I had finally returned to the grounds of Oakton Park to scatter Luke’s ashes.
We had spent the last two months of Luke’s life in a small cottage in the grounds of the main house, and it had been Luke’s wish that the grounds should be the final resting place for his ashes. I had wanted them to go somewhere that I could return to to mourn him. But in those last weeks he had been insistent. And I couldn’t break the promise he had forced me to make to him.
The main house at Oakton Park was the English home of a distant cousin of Luke’s, and an elderly aunt arranged with its owner for us to have the use of the cottage while Luke was still well enough to remain at home—because, unfortunately, we didn’t have a home of our own to spend that time in.
We had spent our lives moving around the globe, going from one promising mineral exploration project to another. Luke had begun his career in the high, dry mountains of South America before moving on to the jungles of Indonesia and Borneo. I had begun mine in the Australian desert, before I met Luke on my first job in Kalimantan. There had been an instant affinity between us, but we had tried to ignore the physical attraction. He was the site manager and senior geologist, and I was one of several geo’s working directly under him. The harmony and smooth operation of a remote mining camp can be upset by a lot of things. And any sexual relationship on site would have been almost impossible to keep secret.
It had finally happened one night when we had both had to fly to Kuala Lumpur for different reasons. Me to go on to Jakarta for a job interview. Luke to go for the monthly management meeting in KL.
There had been a mix-up with the company’s bookings, and the hotel had a conference group filling every spare room. We had wound up saying we’d share the one room they had reserved for MM Mining and Exploration.
We both knew why I was going to Jakarta, and the knowledge we might only see each other for a few weeks more and might never meet again had us both anxious and relieved at the same time. We shared dinner and a few drinks, and it turned out that both of us were thinking the same thing all through the meal. The conference crowd were noisy and wanting to party, and neither of us was interested in the noise and carry on, so we headed back to our room early. Both having early flights was a good excuse.
Luke’s hand brushed my ass in the lift, and my cock twitched at the touch. I was instantly in heat for him. And it must have shown in my face, as he moved closer, and by the time the lift reached the eleventh floor he had his hand on my package and was kissing my neck from behind, as I reached back to pull his head closer to mine and pressed his hand harder against my engorging dick. His drill was already resting hard and incredibly long against the crease of my arse cheeks.
It was several months since I had left the jungle camp last and had let myself be in heat. I also felt as if I had known Luke all my life, and might never see him again and I knew that there could be no problems about anything that happened between us that night. We both knew that the interview I was going to was almost a formality. In a few weeks I’d be gone.
So we both let go. Completely. I was already unbuttoning my shirt as we entered our room, and Luke closed the door and came up to me and we kissed hungrily as he ran his hands up and down my torso while I removed my shirt. Then his hands followed down to run inside my briefs as I undid my pants, his hands pushing them down as I wrapped my arms about him and we kissed. Both of us were moaning and I was whimpering with need. His strong hands squeezed my dick and balls then moved to my butt cheeks and massaged them as he devoured my mouth, and I had trouble pulling free of his embrace to drop to my knees before him and unzip his pants and pull his throbbing tool free.
I sunk my mouth over his cap and ran my tongue in and around his dripping slit catching the precum leaking from him. He pulled my head in to him and his nine-inch tool sank into my throat, but was way too much for me to take, so I wrapped one hand around the root of it and worked my mouth hungrily over the rest. But Luke quickly pulled free and took hold of my arms; pulling me up, and tossing me back onto the bed. He loomed over me and I spread and lifted my thighs as I grabbed his hands and pulled him to me.
“Never without protection,” he’d growled and lurched free.
I stroked myself as I watched his muscular but lean body as he emptied his bag on the floor, hunting for a condom. In a moment he was back and I tore open the packet with trembling hands as he lifted my hips and dropped his mouth to my exposed entrance. Then I was rolling the latex on him and he was roughly fingering my ass. We were both in a rush. We’d waited too long and were too much in heat for each other to go slowly.
I cried out in pain as he entered me, but once he had sunk to the limit inside me, I wanted everything he was giving me. I was moaning and yelping as he moved his cock inside me, wanting more, and he was moaning and grunting as he dug deep and plowed me hard.
