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Sunday, January 3, 2016

TLR Chapter 48

Owen was frowning as he looked over his roster for the next 4 weeks. He may be the manager of the bank and had to be available at all times but recently had arranged it to take time off to visit the Teardrop Lake Resort regularly.  He and Freddie had discovered it was better to take the classes then take the information home, and work that into their relationship, and then go back for the next class. Owen had less than fond memories about the class they took on implements. The teacher had said if they were going to use the implements, they should understand how they impacted the butt. Owen had winced every time he sat down for the following week to Freddie’s unconcealed joy.

Also it was a great place for a short break when Dakota was looked after by his mother or doting grandparents, and the two of them could reconnect with each other. Also it gave Owen a chance to catch up and shoot the breeze with his best friend Brody.

Owen suddenly smiled. He and Freddie could go just for a weekend, they didn’t need to take a class they could just use the facilities and maybe invite Brody and Harry over on Saturday night.  He whistled as he made the call to the Resort to ask if it was okay for them to stay the weekend in the second week of the month.


Heath gently woke Jax from his nap.  "Wake up sweetheart; we need to get down to the beach."

Jax stretched and yawned, "I don't know why you made me take a nap," he groaned at the doctor, "I wasn't even sleepy."

Heath laughed, "You had a stressful day yesterday after your trip on the stairs.  It's going to be a busy night and you were too sleepy." He answered kissing his brat’s nose.

“My leg feels a lot better, Doc.” Jax whined.  “Do I have to wear this brace tonight?”

“Yes, you do, little boy.” Heath whined back making Jax laugh too.  "Get your crutches and let's go."

 Down at the lake James was congratulating Mutt on the great job he had done setting up for their Fourth of July party and moving all the fireworks to the swim dock that was about 50 yards off shore.

"Well, it wasn't just me," Mutt said modestly. "I think Tank and Cary did most of the heavy work, and Jacob and Jare pitched in when Shorty could spare them.  And if I don't mention Adam and Torren they'll kill me." He laughed.

"I'll make sure to tell them how great everything looks when I see them," James said.

"Thanks James. It was a lot of fun. I love the 4th of July. We always have such a great time here."

He looked up at James hopefully, “You don't think that me and Adam can set off the fireworks this year, do you?"

"I think I would need to talk to Jeff and Eric about that before I answer that question, Mutt."

"Please?" Mutt said, "You and Jeff set them off every year and I'd love to be able to do it.  Would you talk to Jeff and Eric for us?"

James laughed, "You go round them up and I'll talk to them.  But if they say no, then no it is and there will be no arguing, understand?" the resort owner said.

"Yes sir!" Mutt answered excitedly.  "Please make them say yes though. If anyone can, you can." Mutt continued with a grin.

"Just go find them," James laughed again.

Mutt saluted and ran to find Jeff and Eric.

"Hey there's James," Jax said as he and Heath walked up the party area.

"Easy, Jax, not so fast," Heath warned. "You don't want to fall."

James turned and saw his men coming toward him.  He greeted first Jax with a hug and kiss and then Heath.  "It's about time you two got here."

"We would have been here sooner but he made me take a nap like a two year old," Jax grinned.

James ruffled the younger man's hair. "Well Heath's the doctor and he would know what's best for us and our health."

"Yeah and he's too good at it." Jax agreed as he leaned on his crutches.

James smiled down at the younger boy. "Why don't you have a seat and we'll attend to the last minute details, the residents and guests will be showing up soon."

"OK, but I hope you don't make me sit there all night." Jax groaned.

James said, "No, I just want you to not get tired out before the fireworks start.”

Just then Jeff and a harried Eric walked up to James.  "What's the emergency?" Eric asked

"Yes, Mutt said there was something important you needed us for." Jeff said.

James turned to Eric and Jeff with a slight frown. "Emergency? There's no emergency, only a Mutt created one."

Jeff let out a sigh of frustration. "He said you had to talk to us immediately. So what's going on?"  He asked.  "He had me worried."

"Yes," Eric added.  "At first I thought that Adam or Torren had been hurt or were in trouble for something."

