On Saturday, my first novella length story with Torquere Press will be published. Conflict of Interest is one of my favorite stories. When Alex Hitchner signs up to volunteer at a local youth shelter, he is not prepared to be introduced to Jamie Owens, an 18 year old boy with a bad attitude. Just two years younger than Alex, Jamie is nervy, precocious, and damn sexy, to boot.
But Alex sees himself as a mentor to Jamie, someone to look up to, someone to prove to the kid that being a gay man does not mean casual sex in crowded clubs. He tries to keep his distance, both physically and emotionally, but Jamie becomes a part of his life in a way Alex doesn't expect. Alex must choose between giving into his desires or leaving the program ~ and Jamie ~ behind.
When Alex pulled into the parking lot of a downtown deli, Jamie jumped out of the car before it came to a complete stop and stretched languidly like an animal just released from a cage. As he climbed out of the car, Alex noticed a few people nearby glaring at Jamie's torn shirt. It may have fit in back at the shelter, but here it made Jamie look like a punk. Opening the trunk, Alex pulled out a heavy flannel shirt his roommate had left in there. "Here," he said, holding the shirt out to Jamie. "Put this on."
Jamie frowned. "I don't want to."
"Jamie," Alex warned. In his mind he could already see the scene Jamie would make when they entered the deli, only to be turned away because of Jamie's raggedy tank top.
But Jamie shook his head. "It's too hot for that. I'm not wearing it." To prove his point, he crossed his arms and leaned against the car. "What's wrong with my shirt?"
"It's torn," Alex pointed out, as if Jamie didn't know. "You look like a bum."
"I like the way I look," Jamie glared at an older woman who edged by them on her way into the deli. "What's your problem, bitch?"
The woman turned away quickly and kept walking. "Jamie, stop it," Alex hissed. "You can't go in there wearing that shirt. They won't serve you."
"Well I'm not wearing that," he said, nodding at the flannel shirt in Alex's hand. "Let's just go to McDonald's or something, okay? A drive-thru somewhere, eat in the car." With a wink he added, "I'm a cheap date. I don't mind fast food."
Try to do something nice, Alex thought with a sigh, tossing the shirt back into the trunk. He dug through blankets and empty plastic grocery bags until he found an old T-shirt of his. The cotton was faded and worn but in one piece at least, and he held it out to Jamie. "How about this?"
After a long moment, Jamie took the shirt. "This yours?" he asked, holding it up. It was short sleeved and thin ~ Alex waited to hear his excuse for not wanting to put it on.
"Yeah," Alex said as he watched Jamie study the shirt. "It's been in the trunk for a while but it's clean. Are you going to wear it or not?"
"I'll wear it," Jamie said.
Before Alex could say anything else he stripped off his tank top, pulling the torn fabric up over his head. Alex found himself staring at the muscles along Jamie's chest, the golden skin so heavily freckled, he looked perpetually tanned. Alex shoved his hands deep into his pockets to keep from reaching out and touching the boy ~ he could imagine what those hard nipples would feel like beneath his fingers, the way the thick gold chain that hung around Jamie's neck would look pooled into the hollow of his throat, the way the ridge of Jamie's collarbone would feel between his teeth. God ...
Then Jamie pulled on the T-shirt, hiding the freckled muscles from view, and Alex managed to look away. "It's kind of snug," Jamie said, flexing his arms. Alex heard the tiny sound of a seam rip, and Jamie laughed. "I like it."
"You would," Alex muttered. He pointed into the trunk and Jamie tossed his tank top inside before Alex slammed it shut. "You look much better."
"Do you think so?" Jamie asked.
When Alex nodded, Jamie unzipped his jeans. "Jamie!" Alex cried, glancing around to make sure no one was watching. "What are you doing?"
"Don't worry," he said with a wink, stuffing the T-shirt into the waistband of his jeans. "I ain't taking it all off. Much as you'd like to see it, I'm sure."
"Jamie ..." Alex closed his eyes as Jamie's hand smoothed the shirt down flat over the bulge that poked through the open zipper, but not before catching a glimpse of light red hair that trailed into his briefs as if pointing the way. Why couldn't this be easy? "Jesus."
He heard Jamie take a step closer, and then he felt hot breath along his neck as Jamie moaned softly into his ear, the sound accompanied by the quiet hiss of the zipper. Alex could feel the press of metal against that budding erection as Jamie zipped up his jeans, and in his pockets his hands clenched into fists, nails eating into his palms because he wasn't going to touch this boy, he wasn't going to let him get under his skin. Too late, his mind whispered as Jamie sighed, and Alex could smell the sharp scent of his sweat when he drew in a shaky breath. "You can look now," Jamie breathed. "I'm decent."