I got the job, but a month later Luke joined me. He’d pulled strings and was made site manager, and right from the start it wasn’t a secret that we shared the same cabin.
We’d had ten good years. Then Luke had become ill and we had done the rounds of half a dozen specialists before he was diagnosed, and by then it was too late. After consulting with the doctors, Luke told me he had contracted a nasty strain of malaria when he first went to Borneo years before, but had managed it. He always worked hard and caught some fever in Kalimantan that he tried to ignore. Unfortunately, it hadn’t gone away, and with the malaria it had been too much.
So we’d come to Oakton Park and had walked in the grounds on his good days and sat together talking in a sheltered spot in the sun on his bad ones. And we had made gently careful love on occasion. He insisted on using pills so we could, and I didn’t stop him, wanting that bond, though it tired him. Then one day he insisted I go to London to get him a book he really wanted to read. I didn’t want to leave him.
His distant cousin, the one who owned Oakton Place, was Hugh B. Caul, the famous thriller writer. I had an idea he had left a wife somewhere in the states and now seemed to be spending most of his time at Oakton. When we were there, he had a couple of good-looking young research assistants staying at the house. Both were male. And one night when we were making love Luke told me that Hugh had been his first. Hugh had been twenty-three and Luke had been eighteen. It had been summer and they had spent it holidaying together on the east coast of Chesapeake bay, staying at old inns and guest houses in the quaint waterside villages.
At the cottage Hugh would drop in on us to sit and reminisce with Luke. At first they didn’t seem very alike, but, as they interacted, they more and more resembled each other. And, eventually, seeing Hugh full of health and vitality next to a frail thin Luke, I saw what Luke could have been like in a few more years, if he was healthy. I saw a greying but handsome man, tall, straight and well muscled and athletic still at forty-eight. And I always had to leave them, and go outside alone to wait, until I was needed or Hugh left.
* * *
I had acceded to Luke’s request to settle in at Oakton Park. I never even considered telling him no. It wasn’t just that I felt guilty—that I was responsible for having brought this on—but after all these years, I still loved him. He had intrigued and attracted me all through our childhood, even though our “separated by the pond” families only gathered every couple of years.
Luke’s family had been going down as mine was rising. Finally, to save the ancestral home at Oakton Park, my family had been forced to buy the place, and that’s when we started coming to England every summer.
Luke was always somewhat of a recluse and there was only me there in the summer anywhere close to his age, even though I was five years his senior. He followed me around like a puppy dog. I had wanted him since I was nineteen, but I managed to hold off until he was eighteen.
And then I took him. It was selfish and cruel of me, but at least I held off until he was old enough to make his own decision. And he worshiped me enough that there was no question about giving himself to me. But not in England. I actually planned it in advance. That is what I was most ashamed of—that I’d schemed to have him, to change his life forever, to put him on the path to where he ended up.
I had to have him alone, away from his element, away from both his family and mine. I suggested that he celebrate his eighteenth birthday with his first trip to the States, which I paid for. I took him to the Maryland eastern shore of the Chesapeake, and we roamed the old harbor towns of Rock Hall, Chestertown, St. Michael’s, and, finally, Oxford, where I made my move. We were both good sailors. I took him out on the Tred Avon and then into the bay, where we dropped the anchor, brought the sails in, and I fucked him three ways from Sunday on the teak roof of the yacht’s cabin. He wanted me as much as I wanted him. I didn’t have to ask or to do more than lay a hand on his sweet ass, and then he was laying back, pulling me with him, spreading his legs wide and writhing under me in ecstasy.
I had opened a Pandora’s box. After that Luke couldn’t get enough. And it wasn’t just me. He quickly moved on to others, and he traded himself indiscriminately. I tried to make him stop or to at least be more careful. But he wouldn’t listen to me, and we parted on bad terms. We didn’t speak again until he asked to move back to Oakton Park. But I heard about him. Other members of the family had seen us move toward each other and they weren’t dummies. They knew what I had done and they made sure over the years that I heard how active and indiscriminate Luke had been. They wanted to punish me. And I can’t say that I blamed them for that.
Then I heard that he had met “the one” and had calmed down. I don’t know if he stopped sleeping around then, but a cousin visited him and subsequently let me know that at least he was being safe now.