James shook his head. "He wanted me to talk to the two of you about allowing him and Adam to set off the fireworks this year."

"He's going to get such a wallop." Jeff ground out.

James chuckled. "Well he thought I'd have enough influence with the two of you to allow them to do it."

"After scaring me like that he'll be lucky if I let him come to the party at all." Jeff said, before he started to laugh at the situation.  "Well, Eric, if James and I are on the dock with them, what do you say?"

"If you're on the dock, sure. I think it would be fun for them." Eric laughed.

James nodded. "I think so as well; don't be too hard on Mutt, Jeff." James said fondly. "He was very excited and you know how he gets when he gets an idea in his head. I think we might keep the answer from them for a little while though." He said with a twinkle in his smoke blue eyes and a grin on his handsome face.

Just then an exuberant Mutt jumped on Jeff.  "Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!" He yelled.

"You were eavesdropping again, Mutt?" Jeff asked with a mock scowl, wrapping his arms around his husband and tilting his head back to look at him.

"Nooooo, not exactly. I just happened to be in the area and heard what you said.  Thank you!"

James laughed. "Well there goes that idea."

"Thank you, James!  Eric?  Is it really ok with you? Can I tell Adam?"

"As long as James and Jeff are with you," Eric said pointedly, "Then yes, it's all right with me."

James laughed once more. "I don't see how you can keep it from him. Go ahead and tell Adam."

"Thank you!" Mutt said, releasing Jeff and giving James and Eric quick hugs before turning around and running to find his best friend.

Shorty and Bo walked up to the small group of men, "Hi, everyone," the vet said in greeting.

"Heya," Bo said, confused, as he watched Mutt run away. 

James smiled. “Hello Shorty, Bo, where are the double troubles?"

Bo laughed, "They’re here somewhere.”

James looked at Bo and Shorty and said, "Well those two are hard to keep track of."

"Don't worry," Shorty said with a grin, "I'll be keeping both eyes open."

"This is the first time I'll be able to see the fireworks on the Fourth." Bo said.  “Usually, wherever I am I have to stay with the horses to keep them from spooking at the noise.”

James smiled at Bo. "You won't be disappointed." 

Jeff nodded to Bo. "Yes, we try not to use the really loud fireworks because of all the animals. Most don't like them."

"I think that's a great idea," Bo said.

"That's been a tradition ever since James's uncle owned the place.  Much easier on the animals." Jeff replied.

"Well, I have to finish shutting down the shed; there are still a few people out in boats.  I'll be back as soon as that's set." Eric said with a smile.  

"Later, Eric." Jeff said.  

"See you in a few." Eric waved as he walked away.

Eric stopped a moment and called over his shoulder, "Oh, and don't forget, once Torren gets wind of the fact that Mutt and Adam will be setting off the fireworks he'll turn into a firework of his own."

James smiled at Eric as he walked away, "I'm trusting that you know how to put out fireworks."

"Yes sir, I do. And it doesn't even require water." Eric called with a grin.


Harry glanced at Brody, "Let's hurry." He was taking long strides toward the lake.

"If we go any faster we'll be running," Brody said pulling Harry back.

Harry pouted, but slowed down to walk alongside Brody. "I don't want to miss anything. It's the first time I actually get to attend the party. Usually I'd be the one on patrol so everyone else could come."

"I know, Babe, but the party will still be there when we get there."

Harry nodded. "All right Brody." He continued with his partner and lover and smiled.

Brody saw Jeff, James and the others and steered Harry towards them.

"Brody! Harry! Good to see you both." Jeff said with a smile as he held out his hand to shake theirs.

Harry grinned and shook Jeff's hand and said, "Good to be here."

James also turned at Jeff's words and shook the two new arrivals hands as well. "Make yourselves at home. Food will be out soon. Everyone had better get at the food before the human eating machine arrives." He joked referring to Duke whose appetite was infamous around the resort.


Duke was walking with Jake toward the lake when he heard the music and with a grin began to march to the tune that was playing. "Very rhythmic." He remarked with a grin at Jake.

