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Sunday, September 4, 2016

TLR Chapter 81

The next day, Dean was moved in and with the help of all of his friends his bungalow was set up and the paperwork was completed. James insisted on giving him one more day to settle in before he joined the others in the tour of the cabins.

"James," Dean replied calmly, "I've had so much help that I've barely had to raise a finger yesterday. I'm perfectly rested, I assure you. I'd be much happier if I headed out to the cabins. You hired me as your contractor, and it's time I did my job."

James looked at Dean for a few moments, apparently looking for something.  

Dean stood calmly with an inquiring expression but said nothing more. 

Apparently finding what he was looking for James smiled and gestured him toward Mutt who gathered up Griff and Jax. The four men loaded up one of the trucks with their tools and supplies and headed toward the cabins.

On the way over Jax frowned at Mutt who saw it out of the corner of his eye.

"What's wrong, Jax?" Mutt asked, unsure of what he'd done.

"I just remembered... aren't you supposed to have Fridays off?  Didn't Jeff say that..."

"Relax," Mutt grinned, glad to finally understand what Jaxon's problem had been.  "Adam and I traded shifts. He worked for me on Monday and I took today so that I could help in the cabin."

"Oh," the young man replied, blushing slightly, "I musta sounded like..."

"A good friend," Mutt smiled.  "Don't worry about it. It's all good."

Jax smiled gratefully and settled back into his seat, enjoying the sunshine and the breeze from the open window.

Close to a couple of hours later they arrived at the furthest cabin.  After they'd lit the lanterns and opened the windows Dean did a walk around while Mutt and the others moved the rugs and furniture to the storage tent they had set up outside.

"You guys pretty much covered all the problems here," he complimented.  "The walls are solid, the roof just needs new shingles, and some of the wood siding needs to be replaced where it was blown off."

"I have the shingles and the siding in the truck," Mutt assured him.

"Excellent," Dean replied with a smile.  "The biggest jobs that I can see here are the floor and the fireplace, as you said," he continued, testing some of the boards underfoot which were soft, gave under pressure and creaked slightly.

"We took measurements and cut the wood to the correct lengths," Griff said, feeling a little nervous around the older and more experienced man.

"Cary and Tank treated the wood while we were moving your stuff, so it's dry and ready to be installed," Jax added.

"And we've got bags of ready mix cement in case the foundation or footing is in bad shape," said Mutt.

"Alright then," Dean replied with a smile, "let's get to work on the floor."

The four men picked up pry bars and began to take up the floorboards.  As expected, some of the joists and blocking needed replacing, but the foundation was sound and they all breathed a sigh of relief. None of them had been looking forward to having to form and pour new footings to support this cabin. 

It seemed to them that the day flew by and before they knew it it was lunch time.  They'd brought groceries so they made sandwiches then went outside into the sunshine and sat at the wooden picnic table to eat.  The sun was warm and there was a light breeze. Mutt could feel himself getting drowsy.  He wadded up the paper his sandwich had been wrapped in and stuffed it back into the bag, along with the banana peel.  The other guys, seeing what he was doing, quickly followed suit.  Mutt held out his bag for their trash. "I'll toss this in the bin when I get back to the resort."

"Thanks man," Dean said with a grin.  "Ummm, what do the guests who rent these cabins do with their trash if there are no trash bins here?"

"The papers get burned in the fireplace or the pit out back. Organic material gets composted on the heap that's just on the edge of the woods. If the guests decide not to go entirely green, then they can request trash pickup on Wednesdays. Very few of the people who rent these cabins bring anything that needs to be picked up though."

Dean nodded his approval.

"Well," he said, "we've been loitering long enough I think. We'd better get back to work before we all fall asleep." 

The boys laughed as they got up, stretching and working the kinks out of their backs and shoulders, allowing the sun to warm them before heading back into the cabin.

By the end of their work shift, the floor was repaired and met everyone's approval.  "We done good," Dean praised with a smile. "Let's get the furniture back in," he directed.

It didn't take long to get everything back into the cabin and a fire started in the wood stove to cook on.