But I wasn’t surprised when he finally called me, seeking sanctuary for his final journey. I wasn’t surprised that he had waited too long.
I felt responsible. I felt guilty. I could do my writing anywhere; my own young men could easily move with me; I had employed them to keep them close at hand, for it to be convenient for them to share my bed, often both of them together. I was as weak as Luke was. I’m not sure, but it may have been a family trait. But I was more careful than Luke had been.
So when Luke and his Terry moved into the cottage at Oakton Park, I returned to the main house as well. There wasn’t much I could do for him now other than to be nearby and to ensure that he received the best of care. Other than his name and that my cousin had said that he was steadying influence on Luke, I hadn’t known this Terry guy at all before they had come to Oakton Park. And, considering the situation, I had to accept that he might bail out on Luke at any moment. Someone had to be there, and I felt guilty enough to take that responsibility.
On the afternoon of the day Luke died, I saw Terry drive off in their car. I’m ashamed to say that my first thought was that this was the day he was bailing out. I only saw him leave because I was taking one of my assistants up against the window enclosure of my library in the main house, as I often did when I was tense about a needed change of direction in one of my manuscripts. As soon as I finished with him, though, I cleaned up and walked over to the cottage.
I found Luke, frail and washed out, lying on a sofa in the cottage’s parlor.
“No, he hasn’t left me,” Luke said with some difficulty. “I sent him away. To London. But he should only be gone for the day. I told him I needed a book. I had difficulty deciding on a book that he couldn’t produce from the house library.”
“Is he getting on your nerves then?” I asked, half hoping that this was the case. Terry was entirely too good and noble for me not to like him. And I really was desperate not to like him. In the back of my mind, I still wanted Luke for myself.
“No, Terry’s a brick. Always has been,” Luke responded with a sigh. Not exactly what I wanted to hear. “I just needed him not to be here today.”
And then to my next question, he responded. “No, Terry doesn’t know the whole of it. He thinks I have a rare form of malaria. That’s what I told him the doctors told me. He doesn’t know. But I’ve been careful with Luke. There won’t be any problem with Terry. We’ve been together for more than ten years, and there’s been no problem for Terry.”
“He should know, Luke. He should be told. He has the right to know.”
“But he’ll leave me,” Luke said with a low whine. “He’ll leave me then.”
“Maybe, Luke,” I said. “But he still has a right to know. And I’ll be here even if he leaves. But if you don’t tell him, I will.”
“I feel so cold,” Luke said. “Then it really has come to that. Come hold me, Hugh. Hold me close.”
I went to him and held him close in my arms and rocked him gently back and forth.
“Fuck me, Hugh,” Luke murmured. “Let me feel you inside me one last time.”
“I’m sorry,” Luke, I said. “You aren’t strong enough for that. That’s no longer possible.”
“Make love to me . . . please. I’m so afraid.” Luke was quietly crying now.
So, I did what little I could. I unzipped his pants and pulled out his cock and stroked him endlessly until he managed to find release.
“I need my pills, Hugh,” he whispered. “In the cabinet over the kitchen sink. A full bottle. I need that.”
“There’s a full bottle here on the floor, Luke,” I said. “It must have fallen off the table. You have enough medicine right here.”
Luke sighed and turned his face to the sofa, and that was that. He didn’t speak to me again, and he closed his eyes. After it seemed that his breathing had become as regular as his disease would permit, I rose from the sofa, lowering his head from my lap to the pillow, and quietly went over to a wingback chair by the hearth and sat and watched the sleeping figure. I was concerned for Luke, but I also had deadlines on the proofs of my current book. I didn’t see the harm of slipping up to the main house and bringing those back so I could continue to work while he slept.
I hadn’t gotten more than half way back to the main house when I heard the dreaded sound. I have no idea how he’d managed to get the gun.
* * *
When Luke insisted I go to London, I didn’t want to leave but he assured me that Hugh had visited earlier while I was in the garden and had agreed to sit with him while I was away. So I went. I had no choice. He sent me away. But if I’d had any notion why, I wouldn’t have leave. Even after Hugh had told me what Luke really had died from.
