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Dan looked with dismay out the living room window of his mother’s house. Earlier in the day, he had watched the moving van pull up and smiled at the young couple, both tall with light brown hair, who had stood in front of the house with the red “Sold” banner on the sign on the front lawn. They looked so young and happy, just starting out with their lives stretching in front of them. He had turned away, wondering how long it would take before their new lives and new love were tarnished.
Now he looked out of the window again, this time with growing horror. A bunch of college kids were drinking beer and eating pizza on the porch. Everything he had been afraid of when the house next to his mother’s had gone on the market was happening. Their quiet neighborhood had escaped the college market so far, the city’s elegant homes subdivided into cell-like rooms to rent to desperate college kids. Now it looked like the house next door was to be home to a bunch of those loud, messy students. Letting the curtains fall, he turned to go to bed, resolving to go talk to someone who lived at the house the following day.
Having the house next door subdivided into student housing would make it almost impossible to sell his mother’s house. She had decided a few months ago that his childhood home was too much for her to care for on her own and moved to a retirement community nearby. About the same time, Dan had finalized his divorce and moved home to help his mother get the house ready for sale. Any prospective buyers would see who lived next door and run, envisioning loud parties and beer cans thrown all over the lawn.
Falling into bed after a quick shower, Dan regretted the slow pace that he had been taking while painting and fixing things around the house. If he had moved faster, the house might be sold already and it wouldn’t be his headache anymore. Since the divorce, though, he felt like he was slogging through mud to get anything done.
He had married Pam right after college, and they had been happy enough, he supposed, but the marriage lacked the burning passion of couples in books and movies. Resigning himself to the fact that not everyone could have that level of desire for their partners, he had settled in for a comfortable coexistence with his wife. After ten years, she had decided that she wanted to chase that passion and fire in a relationship and left him for one of her coworkers, leaving Dan to start over on his own.
Resolving to visit the kids next door first thing in the morning, he turned off the light and tried to go to sleep. His last thought before finally drifting off was that the boys next door probably wouldn’t be up until afternoon.
Jaden turned the huge moving van into the driveway and looked over at his sister, grinning. “We made it! Come on, let’s go. My ass is numb, and I’m not sure if I can feel my feet anymore.”
Walking around the front of the large truck, Emily put her arm around her older brother’s waist and smiled when he kissed the top of her head. She had stopped growing at an impressive five foot ten, but Jaden still towered over her. “We should have traded off. Brendan should be here with you the first time you come home to your new house.”
“It’s okay, we’ve been here before and he’ll be here in a few minutes. You know him, he had to make sure that we had coffee for tomorrow morning before we did anything else. He’s gonna pick up the beer for the guys too.” He put his hands on his hips and bent backward to stretch his back. “Wanna see the house?” Tugging her by the hand, he pulled her up the wide stairs to the front porch.
It had been a little more than two years since he and Brendan had gotten back together at Jaden’s college graduation and, after realizing that his parents would never come around, had moved to Virginia.
Always able to sense his moods, Emily pulled him into a quick hug. “Jade, don’t worry about Mama and Daddy. Enjoy your first house with Brendan. Don’t let them take any more time away from you.”
“You’re right. I’m going to call the guys and let them know we’re here so we can start unloading, then I’ll show you around.” The house was an older home near the apartment that Jaden had lived in while going to college. He had worked his way through college doing gay porn and hadn’t always been happy doing it, but he had met Brendan and made enough to pay for school, and with Brendan’s share, saved enough for a sizable down payment on their first house.
Emily bubbled enthusiastically as they walked through the house and exclaimed in delight as they went out the back door, “This is great! It’s completely private, like being out in the country or something.” Looking around the lush landscaping of the backyard, Jared agreed. Their friend Ethan had done the design and called them when the elderly occupants decided that it was too much for them to continue to maintain. He had been so enthusiastic that they’d flown up from Texas the following weekend and put a bid on the house before flying back.
They heard a car in the driveway and walked around the side of the house. Jaden expected to see Brendan but instead found himself flat on his back on the soft grass after being tackled by Kevin, his college housemate. He laughed as his other friends from college piled on. He never thought that he would think of any place other than Texas as his home, but he had grown to love Virginia while he was in college and was happy to be back.
After the general chaos of half a dozen large men rolling around on the ground, they stood and brushed themselves off, Kevin hooking an arm around Jaden’s neck. “I thought that you promised us beer!”
“Yeah, I give you beer now and we’ll never get it unpacked! Unload the truck and then you get the beer.”
Jaden planted a quick kiss on Kevin’s temple and received a half-hearted shove in return. “Hey, none of that in public.”
“You sayin’ you want to kiss me in private?” Jaden joked as they walked toward the moving van to unlock and open the back doors.
“You wish, Stretch. Come on, let’s get this done.”
Turning after stacking another box in the corner of their bedroom, Jaden saw Brendan carrying part of the bed frame. Looking back, he thought that he had fallen for Brendan the first time he’d heard him speak. At the time, he’d thought that it was only homesickness that had drawn him to a familiar accent, but once he’d met Brendan, he had never been happy with anyone else. His high school sweetheart had faded into the background quickly after he’d met Brendan, and even the guys that he had dated after their breakup hadn’t been able to push Brendan out of his heart.
He walked across the bare floor to pull Brendan into a warm hug, hips aligned, chests pressed tightly together. “See you have your priorities straight.”
Brendan leaned in for a soft kiss. “No way we’re going to sleep on a mattress on the floor for our first night in our new house.”
“We’re homeowners, Bren! Doesn’t seem real, somehow.”
Another soft kiss, and Brendan pulled back to look into his eyes. “You having second thoughts?”
“No, we’ve gone through a lot to get here. My parents, Alex, our breakup, and everything. I’m almost afraid to believe that it’s real.” Claiming Brendan’s full lips in a searing kiss, Jaden pulled Brendan’s hips tightly against his own, feeling their bodies react. They heard loud footsteps on the stairs and pulled apart, breathing heavily.
Kevin appeared in the door, dragging one end of the mattress. “This is almost it. Where does the other bed go?”
“In the guest room at the end of the hall.” Jaden was interrupted by the other guys bringing the rest of the bed frame and box springs.
A short time later, the beds were set up in the master bedroom and guest room, the truck was empty, and everyone was sitting on the front porch, bottles of beer sweating in the warm evening air. Jaden flipped his phone closed after ordering enough pizza for twenty people. He raised his beer to the other guys before settling on one of the steps and leaning back against Brendan. “Thanks for the help, guys.”
Brendan echoed his lover’s words, and Kevin responded, “You might not be so happy when we call you to baby-sit and you have to do diaper duty.”
“Man, I can’t believe that Rachel didn’t kick your sorry ass to the curb a long time ago,” Jaden teased. Kevin had been afraid that his college girlfriend would find out about his job in the porn industry but when it became public during Alex’s stalking trial, she had only made him promise that he wouldn’t do it anymore.
A few hours and a lot of beer later, moving day had morphed into a party filled with the loud retelling of college exploits that had Brendan and Emily, hearing some of the stories for the first time, laughing until they cried.