"I'll have to head back soon," Mutt said with a disappointed look. "I wish I could stay out here with you guys. Regular duties call tomorrow, but I'll be back on Monday. The work backlog is all but caught up on and I'll be able to come back and help.  I'll bring more groceries, and if you need anything else between now and then I'm just a call away."

"You don't have a 5000-foot extension cord and a computer, do you?" Jaxon quipped. 

"Got spoiled living with James and Heath, have you?" Mutt joked.

Jax grinned sheepishly, "Yeah, I guess I have."

"I did not come unprepared, however," Mutt said loftily.  He went back to his truck and returned with a large bag.

"Board games, playing cards, UNO, notebooks and pens if you feel like jotting your thoughts down or drawing," he said, placing them on the small square table. And, the pièce de résistance, a battery operated DVD player with 20 of my favorite movies and extra batteries." He laughed when Jaxon jumped up to hug him.

"Thank you! You're a lifesaver!" he crowed.

"Wanna stay for dinner and a game of UNO?" Griff asked.

Mutt looked at his watch and shrugged.  "I dunno about dinner, guys, but sure, I can stay for one or two hands." He sat down and reached for the pack.

"You have a 2-hour drive in front of you, Mutt, shouldn't you call Jeff and let him know you're not coming directly home?  Dean asked mildly.

Mutt looked at Dean, a little surprised. "Yeah," he replied uncertainly, "I guess so."

"Then call him, we can wait," Dean said, sitting back in his chair and crossing his arms. He smiled and nodded at Mutt to make the call.

Mutt gave Dean a suspicious look from the corner of his eye and called Jeff while Dean watched.

"Heya Chief," Mutt said once Jeff had picked up the phone.

"Is everything alright hon?" Jeff asked.

"Yeah, I think," he replied, giving Dean a quick look before continuing the conversation. "We're done for the day and Griff asked me if I wanted to stay for dinner and a couple of hands of UNO. I said probably not for dinner but I wanted to stay to play cards for a while. Is that ok with you?"

Jeff looked at his watch. "Not tonight Mutt, it's getting late."


"No hon. I'll be on my way home soon.  When I get there I’ll need to shower and make dinner. I'm just making spaghetti and meatballs tonight so it won't take too much time.  You have a long drive so when you get here and clean up we’ll be ready to eat."


"Matthew," was all Jeff said.

"Fine," Mutt replied. His displeasure with Jeff's answer clear in his tone.

"Matthew Elijah."

Mutt swallowed hard. Proper name. Proper name plus middle name. Third strike and he was out. "Ok, Chief, I'll head home now," he said with a sigh.

"I'll see you soon," Jeff replied. "I love you, Mutt."

Mutt smiled wanly, "I love you too, Jeff. See you soon." 

He hung up and turned toward the other three men. "Well, that's that I guess. I'll see you guys again on Monday.  I don’t think Jeff is going to let me come out tomorrow."

"We'll be fine, Mutt," Dean assured him with a knowing smile. "And we have the other truck to get back to the resort with if there's a problem."

"Yeah!" Jax said excitedly. "We'll be back on Saturday afternoon and we have Sunday off, same as you. Let's get together."

"That'd be great," Griff said with a grin. "Then we can all come back here on Monday morning."

"Hey, maybe I can ask Jeff if you can all come over for dinner on Saturday night," Mutt said brightly.

"Only one way to find out, Mutt, and that's by going home. Now," Dean said with a grin.

Mutt looked at Dean and smiled, even though there was an odd feeling in the pit of his stomach. "Yeah. I'm going now. Bye guys," He turned with a wave and hopped into his truck, pondering things as he drove along.

After Mutt said goodbye Griff found the UNO deck.  The three men enjoyed a couple of hands before they were just too tired to continue.   At Dean’s suggestion the younger men rolled out their sleeping bags.  Jax on the top bunk and Griff on the lower one. 

Wanting to give the boys some room to get washed up and get into their beds Dean said as he stood up from the table, “I’ll be back soon, guys.  Just going to make sure everything’s ok outside before I bed down.”

“Do you need some help?” Griff asked as he started across the small room.