For a long time after he died I hated Luke for what he had done to me. Not that he had not told me what really was wrong with him but that he hadn’t had faith that I would stay with him regardless. And I hated Hugh too, for making it easy for him to go as he did.
And as soon as I had Luke’s ashes I left the country. I had got a job through contacts, and a week after his death I was back in the dry dusty red desert of Australia. For months I spent each night holding the urn containing Luke clutched to my chest. Telling him how unfair it was for him to leave me before I was ready. Then one night I was able to leave the urn containing his ashes in the bottom of my bag, and just hold them occasionally.
After twelve months my contract was up, and I was free and ready to do what Luke had wanted me to, what he had told me in a message he’d left behind that I’d only found after leaving England with his urn.
So there I was, standing on the driveway of Oakton Place holding the urn containing all that remained of Luke and waiting for Hugh to join me.
* * *
Terry was standing there in the drive, apparently not sure whether he should go immediately to the cottage or come to the main house. I hated myself at the moment.
I hated myself because I wanted him. It had slowly crept up on me that I wanted him after the noble way he held himself after Luke died—not to mention how he had handled Luke’s sickness. I wanted him because he was sweet and all that another would want in a partner as a helpmate. But more than that I wanted him because he was one nice piece of ass. I could understand why Luke was willing to change his life for this man—even if he had done so too late. I could change my life for this man too, I thought.
At that moment as I saw him standing, full of indecision and sadness in the car park of Oakton Park, I told myself that I could leave off with my own form of promiscuity and settle down with this man. Not only because of how he lived his life but because he was achingly sexy. He could cure my urges just as he would have cured Luke’s if he’d come along soon enough.
With a great sigh, I left my library window and went down to him. It turned out that he wasn’t wondering where to go. He had a last request to perform for Luke, one that he couldn’t wait now to get beyond him. He told me that he couldn’t move on with his life until he had done this for Luke. And Terry was waiting for me to come down and go out to the edge of the lake with him to consign Luke’s ashes to the water. The very act of watching Luke’s ashes drifting on the top of the water, ever so briefly before they sank below the surface, affected me deeply. I couldn’t help but think back on that first time out on the waters of Chesapeake Bay, when Luke’s fate was set into motion—by me, by my weakness and greed.
When we came back up the lawn from the lake, I instinctively turned toward the cottage when Terry did, although we hadn’t spoken more than a couple of words with each other, and that had been on the drive when he told me what he had to do with the ashes.
Tears were streaming down Terry’s face when we entered the cottage, and I just guided him back to the bedroom and we sat there together on the edge of the bed. At first it was just a comradely hug, a shared grieving for the tragedy of Luke’s life. But, without realizing it, I found myself trying to kiss away the tears in Terry’s eyes. And then he lifted his face toward me. I could see that he seemed to be in a daze. I could have guessed why it happened as it did.
When he looked into my eyes, his face seemed to brighten and he gave me a dazzling smile. Then we couldn’t get enough of each other. We were hugging and kissing and tearing at each other’s clothes. He was arched back on the bed and I was kissing his nipples and working my way down across his stomach and possessing his manhood with my mouth.
Terry was on his belly on the bed, his hands grasping the rods of the headboard and his rounded butt cheeks rising off the bed, offering themselves to me, when I wedged his thighs between my knees and entered him strongly. We moaned and sighed in harmony as we fucked in a rhythm that seemed so natural, that seemed like we had done this for years. And we rode on and on, me trawling deeper, holding longer, pulling farther out and then digging deeper, as Terry cried out in ecstasy at the taking. He cried out for me again when I pulled half out of him and grasped the root of my cock and twisted it around inside him—just as Luke had cried out when I’d done this to him. So I continued doing it. I set a pattern to the fuck that was so familiar in my lovemaking with Luke that I was transported back to a happier time. I had no idea it was also familiar to Terry.
And then at the point of my ejaculation, Terry threw his head back and cried out in the deepest passion. “Oh, Yes! . . . Luke!”
I should have known. He was on pills. He’d told me he was—that he’d had to do so to get through this last ordeal with the consignment of Luke’s ashes. I should have known that in his state he would mistake me for Luke.
