a lot of ways, Ethan is dad’s son. So far as Arkadelphia is concerned, he is taking my place. I was supposed to end up managing Arkadelphia. Had that actually happened, Dad would been running things until he died. I could never have threatened to throw Dad out of my office when I was keeping the books. Ethan could and did. I would never have seen the potential and possibilities here. It would have been a job and I would have resented it. Not only is Arkadelphia taking on new life, so is Dad.”
Scotty said, “Joe Maddox told me what Mr. Edwards said he was doing. He told him investing in Ethan was like planting a new grove while an old one was still producing. The old one would still be productive while the new one had time to grow up and start producing. He sees Ethan as his major new grove. I think he feels Jamie, Andy and I are as well. He, Randy and Andy’s dad are the old grove supporting us younger trees.”
“You’re still damn young,” Art said.
“Yeah, but Ethan and Jamie have had to be adults for a long time. Ethan especially has to learn to be a young tree as he grows into his position. He won’t relax.”
The group was silent for a while, then Ethan said, “Okay, time to see the Before. Time for Pleasant Grove.”
“So Arkadelphia is the After,” Richard said.
“More like the middle,” Ethan laughed. “The After is yet to be.”
As they approached a pasture, the neglect Pleasant Grove had suffered was obvious even to Rich and Doug who knew nothing about a plantation. “It’s hard to get a vision of what might be at Arkadelphia,” Jeff said. “It’s running well and doing well and would continue with little or no change.”
“You saw a pasture and herd at Arkadelphia,” Scotty said. “It’s just past midday, sunny and hot. The cattle were all lying down taking advantage of the shade, chewing their cud. Had the same number of cattle been on this pasture—which is about the same size as the one you saw—they would be out in the sun and heat grazing. Why? Because this pasture is so poor they would have to keep grazing to find enough to eat. The cattle you saw had grazed until they were full and had time to relax in the shade.”
“So what’s the plan?” Art asked.
“There’s two,” Scotty grinned. “Both call for replacing the fence, but that’s an obvious ‘must do’. Then the old plan—from Randy—is to restore the pasture here by fertilization, mowing to keep the weeds down and probably aerating. In two, three, maybe even four years, they would begin to look like Arkadelphia’s.
“The second is Andy’s. It’s pretty much the old grove–new grove plan. After the fences are replaced, he’d mow, fertilize and aerate half of the pastures. The other half he’d essentially start over—bush hog ... it’s essentially a huge lawn mower which can mow everything up to a sapling,” Scotty explained. “Anyway, bush hog the pasture and till it up until it is in good shape and plant it in, maybe crimson clover, something to hold the soil and add to it. Then till the cover crop in, fertilize and plant grass. We have plenty of water, so if there is inadequate rain, irrigate. By fall next year, maybe summer, the grass should be well established and limited grazing could be started. Repeat for the second year. By the time the present pastures could begin to support maybe half to two-thirds the head of cattle Arkadelphia’s pastures support, Pleasant Grove’s would be their equal or better.”
“You grow up with cattle?” Doug asked. “I thought you were from the Atlanta metro.”
“So how do you know about cows?”
“I spent as much time as possible with Eli who is manager of River Bend, my aunt and uncle’s plantation. I found I loved working with cattle from the beginning and Eli was a good teacher. After we started college, I have spent some time with Randy who is an even better teacher. I guess I really like Randy’s approach and can get pretty enthusiastic about cows and pastures.”
“I’ll say,” Jeff said. “No wonder Randy is so high on you and Andy.”
“Jamie is better,” Scotty said, “as he has been working with Randy for some time.”
“Just as you saw a neglected pastures, you’ll soon see neglected groves,” Ethan said as they all piled back in the truck. As the truck started, Scotty slipped off the console, grabbed Ethan round the neck for support and before he could scrabble back on his perch, Ethan turned and kissed him.
“Seems you two are pretty much into each other as you are cows and pecans,” Rich laughed.
“Yeah, hell yeah,” Ethan said and gave Scotty another quick kiss. “Guys, we have Joe Maddox, the county extension agent ... Rich, Doug, the extension service is an extension of the university system, here specifically Glen Stockade, to help put lab findings into practice. Anyway, we have Joe, Randy and Mr. Edwards to teach us about cows and pecans. We have squat to help us learn about being gay and, well, sex.”
“We sure as hell know what you are talking about,” Art said.
“Yeah, we’ve been there.” Jeff laughed, “Yeah, we’ve been there.”
“Think we could talk with you guys while you’re here?”
“Sure, Ethan. All together, one at a time, anyway you two want, right, guys?” Jeff asked. They all nodded.
When Ethan and Scotty got back to the house, Jamie asked about going to Braggton to a movie. Ethan knew he was on the insurance for the truck because he had paid the bill, but when he asked who was going, Jamie kinda hesitated, then said, “Sue Fowler, Andy, Sally Ann and me.”
“You have had your graduated license for six months so you can have one other teen besides your sister with you. That leaves Sue or Andy at home.”
Jamie grinned again. “But we can go if Sue meets us at the theater?”
“You have the money?”
“Andy and Sally Ann have their own. I have money for me and Sue.”
“Okay, but remember your curfew.”
“Saturday night one o’clock.”
“Only if you’re walking. Sally Ann’s only fourteen, curfew is eleven.”
“She’ll be with us, so midnight.”
“Okay this time.” Jamie grabbed Ethan in a tight hug and said, “Big brother, I love you even when you are being a tight ass. Thanks for caring about us.”
Ethan returned the hug and said, “Easy to do, little brother. Be careful. Oh, what are you doing before the movie? The first show isn’t until seven, right?”
“Yeah. We’re going to the park. Then at six we’re going to Hardee’s. A couple of my track teammates and their dates may meet us there and we’ll eat before the movie.”
“Okay.” Ethan was uneasy every time Jamie left the house, but he had to let him grow up. He was sure he and Andy would make sure nothing happened to Sally Ann. He also knew all of Jamie’s track teammates and liked them. The track team was pretty much like the baseball team; they were on the team because they enjoyed it. They seldom won anything, but the coach was great and the guys had fun and Jamie loved it as Ethan had loved baseball.
After Jamie left with Andy and Sally Ann, Ethan went to his room, lay on his bed and thought about Thursday night. He really wanted to get to talk to the two couples about being gay and in love, about gay sex, but it was kinda embarrassing. He knew much of it was wrong or messed up, but Jamie got a lot of information from other guys. That wasn’t available to him.
He was pretty sure Jamie was also learning from experience. He was sometimes worried about Jamie’s constantly changing girlfriends. Some of the ones he had been with had a reputation of being pretty free with sex. Ethan was sure Jamie was sexually active. He had talked with him about safe sex and told him he wondered how fulfilling casual sex was, but that was as far as he took it. He did know Randy talked to him and kept the lines of communication open.