“No, I got this.  You two get some sleep.”

“Ok, but be careful it’s dark out there,” Griff warned.

Dean chuckled, “I’ll be careful.”  Then he gently closed the door behind him.

Jax climbed up onto his bed and turned to the wall.  He felt as much as heard the lower bunk creak when Griff finally laid down. 

“Nite, bro,” the older brat said.

“Good night, Griff,” Jax answered. 

Jax was still struggling to sleep long after Dean came back to the cabin.  The night was quiet except for the woodland sounds coming through the open windows.  This was the first night since he had come to the resort that his partners weren’t close by.  Even before they agreed to be lovers one or both of the older men were always close to him.  Finally, he climbed down from his bed and in sock feet walked as quietly as he could across the room and out into the night.  He breathed a sigh of relief that the new floor didn’t squeak.

Knowing Jax was having a hard time sleeping and hearing him leave the cabin, Griff waited a few minutes then went after him.  He found the other man sitting on the old picnic table behind the cabin.  As Griff approached Jax he thought to himself that they should probably repair the table while they were at it. 

“Hey, Bro, you having trouble sleeping too?” he gently asked so he wouldn’t spook Jax.

Jax would have jumped up but Griff dropped an arm over his shoulder as he sat beside him.  “Ah, yeah, I guess I’m missing James and Heath.  Sorry if I woke you.”

“Naw, you didn’t wake me, Bro,” Griff tried to assure his friend.  “I don’t sleep too good since…since Chad’s accident... so I was awake.”

Jax flushed pink with embarrassment.  He would see James and Heath Saturday afternoon but Griff would never see Chad again.  He remembered how he felt when his dad died.  His world changed forever.  But his dad wasn’t his partner, his lover.  Jax’s heart hurt for Griff.  He didn’t even want to think about losing either of his guys.

Both men were quiet each just enjoying the company of the other man.  They watched the full moon until Griff asked, “I’ve never seen the moon look so full, well, at least not in California.  Do you know what they call it?”

“The Native Americans call it a Buck Moon.  July is the time for the new antlers to start showing their velvet on the deer,” Jax explained.

“So I guess you could say it’s the time for new beginnings,” Griff said thoughtfully.  

“Yeah,” Jax agreed, “I guess finding Teardrop Lake is a good place to begin again for both of us.”

Dean stood next to one of the open windows watching the two men comfort each other just by sharing the night.

Griff stood then pulled Jax to his feet.  “Come on little bro, let’s try and get some sleep.”

Jax followed Griff back to the cabin opening the door just after Dean crawled back into his sleeping bag.


Saturday evening promised to be exciting. Dean, Jax and Griff had returned to the resort that afternoon as promised. Jake, Duke and Dean had happily accepted the offer of dinner, as had James, Heath and Jax.

"I was going to fill that tub with river water and take a bath but I have to admit I was just too lazy to do it. I can't wait to get into a proper shower," Griff joked.

"It's all yours," Jeff said with a smile. "Dinner will be at four thirty so get a move on. You dropped Jax off at home?" he asked.

"Yep, and Dean went to his bungalow to get ready." 

"Great," Jeff grinned, opening the oven to baste the roast and check the potatoes which were baking.

"How did Jax do on his first night without the guys?" Jeff asked Mutt quietly after Griff left the room.

"Dean said he was having a hard time falling asleep, but eventually he did."

"I can imagine," Jeff said softly. "I have to admit that I'm glad you're not going to be one of the ones staying over at the cabins for a week."

"Me too," Mutt admitted. "I'd be wanting you there every night. Jeff, maybe it was a mistake to tell Jax he could stay overnight until the job is done?"

"Jax wanted to and James and Heath agreed. I don't think he would appreciate it if we changed our minds midstream."

"Yeah, I guess you're right," Mutt sighed.

Jeff gathered Mutt up into a quick hug and kissed his cheek. "It'll be alright. Jax needed this break. Every fledgling needs time to stretch it's wings and eventually fly solo. And it's not as though he has no one to go back to once the job is done."

Mutt wrinkled his nose but grinned.  "You're so hokey sometimes," he joked.