* * *
I felt that I had only let Hugh make love to me because he reminded me of Luke so much. In his appearance and his mannerisms, in small ways, like the way he lifted one eyebrow when he was listening to something Luke was saying. The way he twisted his cock inside my ass just like Luke. That had always driven me wild.
On the bed in the cottage I had come myself almost immediately after Hugh had, with Luke’s name still ringing in the bedroom, and my cream soaking into the sheet beneath me. And I had been fully connected to Luke. But as I fell back to the bed, exhausted and recovering myself, Luke’s cock didn’t remain buried up my ass; he didn’t rub his chest against my back he way he always did; he didn’t bring his mouth to my neck and kiss it.
Instead, I felt him pull away and slip out of me, and I had turned, whimpering for the expected continuation of his fuck. And, and . . . I had realized through the haze I was in that the man leaving the bed and standing on the cottage floor was not Luke. It was a moment before I understood the man who had fucked me so much like my dead lover did was Hugh, Luke’s distant cousin. And he was now pale and grim and the facial resemblance to Luke was largely gone.
But then he smiled at me, and I saw Luke again.
“You can be so alike,” I gasped in anguish.
And I buried my head in the pillow and cried some more, with Hugh sitting beside me and resting a hand on my shoulder.
“You can stay here for a couple of days,” he said, “If you want to. As long as you like,” he added, squeezing my shoulder.
“I’m sorry,” I replied, “You are, you are just so like him at times.”
My long-held bitterness at Hugh was gone. Now I felt thoughtless that I had let what had happened happen. That I had cried out to Luke as Hugh had flooded me with his seed. And I wondered why in his last message to me Luke had insisted that I could only release his ashes if Hugh was there with me. Perhaps he had foreseen this, perhaps he had understood that I might see him in Hugh. Maybe he had thought I would need someone to reawaken my desire. But he had been wrong, instead our lovemaking had left me feeling guilty and more alone.
But Hugh’s hand on my body was like a brand, marking me, connecting me to a man I could physically desire but didn’t know, and I cried again when he took it away and left me. And I wished that instead of leaving he had tied my wrists to the bed’s fancy Victorian bed head with its curving and twining steel and had fucked me hard and made me cry out for him. Cry his name. Make me his.
But this wasn’t real. No. I was sure my new desire for Hugh was only me trying to recapture what I had with Luke. That, and the pills I had taken to make the difficult parting from my last physical connection with Luke easy. To me his ashes had become him.
I was confused and desperate to escape and headed back to the Australian desert. Wanting to get the feel of both Luke and Hugh out of my mind. I felt I needed to move on with my life, not wallow in the absence of Luke any longer.
I had been working in the Tanami desert for eighteen months, moving around to different leases, doing initial sampling work, and now was back in the main camp for a few days in the office. After dinner on my first night I went to the back of the canteen to check the mail, and smiled at the postbag waiting for me.
“Have you heard?” Jack said, coming up behind me, “That writer, Hugh Caul, has been in an accident, a car crash in the Alps. He’s been badly burnt.”
I was too shocked to feel anything, I could only say petulantly, “No. Where did you hear that? I don’t believe it.”
“Last night, on the BBC news. It’s true. I just hope he’s OK. I’ve been enjoying the books you’ve lent me. Wouldn’t want him to have written his last one,” he said, before hurrying off.
Back in my demountable I slit open the plastic postbag and pulled out “Dead Lover’s Gift,” Hugh Caul’s latest bestseller. I held it in my hands and looked at it. I wasn’t sure why I had started to read his books in particular. I just did. With Luke there had been little time for anything but work and sex.
In ten years together we hadn’t gradually had less sex, like most couples do. Luke’s appetite had remained large, and I had developed a taste for frequent sex and only had to see him look at me to start getting an erection. And I had never hesitated to indulge any desire I might have for him. I generally took, but there were times I rode him equally hard, and I had come to expect us to share our bodies every night.
But since his death I’d adjusted to celibacy on site and had filled my spare time with reading, and somehow I had started to read Hugh’s books. Luke had been quiet and intense, introverted, but intensely sensual. At work he had been methodical and thorough, always serious. But the Hugh I had found lurking in his novels had a wicked sense of humour and a sharp eye for people’s hypocrisies. He was a sophisticated urbane observer, a far cry from Luke’s almost total preoccupation with his work as a geologist.