"Yes, but don't forget my legs aren't as long as yours.  Slow down a hair." Jake grinned.

Duke grinned and slowed down a bit so Jake could keep up with him.

In short order they joined the others.

James, surveying the gathering said, “Looks like everyone is here.”  

“If everyone’s here, where are Coral and Ryan?" Brody asked. 

James looked around and didn’t see them. “I’m sure they’ll be here shortly.”


Ryan began to run ahead of Coral toward the beach once they were on the path, hearing the music. "They're startin' without us! I told you we were goin' to be late!"

"Slow down, Sunshine. Let's get there in one piece." Coral laughed as he reached for Ryan's collar.  He pulled the young man into a hug and put his arm around his shoulders so that they could walk at a more sedate pace.

Ryan sighed as he was pulled back, but snuggled into Coral's arm as it went around him.

As they arrived at the beach area together, they saw the other men talking and headed in their direction.

James said to the others, "Here come Coral and Ryan now."

"Hello gentlemen!" Coral called to the group of men standing on the beach.  "It's going to be nice tonight, from what I hear. Perfect weather for the fireworks." He smiled.

They shook hands all around, but Coral could tell that Ryan wasn't in the mood to stand still and listen to a bunch of Tops talk.  "Go on and find your friends, hon."

Ryan gave Coral a grateful look and seeing Jax sitting nearby said, "Come on, you looked bored. Let's go find everybody."

Jax smiled but looked over at James for the OK.

Heath looked at James too then nodded to Jax.  "Just go slow and be careful, babe."

"I will, Doc."

Ryan glanced at Coral and said, "We will Heath."

Coral gave Ryan a hug and a kiss on the top of his head.  "Behave yourself." he whispered with a smile.  "Love you."

Ryan hugged Coral back and said, "Love you too." He then went over to Jax where he had been hugged by both his tops at the same time and laughed. "You're trapped for sure, no way out in that hold."

Once Jax’s tops released him Ryan waited for him to get his crutches in place and walked alongside him to find the other brats.

"I think we are going to walk around a bit and find a good place to watch the fireworks," Brody said, smiling at Harry.  "We'll catch up with you guys later."

"Later, Brody, Harry." Jeff said.  "I should go find Mutt anyway.  I don't know about him but I'm hungry and that food smells great.  Catch you later, gentlemen." He smiled.

Harry smiled and went with Brody.

 Mutt and Adam, who had been running toward the grill, saw Jaxon and Ryan heading their way.  "Come on guys!  We'll get a table together but we gotta be quick!"

"Look, over there," Adam said as the other two caught up to them. "There's Tris.  Hey! Tris! Save us some seats!"

Tristan looked up, surprised that anyone outside of the bakery would be calling him.  He smiled when he saw the four young men approaching him.  "Hi guys." He said shyly.  Outside of the bakery he didn’t really know them that well.

"Nice to see you out from behind the counter, Tris." Mutt said with a wide grin.  "Have you had a chance to meet the others?" He asked.

"I know Ry and Coral; they come into the bakery a lot.  I know Adam. Hi Adam." he waved. 

“And these are Jarrod and Jake, even if I don’t know which is which half the time.” Adam added when the twins walked up.

"Jake... the bartender? You look a little young to be a bartender." Tris said confusedly.

"Nah, that's Big Jake, this is Little Jake," Adam said with a smile.

“Hey, Tris,” Little Jake said.

"And this is Jaxon.  He's Heath and James's brat."  Adam said by way of introduction.

“Hello Jaxon, I'm Tristan.  Tris to just about everyone." The young baker said. "Nice to meet you."

“Nice meeting you too, Tris," Jax said.  "I love your Rascals."

"Thanks!  They were a big seller at the bakery I used to work at.” He explained.  “I was surprised when Brendon asked me to make them.  He said that if they're a good seller he'll make them a regular feature in the bakery."

"Well, if Jax is any gauge they are a huge hit, Tris," Heath said as he walked by trying not to look like he was checking up on his brat.

Tris smiled shyly.  "Thank you."