"And you love me for it," Jeff said, kissing Mutt once again. "Now, your hokey top says get that salad ready." He turned Mutt toward the refrigerator and gave him a light tap on the backside to get him moving.

Mutt wiggled his butt at Jeff with a cheeky grin and went to do as he'd been told. He planned to make an antipasto salad and hoped that everyone would like it. Heck, he thought, if they don't like it I'll eat the whole thing myself. 

Griff came into the kitchen just as Mutt was breaking the lettuce apart and putting it in a colander to be washed. He breathed in appreciatively. "Wow, that roast smells so good. Can I help with anything?" he asked looking at Mutt.

Mutt smiled at his friend and went back to the refrigerator to take out a chunk of salami. "If you want to, you can cut this up into bite sized pieces for me?"

Griff frowned in confusion at the thing in Mutt's hand. "Salami?" he asked.

"Italian salad," Mutt explained with a smile.

"Oh, ok."

"So, you in?"

"Sure," Griff said with a grin as Mutt tossed it to him in a gentle underhand throw. Mutt turned back toward the refrigerator, took out the rest of the ingredients he'd need and put them on the table.

Jeff took out some cutting boards and knives and began to help as well. He picked up the chunk of sopressata and followed suit.

Mutt went into the living room and turned on some 60’s music before going back into the kitchen and helping the others prepare ingredients. Mutt and Jeff sang to the music while they worked. Griff who didn't recognize the song, got into it and began to dance, wiggling his hips and chopping to the beat.

Jeff stopped long enough to baste the roast again and put in the garlic bread and then rejoined the others in making the salad.  Once that was done they cleaned up the mess and set the table, which had been extended, and put extra chairs around it for the other guests.

Jeff looked up at the wall clock and grinned.  Everything was done, and their guests would be arriving soon.


The evening went by quickly with the men talking and laughing, telling stories about each other which made some of them blush and smile at the memories.  James, Jeff and Duke were full of stories about them being in the Marines that made the other men laugh until their sides hurt.

Duke and Jake had to excuse themselves as soon as dinner was over. They thanked Jeff and Mutt for the invitation and then headed off to work.

The other men indulged themselves with a few hands of poker, playing for Ritz Bits cheese crackers, and then settled down to watch a movie.  Mutt, Griff and Jax began to yawn as the movie ended.

"It's been a long day guys," Dean said with an understanding smile.  "I think it's time to head home and hit the hay. What do you think?" he asked James.

"I agree," James replied, "but we really should help Jeff and Mutt clean up this mess."

"Don't worry about it," Jeff reassured him. "There's not that much to do. You just get your boy home and to bed."

"But we're having such a great time," Jax complained, trying to stifle another yawn.

Heath pulled his boy into a hug and whispered in his ear.  Jaxon brightened up immediately, said his goodbyes and fairly dragged his grinning partners out the door.

James stopped Jax's momentum long enough to thank Jeff and Mutt for a delicious dinner and then allowed himself to be pulled out the door.

Jeff, Griff and Mutt made short work of the cleanup and began locking up and turning off lights before finally collapsing into their beds and falling quickly asleep.


Antipasto Salad
Courtesy of Snarks

8 ounces Genoa salami, cut into bite-size pieces 
8 ounces sopressata or other hard salami, cut into bite-size pieces 
8 ounces sharp provolone cheese, cut into bite-size pieces 
8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into bite-size pieces 
2 large tomatoes, cut into bite-size pieces 
1 (14 ounce) jar artichokes, drained and cut into bite-size pieces 
1/2 (12 ounce) jar roasted red peppers, drained and sliced 
1/2 cup pitted and coarsely chopped Kalamata olives 
1/4 cup pitted and chopped green olives
1 can black olives, drained (optional) 
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil 
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar 
freshly-ground black pepper, to taste 
1/4 cup shredded fresh basil leaves (optional)

I love salami, sopressata, olives, artichokes and roasted red peppers and usually add a lot more to the recipe. I also admit to being too lazy to make my own dressing. If you're the same, just use your favorite Italian or vinaigrette dressing.

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