And now that I was no longer young and my career had reached a plateau I wasn’t as content as I had been. I was alone on the lonely isolated sites where the work I knew best was, and I was starting to wonder if the world Luke and I had shared so contentedly was really mine now, without him.
I lay on the bed and clutched Hugh’s book to myself and my mind ran in a hundred directions trying to get away for the news but always coming back to Hugh burned and perhaps dying. And I cried for him, for not being able to be with him at such a terrible time. And I cried too at the thought of losing him. But he’d let me go so easily that afternoon I had mistaken him for Luke. I was struggling with myself. I had tried moving on with my life; I had tried to bury the memory of Luke—and that short encounter with his cousin as well. But, whereas I could think of Luke with bittersweet appreciation mellowing memory now, I still could only think of Hugh with almost a visceral sexual heat that radiated through my body and had me seeking privacy and the relief of my stroking hand.
I tried to dispel the rising of arousal at the remembrance of that brief love making with Hugh by lying back on the bed and opening his latest book, “Dead Lover’s Gift.”
As I read, the voice of the book’s narrator became that of Hugh, and the farther into the book I read, the more I realized that he had written the book to and about Hugh and me. The situation of Luke’s last few months and his death were slightly changed in the book, but I, who had lived them, clearly discerned the underlying tragedies and truths in what he wrote. And what began to rise out of these written truths as I read on was Hugh’s voice crying out to me. What I had seen as him so easily letting me go that day after we had made confused love after consigning Luke’s ashes to the lake waters, was strongly belied here in his writings. His book described in deeply painful terms how hard it was for him to let go of the character who so obviously was me.
In a climatic sequence in the book, he wrote of coming upon my character, exhausted from the caring for and suicide of his lover and sleeping deeply on a chaise lounge in a pavilion on the edge of the lake in the book’s English country house setting. I stripped off my sleeping pants, and I was lightly stroking my cock as I read of Hugh’s character in his book sitting there and looking down at the sleeping man who was my character. Not being able to help himself, Hugh’s character was lightly running his hands over the bare torso of my character. As I read, I started to glide my hand over my belly and nipples just as was happening in the book. And the half-waking moaning of the character in the book came very much alive to me as my own arousing attention to my body brought out audible moans of my own. Hugh’s character lowered his mouth to the tumescent manhood of his cousin’s lover and started to gently work him to trembling arousal. In concert with that, I was stroking myself with increasingly rapid strokes. When Hugh entered a fully awake and accepting character of me in the book, I was entering myself with my own fingers, surfacing and mimicking images not only of the writing in the book but also of how Hugh had, in reality, so masterfully entered and worked my passage that fateful day in the cottage bedroom at Oakton Park. The man in the pavilion was crying for the fucking of Hugh’s character just as I was writhing in my bed, my attention prisoner to Hugh’s fucking of me with the words in his book. The Hugh of the book ejaculated and the man in the pavilion cried his acceptance; I dropped the book, using both hands on myself now. Stroking hard with one hand, digging deep with the other. Thrashing about on the bed, working my hips wildly off and then back against the sheeting. And this time when I at last found heavily fountained relief, it was Hugh’s name I was crying out, not Luke’s.
I read on through the night. I had to know how Hugh’s book ended. I had to know if he saw any possible future for us in what had become such a complex, bittersweet saga. I was in tears when I reached the end, where some coincidence had brought the characters back together after a long parting, and the character who represented me was declaring how he had felt he just had to move on after Luke’s death, that he couldn’t let the character representing Hugh become a Luke substitute who was willing to accept him only to honour the memory of the dead lover.
“I am not the lover you came into my life with,” Hugh’s character said. “I am me. And I never was only willing, as you say, to accept you into my life and my bed because of what you and I once were to him. I wanted you because I fell in love with you. With you. I wanted you because my body aches to encase you and make love to you. And I agree that we both must move on from that shared tragedy in our lives. But that in no way means we need move away from each other; there’s no reason why we need deny ourselves the pleasure of moving on together. Come to me. Come away with me.”
The next day, the now-treasured copy of “Dead Lover’s Gift” under my arm, I was at the travel agent’s office making arrangements for a flight to Switzerland.