Ryan smiled and said, "Good to see you Tris, will some of the other guys from the bakery be here too?"

“All of them said they'd be here. I wonder what's taking them so long." Tris said.  "Oh wait, there's Spence and Arnie.  Guys! Over here!" Tristan called, smiling.

Spencer and Arnie waved and walked over to where the others sat.

Brendon made his way to the party and saw Vic and Warren heading toward where their brats were gathering with their friends.  His gaze focused momentarily on Tristan, memories flooding back until he shook himself out of his thoughts and began to help James who had begun to put out the food that had been prepared.  

Once the buffet tables were set up, Brendon went to his truck to begin taking out the desserts, including the huge Fourth of July cake he had made at the bakery.

Heath uncovered the baked beans and salads.

James smiled, admiringly. "You outdid yourself as always Brendon."

Brendon said, "This year there was help. Tristan assisted with the decoratin' and the bakin' of it."

"He did a good job."   James smiled as he set out macaroni and potato salad.

"Looks like it was a good choice to hire him," the young doctor agreed.

Brendon acknowledged that. "He's very good."

James exchanged a look with Heath and a smile. He was glad to see Brendon's attitude less hostile toward Tris.

Gary was manning the grill with help from Charles, and Mike, who rang the dinner bell.

Duke, seeing the food being put out started to make a beeline for it.

Jake laughed and followed Duke toward the food.  He loved the variety that had been put out this year.  He knew that the restaurant staff had made enough to tide over a whole platoon but he didn't want to take any chances.

James placed a hand on Mike's shoulder and smiled. "Thank you three for manning the grill this year. You make great burgers and dogs."

"You're welcome, James." Gary replied.  "It's our pleasure.  It's nice to make simple things for a change."

Mike laughed.  "And I'm especially glad that people wait on themselves tonight."

Duke grinned and approached the grill. "I'll start with two hamburgers and two hot dogs please."

"Hey, leave some for us," Bo yelled from the middle of the line, grinning.

Ryan, smelling the food, glanced over at the grill. "Uh oh...we'd better get in line or there won't be anything left." He told the other brats seeing Duke at the grill.

He went over to Jax. "Hi Jax, what do you want? I'll fix you a plate."

"Surprise me," Jaxon said with a grateful smile.

"You're gonna regret that." Ry grinned with an evil look, making Jaxon laugh.

"I trust you."

"Your funeral." said Jarrod... or was it Little Jake.  Jaxon still had trouble telling the two apart sometimes, especially when they dressed alike as they were tonight.


Mike grinned at Duke and took out two foot long hotdogs and two half pound burgers from the grill.  "We've made extra-large ones this year."

Duke grinned. "Good, then I won't have to come back so often."

Charles and Gary helped Mike cook and serve the food from the grill for the next hour, until Jeff, Mutt and Adam took their turns.  They were grateful that the worst of the rush was over by then.  James helped out at the grill with buns and condiments.

Once they were done eating Heath helped James and Jeff get ready for the flag raising ceremony.

Duke joined them as well and when they were ready James announced over the music system, "Attention everyone. We will be raising the flag now."

Residents and guests gathered around the flag pole.

Mutt and Ryan helped Jax find Heath.

James, Jeff and Duke stood front and center.

Once everyone was gathered James gave the signal and Duke began to raise the flag. It was getting dark now, the time flags would generally be taken down, but James, Jeff and Duke had arranged for a spotlight to be trained on the flag. Once it had been raised in military style by the three retired Marines and the Pledge of Allegiance said James gave the signal for Torren to start the CD with the Star Spangled Banner.   Torren queued up the song Only in America, by Brooks and Dunn to play after the National Anthem played, and went to stand beside Eric.

Once the anthem began to play all saluted the flag and sang. 

Heath stood with one arm on Jax’s shoulder as their man saluted the flag.

Harry looked lovingly up at Brody before turning back to watch the flag being raised.

Ryan went over to Coral seeing Heath was there for Jax.

Jarrod found Shorty and Bo and joined them. “Where is your brother?” Shorty quietly asked the older twin.

“He should be here soon.” Jare answered.  “There he is now.” He said, pointing toward where Mutt and Jake stood.

Mutt stood back a ways from the three retired Marines and watched his husband, eyes glowing with love and pride.  Jake stood beside him.  He put a hand on Mutt's shoulder and smiled down at him and Mutt glanced up gratefully. 

Charles and Gary stood with Mike as they gazed up at the flag and sang.

As the strains of the music and the singing faded away there was a moment of quiet. Then James began to shout, "Hip! Hip! Hooray! Happy Birthday America!" The phrase was taken up by Duke.

Someone from the crowd yelled, "Birthday cake!" which caused several groups of men to laugh.

The phrase and cheer was picked up by the rest of the assembly, with Brooks and Dunn’s Only in America playing in the background and once things quieted down James turned to Brendon, "Time for the Birthday Cake!"

Brendon stepped up to the huge cake with a knife and began to cut and serve pieces of cake to those who came up to him for one. Tristan, Vic, Spencer, Arnie and Warren got up and helped serve, walking out into the crowd to hand over forks and plates containing large pieces of cake.

Heath picked up three pieces and went back to Jax to wait for James to join them.

James walked over to where Jax and Heath were smiling. He picked up a plate of cake. "Thank you. Looks good."

Duke made his way over to Brendon and the man automatically cut him a double sized piece placing it on a dinner plate he had snagged earlier for this purpose and handed it to Duke who grinned. "Thanks Brendon." The huge security guard said. "Better give me a piece I can take over to Jake."

Brendon cut another piece as large as the others he had been giving out and Duke took both plates over to where he saw Jake.

"Thanks Duke, you're a doll." Jake teased as Duke handed over the smaller of the two pieces to him.  He didn't really mind, but he couldn't resist the temptation to tease the older man.

Duke flushed a bit with the teasing, but he didn't mind. "Maa maa...maa maa...” he said in a high pitched voice, trying to sound like a baby doll.

Jake cracked up at Duke's antics and nearly choked on a piece of cake.

Duke smacked Jake on the back to help him. "I didn't mean to make you choke." He apologized with an unrepentant grin.

"Smart Alec," Jake grinned as he wiped a smudge of frosting from the corner of Duke's mouth.

Duke laughed. "Well you love me anyway right?"

"Yeah," Jake said, trying not to sound as serious as he felt.  "Yeah, I do."

"When do the fireworks start, James?" Jax asked.

James said, “In a little while. Jeff and I are going to supervise Adam and Mutt shooting them off."

Tristan was grateful that Brendon wasn't really looking at who was taking the slices of cake and doling them out.  He liked to help but he didn't want to find himself under Brendon's disapproving eye any more than he had to.

Jacob saw Spencer and Torren whispering and laughing, carrying a small bag before they slid into the shadows and disappeared.  He wondered what they were up to.  Completely unnoticed, he slipped away to find where the other men were going, while Shorty and Bo were leaning against a large oak tree eating their cake.

As the residents enjoyed themselves, James smiled contentedly. It was times like this that reminded him of his uncle and he loved to see all that had been accomplished in his name. He glanced over at Jeff. "I think it's about time we started the fireworks."

Jeff grinned and counted, "Three... two... one..."

"Did someone mention fireworks?" came Mutt's voice from behind them.

Both Heath and Jax laughed.

"Yes, hon, it's time." Jeff said with a fond smile for his husband.

"Great! Let me get Adam!" 

"Someone call me?" Adam asked from just behind Mutt, causing the two young men to grin and laugh at each other. 

"You're as bad as I am." Mutt said.

"I learned from the master!" Adam replied.  "Ready to go, boss?" He asked James.

James said to the boys, "Yes. We need to take a raft out to the dock as we'll be shooting them over the lake."

"Whoo hoo!" Mutt crowed.  "Let's go!"

The resort owner headed to where two rafts were waiting on the shore. Mutt jumped in one of the rafts with James.  He glanced around to see if Jeff and Adam were going to join them. Jeff followed Adam to the other raft and the four men rowed out to the dock. James got out and helped Jeff with a grin as the other two scrambled out onto the dock.

After some instruction the two younger men set off the first of many rockets. James watched with pride as the rockets soared and exploded into bits of brilliant color.

Jeff also beamed with pride as his boy worked with Adam.

James smiled at Jeff. "They're doing a good job."

"Yes they are."

Mutt and Adam exchanged excited glances.  They'd never set off the fireworks before and it was a huge honor for them to be allowed to do it.  They were determined to make this the best 4th of July in resort history.

On shore Jax's eyes sparkled watching the colors in the sky.  He leaned against Heath and wished James was with them.  Heath had told him that this was James's favorite part of the 4th of July besides the flag raising.

As the stroke of ten drew closer, James and Jeff helped set off the final volleys, sending sparks of color high into the sky.  Jeff was the first to notice that there were fireworks being set off closer to the resort.

He pointed them out to James who frowned, trying to figure out who would be setting fireworks off that close to the resort and the people on the beach.

Jeff picked up his radio and called Greg who was on duty at the time.  "Keep an eye out over there. Someone is setting fireworks off your way." He said.

"Will do," Greg replied tensely.  He felt guilty because he'd stopped his rounds to watch the fireworks. 

Jarrod was walking past Duke when he heard his radio crackle then James’s voice loud and clear.  He turned and quickly walked toward the lodge.  He had seen his brother head that way just before the fireworks started.  Once past the lodge he ran back along the path toward the dog park.

"When I find out who's doing that…” James growled, “they can cause a fire!"

Coral heard the conversation over the radios and scanned the crowd. He nudged Shorty who was closest to him, eyes trained on the array of colors in the dark night sky.  "Where are the twins?"

"Dead, if that's them," Shorty growled.


Jacob lost track of Torren and Spence just as he got close to the dog park.  He bent over to catch his breath and saw a flash on the other side of the dog park fence.  He followed the sound of low voices and saw Spencer and Torren kneeling around something on the ground.

Spence grinned at Torren. "This is gonna be really cool. If we set them off at the same time as the others they'll mix together and no one will ever know.  Did you get the long lighters Torren?"

"Yeah, I hope they don't miss them on the dock," Torren whispered back.

Spence shrugged. "We didn't take that many. They shouldn't notice."

"I hope not.” Tor said. "Hey, get ready to light that one."

Spence grinned and touched the long lighter to the fuse.

Jacob crept closer to the fence just in time to see the first rocket reach for the sky. "Cool." he said a little too loudly.

Spence jumped and swung around. "Jeeze, Jacob, you scared the crap out of me."

Torren jumped to his feet looking around for Shorty.  "Yeah, give a guy a warning next time, Jake." He was still looking around.  "Where's Shorty?"

Jacob said, "At the party."

Spence said, "Was Warren still there when you left?" 

"As far as I know, yeah," Jake replied, uncertain as to where the line of questioning was going.

"Where’s Jare?"

“He’s at the party too.”

Spence nodded at Jake's words relieved that only Jacob had followed them.

"Get ready to light another one, Spence." Tor said.

Spence grinned and prepared to send another one aloft.

"Wait, wait, ok... now!" He said excitedly.

Jacob stood back to give his fellow brat room to light the rocket.

Spencer set the lighter to the rocket and watched as it took off and burst into color.

All three brats watched the sparks against the night sky.

"Hey, can I light the next one?" Jake begged.

Spence grinned at Jake, "Sure, but be careful."

"And don't light it till I tell you," Torren instructed.

"I won't," Jacob promised.

He squatted down and took the lighter from Spence.  "Ready."

Tor looked back toward the picnic area.  He waited till he saw colorful sparks start to rise.  "Ok, now." he commanded.

Jake never got a chance to light the fuse because his older brother vaulted the fence before he could do it.

“What the hell do you think you're doing, Jacob?”


Greg followed the road in the direction of the fireworks, leading him to the Dog Park and found Torren, Jacob, Jarrod and Spence standing around a rocket ready to light.  He walked up behind them then cleared his throat loudly.

The four young men jumped guiltily and looked up at the ticked off security guard.

"Let's go." Greg said.  "Each of you face a tree and stay there. Now."  There were several lining the inside of the dog park to choose from.


"I'm going to go and see what's going on out there." Coral said.  It was just then that he heard Greg on the radio.

“Found the culprits,” Greg revealed. “They’re at the dog park.”

Ryan got up to go with Coral.

"Who are they?" Coral asked into his radio.

"Spence, Torren and the twins." Greg answered.

"Shorty is with me, I'll get Eric and Warren and we'll be there in just a few minutes." He said.

“Ryan I need you to stay here,” Coral instructed his lover.

“But…” the young man protested.

“Ryan, please just stay here.”

“Ok, I will,” Ryan agreed.


James and Jeff heard Greg from the dock. "I’ll be there as soon as I can," James said into his radio.  His smoky blue eyes grew darker as he felt anger, but he kept it under control.

"What's going on?" Jax asked Heath as men started leaving the area.

"I'm not sure, but you stay here and I'll find out," he told his younger partner.  "And Jax, I mean stay here."

"Yes, sir." Jax answered knowing not to challenge that tone.

Heath hurried to catch up with the others.  As he passed Ryan he asked him to stay with Jax.

Duke said, "I'm comin' too." when he heard Greg’s voice on his radio.

Jake stopped the big man.  “I’m sure they can handle it, Duke. The boys will be embarrassed enough without everyone seeing them.”

“Yeah I guess you’re right,” Duke agreed grudgingly, sitting back down.

Jeff stayed with Mutt and Adam to help clean up the dock while James headed back to the beach in one of the rafts.  "James can handle it,” He said when Mutt, worried for Torren and the others, asked if they could go with James.

"Besides," Jeff said kindly, “part of the job of setting the fireworks off is the clean up afterward.  The guys might be a little sore in the morning but they'll live."

Mutt and Adam didn’t look happy, but they understood and did as they were told.  With Jeff's help, the clean-up went smoothly and they were back on the beach within an hour.

"Adam, Eric called.  He asked if you'd be alright spending the night with us." Jeff said.

"Aye, I guess so.  If that's what he wants." Adam said quietly.  He was worried about Torren. Regardless of what the youngest member of the trio ever did, Adam always hurt when Torren did.

Jeff and Mutt each put an arm around their friend and led him toward their golf cart, and to their home.  "Ad, you can wear some of my stuff tonight.  Jeff can bring you home in the morning, ok?"


"Come on, O'Neill, the holiday isn't over yet. Let's go have some popcorn and watch a movie, whadda ya say?"

Adam gave a tired smile, grateful for his friends.  "Yeah, sounds good.  Let's go."


By the time James arrived at the dog park the four young men were each facing a tree with their tops close by.  The others were checking the area for any fires the sparks might have started.  James stopped near Heath to calm himself.  The doctor squeezed his lover’s hand and then he walked up to Eric, Warren and Shorty.  “I’d like to talk to the boys,” he told them in a tone that wouldn’t be refused.

The young men turned and looked at the owner of TLR waiting for the lecture they knew they had coming.

James looked at the four miscreants and said in a stern tone, his smoky blue eyes dark, “That was a very stupid thing to do. Do you know you could have started a fire? Burned down a good part of the resort by your foolishness? If it weren’t for your tops I’d be booting all four of you to the curb.” He said in icy tones. “You not only endangered the resort and everyone here but you ruined what was supposed to be a fun and relaxing evening.”

James’s tone made the four boys shiver involuntarily.

James continued. “I expect, knowing each of your tops very well, that there will never be a repeat performance of this behavior. Stealing and putting the resort in danger of fire is not acceptable behavior under any circumstance. I trust your tops will impress that concern with each of you in a manner that won’t soon be forgotten.” He said in a low, intense tone that reflected his anger and disappointment much more effectively than raising his voice and yelling would have.

James turned away, still very upset by the incident. He looked at Shorty, Eric and Warren.  “Take your guy’s home, gentlemen and impress on them the severity of their actions.”  Then he walked over to Heath and said, “Let’s go find our boy.”


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